It’s time to plant crops for fall! Excited? No? Can’t even summon the energy to harvest what’s in the garden, or weed it? Can’t get out of your comfortable, shaded chair? You aren’t alone in feeling beat by the summer doldrums, but if you can summon some inner reserves, you’ll thank yourself in October and November, while feasting on frost-sweetened carrots and kale. Here are some ways to ask the impossible of cool-weather crops and, even more important, the heat-stressed gardener.
1Find a spot that’s shaded now but won’t be once the leaves fall from the trees. Sow seeds there, or establish a little nursery bed there for transplants.
2Work as early in the day as possible. Daybreak is much cooler than sunset, and the garden is breathing easier then, too. A cloudy day is also worth catching, even if it’s humid.
3Create your own misty day by setting up a rotating sprinkler, mounted on a tower in the garden. Remember how you used to run through one as a child? Do it now.
4Straw hats might be standard equipment for sunny days, but I find them scratchy and irritating. A cotton hat with a floppy brim is more comfortable, especially if you soak it in water as needed. The evaporation will cool you off. A large wet bandanna might not be chic headgear, but that works, too.
5Wear a skirt. Skirts are cooler than pants. Women have been envying all those shirtless guys for years, and here’s our chance to one-up them. Not with the long gardening skirts that ladies of the Gertrude Jekyll era dragged through the mud. Get some that are loose-fitting, in a length that suits your self-image.
6Make a big pitcher of something cold to drink, to keep in the fridge, and chug it often. You can get very dehydrated while gardening without even realizing it’s happened. Everybody has a favorite quencher. I love iced coffee for the energy spike, but because caffeine can be a bit dehydrating, I’ll sometimes fix an iced tea out of fresh-picked mint or lemon verbena (or both). I make a highly concentrated base, add honey while the tea’s still hot, stir to dissolve, then fill the pitcher with ice cubes. My husband favors beer, but I would need a nap after even one.
7Take a nap. The midday siesta was developed in hot countries for a good reason and has saved many lives — and gardens.
8Take the summer off. Catch on to the joys of gardening in fall, winter and spring. Grow lots of early peas, tomatoes, corn, squash and beans, and can or freeze them in June.
That comfortable chair awaits.
Damrosch is a freelance writer and author of “The Garden Primer.”
Before leaving for vacation, water potted plants thoroughly, trim back annuals by a third to half, and move pots into a shady corner.
— Adrian Higgins