It’s an awkward time of year for gardeners.

My eggplant has reached its stride, and in addition to the two fruits that hang from its branches, there also is the promise of a couple more blooms. The basil has gone from a rather unpromising shoot that I started from seed, to a full, aromatic bush, ready to become pesto or the seasoning in a sauce. And the carrots, still a little too small to harvest, are quietly churning away underground. In a month or so, they will be perfect.

But early birds, like I was this year, also find themselves with lots of unruly plants that, at the same time, also are petering out. My squash and tomatoes had completely taken over one whole raised bed. And since the squash stem bore left the green and yellow zucchini plants virtually lifeless, I spent Saturday yanking them up and tossing them in the compost pile.

The tomato plants are still producing, but they are overgrown and browning on the edges. When I tried to prune them and clean them up (they are in my front yard after all), the heavy branches started to crack and peel. I started itching from rubbing elbows a little too closely with the furry tomato stalks, and a few really green tomatoes plopped onto the ground as I worked. 

Hopefully, I put the green tomatoes among the not-quite-ripe ones on the window sill, and left the wild mess in the garden as domesticated as possible.

Then, there was the green bean tower to contend with.

My Kentucky Wonder pole beans had created an impressively tall fortress in the second raised bed, the vines aggressively crawling up an over my four six-foot stakes arranged in tee-pee fashion. The total of 12 plants had produced a respectable accumulation of green beans this summer – probably around 4 quarts, though I didn’t keep track. But after a hard pick on Saturday, there were almost no young beans waiting to mature, and there were fewer blooms. The tower had to come down.

The same fate awaited my green and jalapeno pepper plants, the lettuce I had let continue to grow as an experiment (it grew up to waist high with flowers and seed pods), and the two eggplant plants that just never grew more than five or six inches. All of them were pulled and dumped into the compost pile.

Though the end came early for much of garden, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. While the temperatures are still hovering in the mid-90s, the time is right to begin planting my fall garden. 

Most of the vegetables, particularly greens, that are known for maturing in the late Spring or early summer are the perfect candidates for a fall garden. They are planted and will germinate while the temperatures are still boiling, but if I timed it right, once the plants begin to mature, the weather will be cooling and the risk of bolting will have ended.

That’s my hope, at least, for the lettuce, spinach, peas, broccoli, cabbage, and kohlrabi I planted on Sunday. Mostly I sowed seed, but the owner of the little garden shop I occasionally frequent was so proud of his new fall garden seedlings that I also snatched up a couple of tender plants.

The gardens look cared for again–despite the tomato plant mess, and the nascent seeds afford a welcome contrast to the burgeoning compost pile.

It’s an awkward time for gardeners, but it’s also a hopeful time again.