I’m hearing lots of clues that summer is winding down, though. Dawn gets quieter and quieter, but the side yard is alive with twittering goldfinches clinging to Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) plants, gorging on ripe seeds, while bumblebees keep up the buzz pollinating its long-lasting lavender flowers.

Wild turkeys clucking loudly in the back yard are one big clue– it’s crabgrass time, and what a bountiful harvest.

Crabgrass seeds are a high-value food for birds, and in many parts of the world, for people too. I don’t love it taking over tended garden beds (or turkeys tearing them up with their big feet, either), but in less fussed over areas… bring it on. A thought worth pondering from Green Deane’s website, Eat the Weeds, and other things too

“Americans did two interesting things when they moved from the farm to suburbia: They surrounded their homes with toxic ornamentals and attacked edible plants as if they were life threatening.”

I’m all for eating my weeds and planting ornamentals that feed wildlife, although I do appreciate the toxicity of daffodils and other flowering bulbs shunned by voles and deer.

Visible clues abound too. Leaves have lost their freshness; dull greens show that photosynthesis is slowing, plants are preparing for the inevitable. Red pigments start to appear in dogwood and maple leaves as chlorophyll degrades.

And what are those webs stretched over dead leaves on so many winterberries, apples and other woody plants all of a sudden? They’re sticky and icky and full of black frass (i.e. caterpillar poop) and squirmy, voracious caterpillars. The very day that I pulled off the mess bit by bit, tied it up in a plastic bag and tossed it in the trash, a big clue came into my inbox from The Perfect Earth Project.

This is the end of the season, plants are about to defoliate anyway, so no real damage done. These are fall webworms, larvae of a native moth. They only eat old leaves, but lots of birds and other predators eat them. Poke a hole in the webs if you can’t resist, birds will gobble them up, but don’t spray. And don’t do what I did – I guess they will eat plastic when they run out of old leaves, because the next morning they were crawling all over my kitchen.