Finding Joy In The End Of The Gardening Season

By Mary Ellen Ellis | November 17, 2022
Image by Elenathewise
by Mary Ellen Ellis
November 17, 2022

As with all gardeners I’m sure, I feel a little sad when my perennials stop blooming, my last hardy annuals give up after a hard frost, and the cleanup is done. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of being out in the cold, so I embrace the time spent indoors and start thinking about next year.

When It’s Time to Call it Quits

Living in Michigan means having definite growing and dormant seasons. The edge of each season might vary by year, but it’s always there. This fall, the temperatures have been unseasonably warm and dry. Well into September I’m watering and deadheading. Nothing has given up yet.

One of the most important signs for me that the growing season is over is when my tender annuals give up. They let me know it’s time. They flop over and languish, and I cut them back and finish up the rest of the gardening chores for the end of the year.

This includes trimming back hostas, daylilies, and some other perennials. I clean up the trimmings and get the leaves out of the beds. I rake the leaves from the beds, so the lawn service doesn’t get too aggressive with the leaf blower and distribute my mulch all over the grass. I let him handle most of the leaves though because it’s a big job. One year we picked up around 75 yard waste bags full of leaves, while also mulching much of them.

Why Winter Isn’t So Bad

I’ll be very clear about my favorite and least favorite seasons: summer and winter, respectively. I don’t like the cold, but I love being outside. This is a perfect storm for disliking winter. Bundling up to be outside just doesn’t cut it. I am very sensitive to low temperatures. It’s not just the cold, of course. There is also the fact that gardening has to end for the year.

Part of me envies gardeners in warmer climates, but on the other hand, it seems like a lot of year-round work. There’s something to be said for changing seasons and using winter to rest and recover. Staying inside, drinking hot tea, and reading or watching TV is restorative. It prepares me for the active spring and summer to come. I can certainly find the joy in a cozy winter winding down and spending more time inside.

Another positive about winter is that it gives me time to plan for next year. If I had to work in the garden all year long, when would I dream and find inspiration? Winter is for flipping through gardening books and diving down a rabbit hole online looking for unusual plants and seeds.

What Now?

While I don’t do anything about extending the growing season outdoors, I don’t stop growing plants. During summer I tend to let my beloved terrariums go a little wild. I consider it their off season.

During winter, I have a few mini gardens to tend. They get all my attention. This year, I am trying to transition a philodendron I’ve had in a pot for years into a terrarium. Hopefully it does well, but I have all winter to keep an eye on it.

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