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Let’s Garden in August, Part 1

Courtesy photo from Garden Mill.

By Jennifer Fairfield

This month, the most important thing you can be doing in your yard and gardens is making sure that everything gets enough water. And I do mean everything. In addition, there are a few other things that you can do…

In the vegetable garden:

Be sure to harvest cucumbers, beans, and zucchini regularly to keep them producing. If these are left on the plants, the plants will start to concentrate on maturing the fruits they have, in order to produce seeds, and will stop producing more fruits. By constantly harvesting, you are basically tricking the plant into producing more fruit so that it can produce and mature seeds (that being the whole goal of the plant).

Photo by Jennifer Fairfield. Beans.

If you haven’t yet harvested your garlic, you probably should, as leaving it too long can cause it to rot in the ground. Get tips on harvesting, curing, and storing your garlic here. Onions are also usually ready to harvest in July and August.

Once early plants are done, you can put in some “succession” plants. Transplants of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and head lettuce can go in the garden now.

Beets, carrots, radishes, leaf lettuces, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and peas all can be planted directly in the garden in August for harvest into the early fall. Take a look at the seed packet for the “days to maturity” to determine how late you can plant and still harvest before frost (and some things, like kale, are even better after a light frost). 

To figure out your safe planting time frame, just count backwards from your average first date of frost (usually early October for our area, but you can get detailed information for your zip code here). So, if your packet says that the days to maturity is 45 and it takes 5 to 10 days to germinate, then you need to make sure that you have your seeds in by about Aug. 10.

Three important chores this month (along with watering) are keeping weeds, disease, and insect pests under control. With all the hard work we put into our gardens, losing plants to insect pests or disease, or not getting the best harvest because weeds are taking up precious nutrients and water just doesn’t seem fair.

Some of the pest culprits I’m seeing in my garden right now include squash vine borers, Mexican bean beetles, and cabbage moth worms. I’m not seeing a lot of disease yet, though some of my tomatoes are showing signs of something – I just haven’t yet figured out what. The insects aren’t out of control yet, and I don’t intend to let them get to be.

One of the squash plants had a borer in one leaf stem, which was easily treated by removing the entire leaf and dunking the stem in soapy water for a while. Another plant had a borer in the actual stem of the plant. That got treated with Bt sprayed into the hole the borer created. I am hoping that got the little monster, as they can kill a plant pretty quickly if left to their own devices.

I also am now sprinkling diatomaceous earth around the plant stems to try to keep any more invaders away. The bean beetles got sprayed with neem oil sprayed on the bean plants, and the cabbage worms got picked off the kale and squished (though I could have used the Bt on those as well, if the infestation had been significant).

As for the tomatoes, I am picking up my fungicide treatments again (I had slacked off a bit on that for a few weeks). I also trimmed off the branches that had leaves showing signs of disease (when you do this, be sure to clean your trimmers with rubbing alcohol in between cuts so as not to spread disease with your tools).

I’m hoping the trimming and spraying will keep disease at bay long enough for me to enjoy all the tomatoes that the plants are producing. I am also spraying cucumbers, squash, and beans with fungicide, to try to keep any other diseases at bay.

(Part 2 will publish tomorrow.)

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