In my corner of the mid-Atlantic region, there are two seasons that combine to make up fall. The early fall, with mild, sun-dappled days, and tree leaves starting to gain exotic colors, and seemingly unbeatable football teams, and the coming of Halloween and all that good stuff.
Then there’s late fall, with cold, rainy, windy days and declining sunlight and ugly fallen leaves to rake and the first panic-inducing forecasts of—dare I even write this four-letter word?—snow.
If I could divide the season into its two parts and talk only about the first one, could I change my opinion about fall? Well, no. Sorry. I still hate it. Actually, scratch the word “sorry.” I won’t apologize for putting out a bad vibe about a season that is the favorite of so many people. It just doesn’t work for me. Don’t need it. Don’t want it. Take it—it’s yours.
I can handle the concept of fall, I suppose, in an extremely abstract way. I know that living things have cycles, individually and as species. Life yields to death, death makes way for more life. On and on and on. I get it. Things—including living things—would start to lose their value if they remained alive for hundreds or thousands or millions of years. Or, at least, we would take them for granted even more than we do now.
But if the best way that we can remember to appreciate things is to think about them after we lose them—that’s kind of perverse. Better to appreciate them every day, in their prime.
In an attempt to be as fair and objective as possible, I’m going to list the things that I like about fall and the things that I don’t like about fall. (I won’t use the term “autumn”–I think it’s a pompous and candy-coated word to disguise something less than noble. Like referring to someone’s death as their “passing” or describing to a professional athlete who strips naked and does a hula dance after scoring a touchdown on national TV a “character.”)
Let’s do the math:
Things I like about fall:
- I can plant some crops, such as lettuce and spinach, in late summer and hope to harvest them in fall.
- Some of my favorite TV shows, such as “Boardwalk Empire,” come back.
- I don’t have to water my garden or lawn very much, if at all.
- Yes, those leaves are pretty for a week or so.
- I can pick big, colorful dahlias right up to the first frost.
Things I hate about fall:
- My tomatoes and peppers die.
- My beans and annual herbs die.
- My raspberries stop producing.
- My flowers stop producing or die.
- I rarely get any harvestable fall crops. It goes from summer to winter too quickly.
- I have to pick, cut down or rip out dead plants and compost or burn them.
- I have leaves to rake and fertilizer to spread.
- I have to call the lawn sprinkler guys and the furnace guys to come to my house and “winterize” me.
- It gets cold.
- It gets dark.
- After I clean up my garden, there’s nothing left to do there for at least four months.
- I’m no good with houseplants, expect a couple of orchids that bloom for three weeks each and then do nothing for a year or so.
- I gain weight because I do less gardening and I am forced to eat all the Halloween candy that the kids don’t claim.
- Those fall TV shows often go into repeats early or just get boring. Anyone remember the last season of “LOST”?
- Baseball season ends.
- The college football teams I follow lose to teams like Towson State and that online university that keeps advertising on cable late at night.
- Everything dies.
Am I missing something here? Is there any way of calculating these factors that comes out with a winning rating for this season?
Oh wait. Sorry. I forgot one more thing I sort of like about fall:
It’s better than winter.
P.S.: Shameless Plug Number One
This really isn’t too shameless, because I’m not getting paid:
I am one of several contributors to an exciting new online gardening magazine that comes out quarterly. It’s Organic Gardens Today. You can subscribe by going to: www.organicgardenstoday.com and clicking on “issues.”
P.S.: Shameless Plug Number Two
I did not win the Garden Writers Association gold award for best gardening book of 2010, and I had no reason to think that I would. The two other finalists for the prize were far superior: Jeff Lowenfels, Teaming with Microbes (Revised Edition), Timber Press, and
Janet Marinelli, The Climate Conscious Gardener, Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Lowenfels won the gold award.
That said, I was very happy to receive the silver award as one of two runners-up. The awards were presented Aug. 29 at the GWA annual symposium in Indianapolis. Taken together, these two books and my humble “The Seeds of Spring” demonstrate how gardening writing has evolved from mostly “how-to” tomes to a variety of books that help us understand, appreciate and preserve the environment.