Gardens for Humanity: Enjoying our ‘Second Spring’
Gardeners in our area call September the “second spring.” Even as we are able to prepare for our fall-winter gardens, the “spring” feeling goes beyond these preparations for a new growing season. At the end of the summer monsoons, as temperatures become more moderate, and the warm-weather garden is abundant with flowers and produce, we see many signs reminiscent of spring.
I have to admit that I am not a tidy gardener. I enjoy watching my last season’s fall-winter plants flower then go to seed before removing them. Since my garden is also for bees, butterflies, and birds, they enjoy all the variety of flowers and seeds (and they do lend their own special beauty). The bonus for me is that I don’t have to plant many extra salad and culinary greens. With the monsoon rains I already have an abundance of seedlings – endives, arugula, lettuces, collards, kale, parsley, and chard. Granted, they are not always growing in the confines of pre-planned beds, but we embrace the wild nature of our garden, and foraging for salads throughout winter and spring is a delightful exploration!
September is of course a month of harvest. Trees are loaded with apples and pears; tomatoes, squash, and beans are abundant; flowers make colorful bouquets in the gardens. As the fall equinox approaches the shift in weather, garden tasks, and mood are invigorating.
In summer, the smell of the earth, dry grass, and plants refreshed by a thundershower is a joy! There is a scientific name for this, petrichor, but it does not begin to capture the poetry of the sensory delight and emotions that a summer rain evokes. In September there are new smells and feelings. We feel an inviting crispness approaching, and we may even put on a sweater! The garden takes on a new character.
Calling September a “second spring” is not equating it with the renewing energy that March sets in motion, but the change of temperature, and planting a new garden, have similarities of transformation, transition, and tasks that a new garden season brings.
On the Gardens for Humanity website homepage, GardensForHumanity.org/ under “Resources,” you can download a planting calendar that indicates what can be planted in our region month-by-month.
August, September, and October are the main months to begin a fall-winter garden. Many of the crops listed for our elevation and zone are frost and winter-weather hardy. It is such a benefit for gardeners in our region that so many vegetables can be planted, grow, and thrive through our winter. They generally fall into the categories of Brassicas (the large and diverse cabbage family), Alliums (onions and garlic), peas, lettuces, spinach, and diverse roots (carrots, beets, turnips). It is also time to save seeds from favorite open-pollinated plants for the coming year.
Fall and winter are also times for planting perennials, transplanting shrubs, pruning, and sowing wildflowers for the spring and summer, following Nature’s rhythm. Our home, school, and community gardens can benefit from our extended growing season throughout the fall and winter into spring. With this perspective, gardeners feel very fortunate to have this “second spring.”
Richard Sidy is president of Gardens for Humanity, a founding member of the Sustainability Alliance and a member of the Verde Valley Food Policy Council. To reach him, email president@ gardensforhumanity.org .