Afternoon InquisitionScience

Sunday AI: The end of summer

For those of us in the (north) Northern hemisphere, summer is definitely drawing to a close.  I’m picking the last of the tomatoes, and pulling up my pepper plants.  I’m discovering the cute little house I rented may be amazingly cheap because I can’t actually close any of the windows.  I’m planting spinach, lettuce, and cilantro, since they are long day plants.

For those of you who are not garden nerds, “Long day” is a short-hand way of indicating how plants are dependent on photoperiodism for signals about when it’s time to create flowers. Long day plants bloom when the day length is long–like mid-summer. (Technically, it’s more correct to say they bloom when nights are short, but let’s not get technical and wonky for now.)

So, if lettuce is a long-day plant, why am I planting it in the fall?  Since I want to harvest the leaves, I plant it out of season, to get more vegetative growth.    If you try to grow lettuce or cilantro in mid-summer, what you end up with is an unexpectedly christmas-tree shaped lettuce with flowers at the top. It’s trying to bloom, and so “bolts” and gets tall and thin. And bitter, too.

I’m putting the hose away, bringing in my hoe, and trying to find where I packed my sweaters before I moved.  The days are definitely shorter, and it’s harder to get up in the dark.

What is your sign of Fall and changing photoperiods? How are you getting ready for the change of seasons?



Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. That’s what I call “effing lettuce”. My CSA has a nasty knack of producing lettuce all season, and I loathe lettuce (except perhaps at the very beginning of spring) as an incredibly tasteless and useless veg. I’m much more stoked that we’re going to get spinach and kale again today.

  2. What is your sign of Fall and changing photoperiods?

    The reappearance of Studentus undergraduatus usually marks the first few weeks of September. After being in hibernation for most of summer, the reappearance of S. undergraduatus in university towns is a sure sign that the days are getting shorter, and that characteristic smell of stale cigarettes and alcohol around the town centre, and the unmistakable haze of cannibis around certain student residences is a sure sign that term time has once started again.

    Y’know. That and boring things like that smell of fallen leaves after rain, but I’m sure everyone loves that too.

  3. Leaving the window open all night and crawling under my down comforter. This is my favorite time of year in the southwest. Warm days and cool nights. Pure bliss. Also I think I am a long day plant. I definitely put on what could be termed as vegetative growth in the winter.

  4. I’m glad the weeding, watering, pruning, mowing, trimming are over! And I will be just as glad when the weather warms up next spring and it starts all over again! Winter in CT on the shoreline is a wet, slushy, dirty, prolonged mess. I propose the 10 month year. With apologies to those who like winter sports, how about we cancel January and February this year?

    Either that or I need to earn a LOT more money and become a snowbird.

  5. Yesterday I picked my apples, pears and aronia berries. I used a steam juicer for the aronia berries, so I have a container of a very dark savory juice that will be good on meat, and it quite good with ice tea.

    Today I went to a bulb sale and bought some alliums and small irises for the rockery.

    Now I have to get to work making apple sauce and bags of sliced apples for the freezer. The apple sauce is a major ingredient for my blueberry muffins.

  6. It’s 98 degrees out right now (2:15pm). We still have a couple weeks yet ’til fall. Though I think our lows are supposed to make a drastic drop next week, so we’re getting close! YAY!

  7. Here in So Cal it can be really hard to tell. Where I work it’s 50F in the morning, and 95F within a couple hours. Gotta love the high desert.

  8. Sigh. I’m working out in the bush north of Nome, AK, and I’ve been here going on 3 weeks. It’s definitely early winter here. I can’t wait to get out of here and back to NorCal. I just want to eat some goddamn vegetables that don’t come from a can. And see trees. And take off the long underwear that has become a part of my skin. And shave. And use a flush toilet. etc., etc., etc.

  9. MM, those beautiful tomatoes would go well on a homemade pizza with mushrooms and Spanish onions and plenty of Italian herbs and garlic with a bit of chilli and maybe some garlic salami…I can smell it now.

  10. So cooler weather = start of serious munchies. Maybe my photoperiod is influenced by dropping vitamin D levels :)

  11. As Natalie1984 says “Pumpkin spice everything Hell yes!” The fantastic pumpkin brews from Smuttynose and Dogfishead showing up in stores make my wife and I jump up and down with glee when we see them on the shelves. And as mrmisconception points out, apple cider and cider doughnuts start showing up as well. Food and drink aside, the leaves have begun to fall and that sweet decay smell is starting to creep in, the light in the evenings begins to change, we get to sleep with the window open and wear our favorite jackets. Halloween is getting closer. Sigh… I love Autumn.

  12. I am with all the apple people…*apples* everything hell yes! I have made so many dishes of apple crisp already this year and my family and I have eaten them all. :) My daughter has attacked her first pile of leaves last week. That would probably be the definition of fall to her.

  13. Seasonal affective disorder.

    I feel fall coming before even the equinox. By the time the Perpetual Winter Fog and drizzliness come to my little mountain town, I’m downright unpleasant, and nobody wants to socialize with me until spring. :D

      1. Ha, I hear you. Buffalo winters are longer, darker, and colder than I’m used to, so I get a creeping and depressing feeling of dread about this time of year.

        After receiving advice from several friends (skeptic/freethinker-types too), I just ordered a HappyLight yesterday. But I think my skepticism about its effectiveness might keep it from being effective. :) I guess I could try engaging in some creative triplethink…If nothing else, I’ll have a decent lamp for my office.

        I also love the apple and pumpkin everything! This is a great time of year to start baking again, so I’m dusting off my baking supplies. Also, fall clothing! I like seeing people in fall clothing.

  14. Fall for me is the start of slow food season and definitely apples as well. Slow roasted pumpkin and onion soup made with coconut milk and a mild floral curry blend, lasagna, short ribs, and having kale for my soups. And along with some interest in football there’s the initial talking and planning for all the family gatherings that are planned for the next few months. And it was official as far as temperature goes when I had to turn on the heat for the first time yesterday. It also means my favorite outdoor activity will become increasingly difficult because of the thermal layers and gortex that become part of my golf attire.

  15. A few things. I love the colours in the fall, they’re my favourite. I’ve noticed there’s a certain smell to each season, I know it’s that season when it smells right.

  16. It’s jam season! Blackberry, raspberry and damson plums in the freezer, waiting for a free few hours (and the purchase of my own body weight in sugar…). Also, the first round of apples today, to get made into apple butter.

    But mostly, it’s when I read Rilke’s Autumn Day and just *know* it.

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