August: The Flowering, the Fading, The Coming Fall

August is one of the most exciting times of the gardener’s year. The beautiful nightshades are abundant—tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants—and demand both appetite and attention. When the tomatoes start come, it’s always a bit bewildering. We wait all year for them, and then they arrive with flavor, force, and fire. It’s time for sandwiches and saucing, for dinner parties, for canning salsa and roasting them with peppers. 

But the gardener’s mind navigates both present and future; her attention is to both the fading of some plants and the flowering of others. In our garden, the cucumbers have just about died back and we’ve pulled them in order to create some space for fall plantings. It’s time to start seeding the some late crops, and we are anticipating a bountiful autumn of hearty greens. Even though we are in the peak of our summer bounty, we are looking ahead to arugula, lettuces, spinach, kale, swiss chard, escarole – and more carrots and radishes. Come fall, we are planning on planting just about a thousand (really, literally) garlic cloves that we’ll be able to harvest next summer. There is still much work (and food) ahead.

It’s always a bit sad seeing the tomatoes dwindle and cutting off the last eggplant has its own sense of bittersweet finality. But it is also fascinating to think about how, as the season changes, our bodies will crave new foods and happily eat what is abundant and ready. True organic gardening is more than not using chemicals; it is an ongoing process through which we learn about how each season can nourish us. As Masonobu Fukuoka, one of our favorite agro-ecologist-philosophers writes, “It is not surprising that summer vegetables grown in the autumn or winter have none of the flavor and fragrance of those grown beneath the sun by organic and natural methods.” The old wisdom reminds us to enjoy each thing in its season, and to know there’s always new abundance ahead.