Fall chores and preparing for winter

Some places are already anticipating their first frost, but here in the south early fall is in full swing.  It’s hot, it’s humid and the bugs are swarming.  Ragweed is in bloom and sinuses are getting stuffy.  Birds and mammals are starting to fatten themselves up and tuck away provisions for the coming months.  The Farmer’s Almanac is calling for a bitterly cold winter for many, and while there is no science to back up their prediction methods, they are right more often than not.

Spring is often portrayed as the busy garden time, but I think fall is busier.  There are 3 main chores in fall: harvest, preserve and prepare the fall/winter garden.  (In spring, you are not preserving.)  While some chores can be put off until colder weather, it’s also time to start cleaning up.  Herb beds, in particular, need to be trimmed and the spent flower stalks composted, and garden vegetables will benefit from trimming off excess diseased or dead material so they can produce a last flush of fruit.

Drying, canning and freezing summer’s bounty for eating over the winter is deeply satisfying and reassuring.  A line of multi-colored jars on the shelf, safe and snug from decay for 3 years is a beautiful site.  Herbs frozen into ice cubes smell like summer when you pull them out in January for a soup.  I don’t think our brains have quite adapted to the fact most of us have reliable heating systems in our homes, roads that get cleared after a storm and groceries trucked in from all over the world.

And maybe they shouldn’t.

September is Disaster Preparedness Month.  We’re all about preparedness here.  It’s common for people to focus on weather disasters and doomsday scenarios, but it’s also important to remember that most disasters are personal.  You lose household income: if you lost your job, how would your family eat?  The heater goes out on the coldest night of the year: can you keep warm?  An appliance dies on a holiday weekend when the stores are closed: do you have savings to repair or replace the appliance, and if not, how will you cope?

I am not dismissing the need to prepared for tornadoes, winter storms, hurricanes, floods and other calamities that may happen to your region. This is truly important for every household to have a plan and necessary supplies.  But while you are gardening, spare a thought for how your garden can help you through potential rough times, even if it’s buried under 3 feet of snow this winter.