It's the middle of August and already the temperatures are starting to drop.
Just this morning, instead of keeping the air conditioner going, I put on a sweater and held tightly to my cup of tea. In less than two weeks, the school buses will be barreling down the roads and the hooded sweatshirts proclaiming our favorite football teams will come out of the closets.
You may be looking at your vegetable garden and wondering how and when those weeds got out of hand. Perhaps your cucumber vines are turning yellow and curling up and you've had more zucchini than you ever hope to deal with again.
You start thinking about tilling it all under and letting it rest until next spring.
Don't be so hasty. It's not time to put it all to bed just yet. It's time to plant.
Before the end of the month, we need to get going on cool weather crops for fall. In my garden, this includes spinach, more lettuces, radishes, beets, collards, kale and peas.
In fact, don't even wait until the end of the month. Start planting now. If I had been more diligent, I would have started seeds indoors about four weeks ago, but somehow that got away from me this year. That doesn't really matter though. There's still plenty of time if these crops are planted before the end of the month.
Most cool weather crops are quick to mature and even if they don't, they can be eaten while young. Spinach barely ever matures in my garden and I'd rather use the beet tops than the beets.
It's also time to think seriously about storing some of this produce. My generation never threw anything away. Composting wasn't just something to do to lighten our carbon footprint, it was a way of life. We never gave a thought to easing up on our landfills by composting instead of bagging our kitchen waste. We did it because it was good for the garden.
My favorite aid in the process of canning and preserving 30 years and and still today is the Ball Blue Book. More of a magazine than a book, the ''blue book'' was used by my mother and grandmother and is still used today by most home food preservers and educators. It is constantly being updated by the publishers for the safest methods of canning, freezing and preserving food.
Another favorite book for preserving food is ''Putting Food By,'' by Ruth Hertzberg, Janet Greene and Beatrice Vaughan. Now in its fifth edition, this book is a wealth of information and it is filled with recipes. I first read this book from cover to cover from the public library and decided I needed a copy of my own.
I also like ''Preserving Summer's Bounty,'' from Rodale Press. I have this book as well and often refer to it when I'm looking for something different to do with all that the garden has to offer.
In addition to more planting, it's also time to start thinking about spring bulbs. We should be thinking now about where we want to put spring bulbs, such as tulips, and those we call bulbs but really aren't, like daffodils, crocus and bearded iris. This is the best time to think about them, in fact, because we can still see much of our gardens before the cool weather brings about the die-back of many perennials.
We can see where we need to add color, what color we want and where to add height or shorter border plants. I've been receiving spring flower catalogs for a few weeks and already have plans to fill in a few empty spaces. We can plant these bulbs all the way through mid-October, but it never hurts to start thinking of ideas.
We had our first burst of garden work in early spring when it was time to clean up and plant. By mid-June, we could relax a bit and enjoy watching everything grow, stopping now and then to pull a few weeds and offer a bit of water.
Now it is time to get busy again. There is still a lot to go before the cold weather keeps us indoors. We have to take advantage of every minute we have left.