Some of you gardeners may be a wee bit tired of picking prodigious batches of green beans, but keep up with harvesting, it keeps your plants producing! I hope you have been canning, freezing, fermenting, storing, drying!
There are HOT August days, and ones that have a hint of fall. Days are a tad shorter; shadows in different places now. It is the time of the turn of the seasons here in coastal SoCal! Though crazy busy with harvests, gardeners are making their first fall plantings mid August, especially from seed! Often they are made in semi shaded ‘nursery’ areas to be transplanted as they get bigger and 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. Some are planted under finishing plants to take the finishing plant’s place, like peas under beans. Pop in some kale between the tomatoes and peppers. Safe in a greenhouse is wonderful too!
Already, get your seed packs for celery, chard, mustard greens, parsley, peas, winter radish varieties, and Brassicas: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale babies, kohlrabi, turnips. See below for help on choosing the very best varieties! 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.
Make your own Seed Strips! They are great for radish, carrots, any seeds that are small and hard to handle. It’s an easy, satisfying evening activity that saves your back, and seeds, when you are planting!
If seeds don’t work for you, don’t have time to do the extra watering, you will be away at the critical time, keep harvesting, do your soil preps, and wait for September or October transplanting. Labor Day weekend is the big planting time for many gardeners, and that’s only a month away now!
Summer plants you can still plant for early fall harvests, are beans and early maturing tomatoes and corn. Corn is more disease prone at this time though.
Tuck in your year-round fillers, beets, bunch onions, carrots, summer lettuces, radish, to keep a colorful variety for your table.
Plant sweet potato slips in late summer for harvest around Christmas. Jenny Knowles, then at Plot 16, harvested these tasty beauties Dec 28, 2011! She let sprouted taters grow into plants while on her kitchen window sill. She planted them in August/Sep, on the sunny side of her black composter. Clearly, between the super compost nutrition, and the heat of the composter, both from the black color and the warmth of the decomposing compost, she succeeded! She got several smaller pups before she took the main plant and the large central potatoes. I was lucky to witness this fine harvest!
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!
Give your heavy producers a good feed. Eggplants have a large fruit, beans put out a ton of beans, tomatoes are big and working hard, peppers can be profuse! They like a tad of chicken manures scratched in, bunny poop and straw (pick up at Animal Shelters), well aged horse manure and compost makes them dance with the faeries in the night time! Fertilizers highest in P, Phosphorus, keeps blooming and fruiting at an optimum.
Keep your watering steady to avoid slowing or stopping production or misshapen fruits – that’s curled beans, odd shaped peppers, catfaced strawberries. In hot late summer weather water short rooted high production plants like beans, cucumbers, lettuces and strawberries more frequently. Keep them well mulched, especially the cucumbers. Keep them off the ground to protect them from suffering from the wilts fungi. I put down straw a good 3″ deep.
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.
Design Your Fall Garden! Move plants from the nursery area as space becomes available. But have a plan too. Tall plants, trellises, to the North or on the shady side, then plants of graduated sizes to the South or sunniest areas. Peas need a string or wire trellis for their tiny tendrils. They aren’t like beans that twine anything. Few winter plants need support, but big brocs, tall kales sometimes need staking. If they ‘lay down,’ if you have the room and want more plants, they will grow baby plants along their stems! Otherwise, put your plants back up and stake them securely. Build your new raised beds. Install gopher barriers!
Think soil, soil, soil! When an area is done, clear away insect hiding places. Remove and throw away 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 new compost! Dig it into the top 4 to 6 inches. Amend your soils per the plant that will be grown in the area per your design.
Keep turning your fall compost pile, start one if you haven’t! This warmer weather will help the pile decompose faster, and your plants will be blessed when you give the compost to them! If you aren’t hot composting, remember, thin layers and smaller bits decompose faster. The ratio is 1 wet/green to 2 dry/brown. Throw in whatever kitchen trim, torn tea bags, coffee filters/grounds, crushed eggshells – anything worms can eat will decompose faster. I’m talking faster because starting now is a little late, so this is what you do to ‘catch up!’ Sprinkle with a handful or two of living moist soil to inoculate your pile, and some red wriggler worms here and there to make your pile jump up! Turn it as often as you can to aerate and keep things humming. Once a day if possible, but do what you can. Compost improves your soil’s water holding capacity and adds and stabilizes N, Nitrogen! Yes!
SeedSaving! Allow your healthiest top producers to seed. Seeds are your second harvest! Each year keep your best! Scatter some about if they would grow successfully now! Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s plantings. Remember, these seeds are adapted to you and your locality. If you are willing, take your extras to a local Seed Bank! While you are there, pick up some of your fall favorites and some new ones to try out!
Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Eat less meat. Grow organic!
See the entire August 2014 Newsletter!