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NATURE’S TURN: Twilight in the autumn garden

I’ve felt intimately engaged in carrying to maturity crops that I planted late in the growing season.

November 6 – 19, 2017

Rouge metis, winter rye, radish planted on the diagonal. Afternoon, Nov. 1, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Mount Washington — It is the twilight of the autumn garden, although its lush green mantle is still a feast for the eyes. Huge purple turnips erupt out of the earth and parsnips, concealed underground with roots sweetened by frost, maintain tops awash in chlorophyll. Beets, arugula, red-tinged oak leaf lettuce, rouge metis, kale, collards, leeks, Egyptian onions, cilantro, dill, lemon grass, winter wheat and winter rye have flourished through drought, deluge, roaring winds and wide temperature swings. In some locations, today, the 6th, could be the last day to take in or protect plants that cannot withstand temperatures below 30 degrees. For all locations, predictions are for morning temperatures in the 20s for a day or two by the end of this week.

Recollecting the course of the autumn garden, I’ve felt intimately engaged in carrying to maturity crops that I planted late in the growing season, having

Frosted, lush winter wheat bed in morning twilight, Nov. 1, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff

allowed little margin for their required gestation periods. Apprehensive that my investment in cultivating those crops would bear fruit, I watched over them, coaxed them along by weeding and watering, and even added fish emulsion and seaweed fertilizer to the water. With an eye to weather predictions, I protected the most tender with fabric or bucket covers when temperatures might drop below 32 degrees.

Pods of 100-day edamame, flat as September began, plumped up after unusually warm weather. During the final weeks of October, I gorged myself on steamed and salted pods and bagged and froze the surplus. I had doubted that the alternating rows of rouge metis and French Breakfast radish would amount to much, but they, too, burgeoned. The radishes are growing bigger and better than ever and the mustard has filled their rows with frilly drifts. Add to these the borage and nasturtium flowers that are unaffected by frost and tomatoes ripened in boxes in a cool room, and you have the picture of salads that have been the most colorful and flavorful of the season.

Sorel, nasturtium, lettuces, rouge metis, cilantro, arugula in basket set in radicchio bed on Nov 1. Photo: Judy Isacoff

The hour when day turns toward night–the twilight hour–seems particularly charmed during this time of year when autumn turns toward winter. Linger in the garden, working as the light fades, taking in the colors, the atmosphere, the sensation of gratitude and peace where heaven and earth meet.

Opportunity to Participate

November 12 through April 5 – Cornell Lab of Ornithology Project Feeder Watch
Citizen Science – https://feederwatch.org/

More about birds – https://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=1478

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