At the end of summer, 1877

September 12, 2014

William Hoyt Coleman evokes the pause in the natural world as summer begins the shift to autumn.

“The Garden Sabbath.” Christian Union 16 (26 Sept 1877): 260.

It comes in August.  Not once in seven years like the sabbatical Jewish land, but every year.  You cannot fix the day, but it arrives after a succession of cloudless days and quiet nights, when the air is neither cold nor hot, and the ground is hard and firm, and the grass grows dull in color.  The meadows have been cut and the grain is reaped, and up from the stubble comes the shrill, monotonous cry of unseen insects—nature’s band of music celebrating her summer rest.  For growth ceases, at least the growth of extension, and shrubs and trees no longer push forth new shoots but quietly put out a circlet of leaves and a terminal bud, and, content themselves with laying woody fiber along their stems, carry on the growth of expansion.

In the garden this rest is still more apparent.  The rush of spring growth is over.  The tired laborer who, since the hurried planting days of April and May, has chased the growing weeds with aching back and beaded brow through the long hot days of June and July can now drop his hoe and lie in the shade, or go a fishing.  The crops are maturing and covering the ground with their rank foliage.  The weeds seem to have ceased their growth, if the worker has been faithful and chopped out the earlier crops; if not, some prodigious fellows may be lurking under cover of the corn or raspberries.  Even “pusley” seems to stand still.  Yes, the garden may be safely let alone for a while, and you need enter it only to gather the tomatoes and corn and melons.  Let it rest, and do you rest from labor in or thought about it.

—But coming back, say in early September, you note a change.  Nature is busy again.  The great wheels are once more in motion.  The days are hot, but the nights are cold.  There have been frequent rains, and the grass aqnd weeds are growing finely.  Indeed September is the counterpart of April—showery, warm and germ-starting.  Now the strawberries put forth large green leaves, cabbage and celery grow apace, the lately-parched lawn loses its patchy look.  The market gardeners know the value of this month, and busily sow the seeds of lettuce, cabbage, etc., which, being carried through the winter by a little protection, are all ready to start off and grow when the season begins. But the amateur is apt to forget about it.  His early enthusiasm is gone.  Hard work has toned him down, and he doesn’t care to plan and plant for the future.  The fresh salads, the young onions, the early cabbage and lettuce will be very appetizing next spring, and they will have a flavor of forethought and good management that will give an added zest to their consumption.  Then there are the bulbs that, planted a little later, will burst into bloom when the sun comes back.  It pays well to do the September work well.  It is the seeding time on the farm, and while its score of acres is receiving its wheat and rye do not let the little garden go without its share.  Then when all is nicely “chored up” you may take another brief holiday and go to the State or county fair, or ride among your neighbors, keeping your eyes and ears wide open and both hearing and asking questions.  You cannot spend one day there without picking up hints and ideas that will help all through the coming months.

—It is nearly time to put away the lawn mower.  Unless there are frequent rains and rapid growth the 10th to the 15th of September should see the last cutting made.  The turf needs the protection of all the growth that can be made before hard frosts.

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