August is the last of your big harvests! Harvesting keeps your plant producing. For some of you, it means canning, freezing, fermenting, storing, drying. When you decide all is done to your satisfaction, decide which plants were your healthiest top producers and allow them to seed. Seeds are your second harvest!
We generally have heat, so keep up with watering, especially your short rooted plants like lettuces, beans, cukes, strawberries. They are all in high production and need it!
In our hot foothills and further south, watch your melons and pumpkins for their best harvest time – when they ‘slip’ off the vine. Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate. Harvest okra while it is small and tender – bigger is NOT better! Let your winter squash harden.
Give last feeds to plants you are keeping in production through August, September. Often summer favorites are kept into October. Consider, though, that winter plants that get a good start while there is still some heat, will be producing a lot sooner than plants started while it is cooler, and you will have a much earlier crop. One clever trick, to have it both ways, is to plant baby winter plants beside, among, still producing summer plants! When your summer plant is done, carefully remove it, not damaging the baby. Put peas below finishing beans. Pop some kale between the tomatoes and peppers.
When an area is done, clear away insect hiding places. Remove any mulches from under where diseased plants were. If your soil is high for the area, plants there were diseased, and you have a plentiful compost stash, maybe remove the couple top inches of soil and generously lay on some of that tasty compost! Dig it into the top 4 to 6 inches. Design your fall layout, and amend your soils for fall planting per the plant that will be grown in that area. Build your new raised beds, make more compost, install gopher barriers!
Time to select more cool temp hardy veggie seeds, especially lettuces. Lettuces that head prosper in cooler weathers. ASAP start seeds for transplants in Sep. Greenhouse style works, or even put in seedling nursery areas in your garden for later transplanting as space becomes available. Plant your seeds far enough apart to get your trowel in to pick your little plants up to move them one by one to their new home.
Yes, some summer plants thrive right into fall and you can plant last rounds, best in early August. I’ve seen tomato transplants and bean seeds started in August produce plentiful crops late September, October! That will be especially true if we have warm temps.
Start from seed Brassicas/Coles: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collards, cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), turnips and kohlrabi. The leaves of all of them can be used for greens! Start peas, bunch onions, lettuces. Lettuces grow slower in cooler temps, so plant a few more for the same supply as you had in summer, unless you eat less salads in ‘winter.’ If you need to feed an army, plant Fordhook Giant chard! They grow prolifically and huge, and are a super healthy food to eat! Culinary dandelions are the highest in Vitamin A! Beets come in lovely colors and are doubly valuable because the leaves are an edible green too. Use small young leaves in salads, steam the bigger ones as you would any green. Celery is crunchy tasty and great stew flavoring. And what about some carrots?! Plant a triple row! Lay in some radish, carrots and kales all together. The radish grow fast and shallow, the carrots take their time and grow deep. The kales will be your forever crop! In SoCal, it is essentially a perennial. Keep carrot and parsley seeds plenty moist until they come up. Parsley doesn’t like being transplanted, so put them right where you want them to remain.
Make your own Seed Strips! It’s easy, a satisfying evening activity, that saves your back, and seeds, when you are planting!
ONIONS For the biggest, sweetest harvests, late summer and early fall are the prime times to sow seeds of short- or intermediate-day onions. Fall-sown short- and intermediate-day onions tend to yield more and are larger and sweeter than those seeded or transplanted in early spring. Onions have stupendous flavor and come in white, yellow, red!
A word about Bagrada Bugs. They like Brassicas, and Brassicas are THE SoCal winter garden plant!
- What some of the local organic farmers are doing is planting mustards as a trap plant. The Bagradas prefer them, so they go there rather than your brocs. Mind you, you still have to remove them by whatever means you prefer, or the brocs are next. Bagradas are fast reproducers, make virtual swarms, and when they suck juices from your plant toxic disease producing stuff gets in your plant. In hot days, I’ve seen a plant go down in 3 days.
- I highly suggest biodiversity, interplanting – that’s mixing it up, even interplanting different varieties of the same plant (especially broccolis), rather than monoculturing – a row of a single kind of plant. With rows of a single plant, the pest or disease simply goes plant to plant and you lose the whole row. This also stops leafminers (typical on soft leaved chard & beets) from going plant to plant. Slows them way down.
- Plant so mature plant leaves don’t touch! Stop the ease of transmission. If you can’t help yourself, and go monoculture, remove infested or diseased leaves immediately.
- Don’t lay down any mulch until the Bagrada season is OVER. They hide out in the mulch then climb back up on the plant when you are gone. I’ve seen it. Stand very still and wait…sure enough, there they come.
- Use mycorrhizae fungi when you plant. The fungi network linking your plants is proven that when one plant gets a disease or pest, it warns the neighbor plant. That plant then boosts its own defenses!
If you have just a small area or are container gardening, select compact varieties known for excellent production. For example, broccolis are a cut and come again plant! When the main head is mature, still in tight formation, cut it off the main stem below the head diagonally, let side shoots grow. There are low growing varieties that make huge 3″ side shoots. These are a terrific veggie investment!