Sunday, September 1, 2013

What's happening in the late August garden

Sunday, August 30, 2013

August is typically a hot, dry time of year.  This year has not been typical.  We did go the last 2 weeks without rain but got 2" overnight. Consistent moisture is important for almost all fruiting vegetables and is critical to keep lettuce, beets and carrots sweet and tomatoes from cracking.

The plants that like the warm temps are tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, Egyptian walking onions, cucumbers and the Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano, chives, savory, and thyme.  With all the rain this year, we have seen an impact on harvests of our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  Our theory is the consistent rains kept the flowers from pollinating.

You should fertilize about once a month.  You don’t want to shoot too much nitrogen to your fruit producers as you can end up with all leaves and no veggie fruits.  We just went through and fertilized with a dried fish fertilizer.  With natural fertilizers you don’t have to worry about “burning” your plants as they slowly release into the ground.  

I just brought in the garlic and shallots from hardening the outer skins from our covered deck.  You can harden your garlic anywhere this is shade, even under a tree.  It is recommended you leave garlic and onions you want to store in 80+ degree temperatures in the shade for a couple of weeks.  

You should always keep your biggest cloves for re-planting in the fall.  This year, I am pickling my garlic with spicy peppers.  Adds an extra zing.

The zucchini I replanted three times this season is producing, both plants.  If you plant zucchini before June, it can get an infestation from the squash vine borer, a type of fly that lays it eggs in the vine.  If you are lucky enough that you have a nursery that has transplants, it is not too late to replant.  It takes summer squash grown from seed 5-6 weeks to produce.

If your tomatoes are getting tired, you can also still replant some new transplants to keep full production into the fall.  I had a few volunteers that came up late.  These are just now starting to produce tomatoes.  My chocolate pear tomato looks like it got a blight and the leaves are turning yellow and shriveling.  The late tomatoes should help make up the difference.

The pepper plants have been going in spurts.  They went strong for a month, then a dry spell.  They are getting peppers back on them again now.

To maximize the pepper harvest, pick them as soon as they get to full size versus letting them fully ripen to red, yellow, or orange on the plant.  This stimulates the plant to produce more.  If you let them ripen on the plant, the taste will be sweeter.

The cucumbers are happy.  We are getting 4-6 each week off the vines we have.  They are so crunchy and flavorful right off the vine!

I had sunflower sprouted from the seed I planted in May and June has flowered with the fully ripe seeds feeding the birds.  It looks like I have a few volunteers sprouting up in pots and various places in the garden.  My guess is they came from the seed in our bird feeder.

I have re-seeded lettuce in pots a couple of times now.  The seedlings are finally sprouting.  I will leave some in the Earthbox and transplant some into the garden.  We keep them well watered to help prevent them from bolting and keep them sweet tasting.   A shade cloth can also help keep lettuce from bolting.  Or even moving the potted lettuce to where it gets more shade can make a huge difference.

You can also check the big box stores and your local nursery.  They may have fall transplants like chard, spinach, and lettuce right now so you can get a jump start on your fall and winter garden.  Lettuce and chard transplants should be ready to harvest in about 2 weeks time.

This fall, we will have mustard greens, lettuce, chard, blood veined sorrel, garden sorrel, French dandelion, spinach, lettuce, purslane, corn salad, celery, chives, parsley, arugula, and broccoli for salads.  I’ll also plant some kale next month as it will last into the winter.  

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