Though I am mostly at home with California-style seasons, the one thing I do find a bit tricky is the fact that the time of year when the yard requires most work (i.e. planting time) happens to coincide with the shortest days. I typically experience something close to agony when the sun sets on weekends, especially Sundays, because inevitably I’m nowhere near finished whatever I’m doing. I’ve maimed innocent plants by stomping around well past the time where I could actually see them. This weekend was different only in that I could thankfully note that it won’t get any worse.
I mention this because there seems to be a semi-common misconception that this happy milestone falls on or around December 21. But don’t delay celebrating: the evenings are getting longer already! The solstice is the shortest day, but the earliest sunset is before, about two weeks at our latitude, and the latest sunset about two weeks after. I was raised with a pack of science-minded siblings and never allowed to harbor misconceptions regarding celestial goings-on—not that I necessarily absorbed the mechanisms, in this case no doubt some perturbation in the planet’s rotation and/or orbit—and we always marked December 7 as the dusk-sodden day after which evenings would brighten. That was in Montana, and way down here in the Bay Area, it would be a day or two different. I couldn’t seem to find to-the-second data online, but it doesn’t get earlier/grimmer than this weekend. From here on out, our yard work time increases! Unless you’re the type who’s out there at the crack of dawn—I am, um, not.
That said, I don’t think there’s a whole lot left to do! Every plant that was ready for the ground is in it, bulbs are in, a few drainage issues are managed to the extent that they will be this year...The only thing I ran out of time for this weekend was seeds. Pity, because there is a string of lovely rainstorms in the 15-day forecast, and I hope, hope, hope there won’t be any major rain stoppages for the rest of the season. That would mean that once the seeds go in, I can in theory do things other than yard work on weekends. Not that there’s anything I’d rather be doing, but there are other things in need of doing. (I wonder if I can remember how to clean the house—where do I keep the vacuum? Do I have one?) I find it alarming that the yard does take so much time, but this is only fall #2 since the Ivy War. I couldn’t do everything the first year (in addition to the Ivy War, there was also Operation Lawn Begone and two neglected slopes in need of reclaiming), but this year should pretty much get me to where, going forward, I’ll just be doing maintenance and refinements. Some time soon I will sprinkle seeds of annuals in strategic locations, including patio pots (things like baby blue eyes and tidy tips are amazing in pots—I had better pictures, but they were lost in a computer melt-down), but I had also wanted to sow flats of all kinds of perennial seeds I collected last year. I don’t know, though. If I sow them, I will have to babysit them, pot them up…Possibly that is not the kind of thing gardeners with day jobs should attempt, regardless of sunset time. Unless gardening is their day job. I wish. Well, I’ll see. When I get out my little box o’ seeds to scatter the annuals, the lure of the other seed packets may be too much to resist.