Autumn’s dark days are coming, but the garden prevails

There is a moment when it hits you, like the end of an affair. There were signs you missed, maybe chose to ignore. The response to your touch less immediate. The magic diminished. Face it. It is over. Approaching winter’s already won; summer’s sun has fallen. The brightest days of autumn cannot beat the retreat.

I am ever-alert for this moment. The first day you see the seedlings struggle. When new growth is a shadow of just weeks before. Stunted now, slowed.

I cannot pretend I love the arrival of the autumn equinox. I try. It is fine if I am walking in woods or by the sea, scuffing leaves, roasting pumpkins, gathering nuts, foraging for wild mushrooms, scouring for ever-smaller opportunities.

Many of my neighbours will cover their plots in the next weeks. Put it to sleep. But I was never one for abandoning. I am not over-keen on cloches or mini polytunnels (though I am again futilely researching them as I write).

Last year, we netted off a section of the plot to protect the winter kales and chards from the watching and waiting pigeons. For now, they will avoid the bitter chicories, preferring the sweeter leaves. I uselessly, hopelessly, scour seed and garden sites for solutions. Last autumn I bought ‘super plugs’ of Tuscan kale to grow, protected by the netting. They were a disappointment compared to plants I’ve grown from seed.

I need to pull myself together. It will be over soon, my mood. The melancholic adjustment will click into place. There will be more discrete moments of magic. The owl will call early in the afternoon, the fox may trot close by now it is quieter, a sole calendula may flash orange. All will brighten the gloom. There will be mists. I will mellow.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com

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