The first frost of autumn is forecast for next week. This is not early or late, and certainly not surprising for the middle of October. I can recall frosts arriving before the end of September, though I can’t place the year, and there’s no doubt this is a little out of the ordinary. There might also be a year when frost was delayed until November, but I can’t verify that this is so.
The cold temperatures in next week’s forecast are a bit unusual only because the first frost might also be the season’s first freeze. Of course, when this happens there will be immediate predictions by fellow gardeners that we’re headed for an old fashioned, cold winter, but don’t believe a word of it. I hear reports that the winter of 1986 was cold, but I go back to 1977 for my last cold winter recollections. And there have been none since, or at least none in the past twenty years.
I can tell “I walked seventeen miles through waist deep snow to get to school” stories with the best, and some might even have a shred of truth to them. In fact, in those days I worked outside for a living, and memories of cold days spent outside stick with you for a while. The winter of ’77 is dear to my heart because my wife and I were newly married, we had only one old car that my wife commuted with to school in Georgetown, so I rode a bicycle to work each morning. It was only a couple miles, so there’s no heroic story here, but when it’s below zero, riding a bike is a memory that sticks with you.
Now, to get along the gardening part of this, there’s no big deal to be made about the first cold, but sometime before frost and freeze arrive it is appropriate to move indoors tropical plants that have summered outdoors. The preferred way to go about this is to be forewarned, as I’m doing now, to allow a few days to get around to it. I’ve had too many times that I’ve not paid any attention to forecasts until the evening when a freeze was predicted, and then I had to scurry about to get everything brought inside.
The timing of this warning is fortunate in that the weekend is coming up, and there should be plenty of time to accomplish this relatively simple task. So, it’s settled. Other than this, there is nothing of great significance to do in the garden this weekend that can’t be put off to another time. If you insist on raking leaves there will be a time in a few weeks when it’s necessary to do it again, so it seems wiser to put this off for another few weeks unless you are obsessed with tidiness.
There’s a chance that I will stretch the leaf netting over the large koi pond this weekend, though I typically hold off on this until the last possible date, just before the maples and tulip poplars that border the garden decide to drop every remaining leaf over a few day period. Covering the pond is a symbolic end of the gardening season project for me, so if I delay this chore for another few weeks I gain some small measure of satisfaction.
Regardless of frost or freeze, the garden is not finished for the season, and through autumn and early winter there will be camellias and mahonias flowering, then witch hazels, and winter jasmine, then hellebores, and soon enough spring will be here. It sounds simple to hear it, but these blooms are barely enough to satisfy the gardener over the cold months that stretch until March. And, it starts next week.