Yesterday I sat in the darkened parking lot of a big-box store that was closing for the night. As employees gathered up shopping carts, joking and calling to each other over the rattle of wheels, I looked over at the dim glow of the garden center and realized I had no desire to go there. What was, in early spring, a treasure trove of fresh seedlings, pots of flowers and racks of shiny new tools, held no allure at all at the end of this dusty, too-hot summer.

I’ve heard of many consequences of climate change, but not that ambivalence towards one’s garden is one of them, that instead of rejoicing in the extended growing season, a gardener might wish for a hint of frost to end it all. This summer has been so relentlessly torrid that we secretly hope for a hint of autumn crispness in the air, even if it means getting out row covers and old sheets to protect still-ripening crops.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating a return to the bad old days when an early frost, ­or even an unpredicted skim of snow, would put an abrupt end to the season, leaving silver spots on the tomatoes and instantly turning squash and cucumber vines to mush. One Labor Day weekend in the mid-1970s in northern Vermont remains seared in my brain, the horror of awakening at a friend’s house the morning after a big holiday bash, looking out the window and seeing white everywhere, knowing it was too late to do anything for my garden back home, shivering under a rapidly melting mantle of September snow.

So I’m conflicted. While I’m ready to get on with the garden cleanup at the first hint of frost, any time we get a cooling breeze or humidity-lowering shower, I rush out to deadhead cosmos and zinnias, petunias and salvia, encouraging them to bloom right up to said frost. I’m still picking ripe tomatoes and basil for Caprese salad when I should be making some kind of relish with our bumper crop of peppers — a welcome surprise in a year of challenging conditions. I pull any annuals that are exhausted and too far gone, but most seem ready to race on to Halloween with fresh blossoms.

My partner, on the other hand, is champing at the bit, wanting to rip out the last of the green beans and donate the remaining tiny ears of corn and stalks to the neighbor’s heifers, to dump manure over any empty beds and dig all the potatoes post-haste. We’ve already harvested, dried and cleaned the onions, whose tops shriveled up several weeks earlier than usual, as well as the garlic, which turned brown right on schedule. We’ve separated out the largest garlic for planting later in the fall and hung everything in the root cellar in recycled mesh bags, so there’s plenty of room to spread the potatoes out on the screened porch, where they will lie in state under old sheets, curing for a week before being stored away. But I want to hold off, since the potato tops are still green, figuring the tubers will be fine in the ground right up to frost, safer there than in a too-warm root cellar. I try to slow him down by passing on a tip that’s new to me: Cutting off the foliage of potatoes at ground level several weeks before digging them will help prevent blight spores from infecting the tubers as you lift them and will also help to firm the skins of the potatoes. But it falls on deaf ears. He’s determined to get that garden cleaned up so he can head guilt-free into the hunting season. My lobbying for leaving carrots and beets in the ground, as well as the cabbages and Brussels sprouts, is fortunately more successful.

On early morning dog walks we pass by shoals of rotting, vinegary apples along the road. Usually we’d be tasting as we went along, selecting a prime apple from a branch and taking note of which are ready for pies or cider and which still need a good frost to bring out their flavor. This year the crop is sparse, with few trees with bumper crops, and many of those with a good yield have already dropped their fruit. There are many reasons for premature fruit drop, but I can’t help but think drought and heat are the primary factors at play here. As apples begin to ripen, they produce large amounts of ethylene, the ripening hormone that stimulates softening of fruits and the formation of an abscission layer in the stem. Ethylene enhances the production of enzymes that break down the cell walls and the complex sugars that hold cell walls together in this abscission zone. As these glue-like substances break down, they leave the fruit connected only by vascular strands, which are easily broken. Some apple varieties are affected by hot temperatures more than others, prone to early formation of ethylene that promotes early drop, and this summer’s record high temperatures might have contributed to this. Pre-harvest drop is also more severe in dry seasons, unless irrigation is available, as in a commercial orchard. The wild varieties, alas, are on their own. Still, a few trees seem oblivious to the heat and drought, branches weighed down with good-sized fruit, and these will be the ones we’ll keep our eye on in upcoming seasons, to see if they have some characteristics that make them more adaptable to a stressful summer.