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Essay

A Change of Seasons and a New Attitude

October 21, 2000|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Every fall, I dig my bare feet into the soil and look around the garden with sadness. Soon chilly days will prevent me from working outside shoeless, and nippy nights will send me indoors. I'll have to wait until next summer to pot plants by moonlight.

I wonder, where did the summer go?

Now many of my favorite heat-loving plants are becoming inactive. The plumeria that produced fragrant blooms all summer has almost stopped, and the grapevine--lush and full of fruit in July--is on the verge of shedding its leaves.

Although my pepper plants are flowering again, the resulting vegetables aren't likely to be so big and flavorful.

In keeping with my mood, the sunflowers bow their heads, heavy with seed, and the gourd vine that created a jungle in the garden during the hot months has started the long browning process. Even the begonias are beginning to peter out and the basil is putting on very little new growth.

But then a funny thing happens.

The fall breeze hits my face and I realize how pleasant the garden is when the temperatures are in the 70s instead of the 90s. I don't have to hide under the avocado tree from the sun or plan my gardening for cooler times of the day.

Many plants look happier now that they're not being beaten down by heat and I don't have to constantly water. My roses have budded up for what promises to be a spectacular fall bloom. Their flowers will be vibrant and long lasting, instead of withering quickly in the sun.

Then I notice the many plants that are beginning to bloom after a summer hiatus, such as my pert, red-orange gerbera daisies, multicolored mums and dark pink fuchsias. The grapes, plums, apples and peaches may be gone, but there's lots of fall fruit to harvest, including ever-bearing strawberries, pomegranates, persimmons and avocados.

And there's much more to come.

The pineapple guava is flowering, oranges will soon ripen, the cyclamen is breaking dormancy and the camellia is full of buds.

When I think of all the fall crops I can plant now, my mind races. Greens and root crops spring up readily from seed in this mild weather.

It's also time to plant onions, garlic and potatoes. Cauliflower, broccoli, peas and cabbage do best in cool weather, as do herbs such as cilantro, dill and Italian parsley.

By this time, all thoughts of summer have slipped from my mind. Instead, I'm ready for a trip to the nursery for cool-season transplants and seeds.

Before I go and leave summer behind until next year, though, there is just one more thing to do. Time to don socks and shoes.

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