Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Growing Up: Tapestry of hues highlights harvest season, fall grandeur

Fall.  Some people love it. Some don't.  Both have strong feelings about it.  For me, fall begins the week after the Billings Clinic Classic.  The morning air has a crisp edge that had been absent long enough that even its expected return still surprises me.  This morning I thought to myself that this is also the season of losing coats because, I need them in the morning, can do without them at lunch and don't even look for it on the way out of the office.  In a few days, all of my coats will be strewn around the store, behind various doors and hanging over the many chairs I use until the closet at home is completely empty.

In the garden fall is complicated while it brings the harvest, it also brings its share of work.  Just as the daylight shortens, our gardens need us the most. Not only do we need to harvest our above-ground crops before the first heavy frost of the year, it's more important than ever to clean up the gardens, plant the bulbs that we want to greet us next spring and amend our soil. Oh, and of course, my favorite thing - leaves!  I've learned it's best to keep up with them as they fall. Waiting for the last leaf to fall and a warm Saturday off to pick them up is a risky gamble. 

Last year I had one pile that I was going to pick up after work because the garbage was being picked up that morning.  When I returned from work the yard was covered in 6 inches of snow and I didn't see the pile again until spring.  I actually had to re-sod the area.  It's hard to chip icy leaves off of frozen grass in February.  Wet leaves on gardens and around the house create collection areas, unwanted buildup and worst of all, molds and other fungi. So, it's time to start thinking about leaf rakes, leaf blowers, bagging supplies and other necessary tools to clean out the gardens and yard - even in the corners.  I've also been told that the last mow of the year should be on a low setting.  This is to allow for the winters winds to blow debris across the turf and not get caught in it.  Every effort made in the fall will be returned in the spring.

I don't know about you but, I enjoy finishing something almost as much as I do starting it, maybe even a little more.  This time of year is complicated for me. As summer's ardor and the cool air of autumn battle, the environment starts to change. That's when the gardening rituals switch from growing and tending to harvest and protecting. The finishing stage begins.

It's not an easy transition. We've had a tough year in the garden and many of us have not seen the results that we are accustomed to seeing. To some, it may have even reached the point of disappointment. The hail may have destroyed the hosta and there is no time recovery this year. The fruit trees may have not produced.  The tomatoes may not have turned red. The annuals may have fought pests all year. Whatever the reason, whatever the disappointment, we must persevere because after all we are gardeners!  We don't know where the journey will end when we plant the seed but, we do it anyway.  It's digging in the dirt; it's the hope we feel when we see a tulip push through that last bit of snow on the ground in the spring; the smell of a lilac. Even tornadoes and hail can't take those memories away from us.  I guess that's why we do it.