One thing leads to another. It’s an idiom that certainly applies to gardening, especially the vegetable patch.
Advice from a compulsive plant buyer: Think ahead before buying your next plant
With the arrival of August, most of the vegetables have reached maturity and the pace of the harvests has literally accelerated. I am in the garden shortly after and sometimes just before sunrise. Not only is it more comfortable, temperature-wise for me, but fruit crops, eg sweet corn, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green beans, etc. , are at their peak of freshness and flavor early in the morning. hours. Along with this frequent harvest, this leads to many of these same crops continuing to produce more of their fruit.
Whether eaten the day of harvest or a few days later, fresh-picked vegetables keep better in the refrigerator. Of course, with frequent harvests or with high-yielding crops, there will often be more vegetables than can be eaten in a short time. This leads to setting up a conservation strategy for these vegetables. My wife, Pat, is proficient in many methods of food preservation, including freezing, canning, fermenting, pickling, and dehydrating. This way, this family will enjoy the fruits of our labor for many months after the harvest. For those unfamiliar with these methods, a great source of information is the USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation website or the book “So Easy to Preserve,” published by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
There are several crops whose harvests have already been completed or will soon be. It leaves a vacuum and, according to another idiom, nature abhors a vacuum. Left to Mother Nature, this space will most likely quickly fill with weeds. This leads gardeners to fill in these spaces. One obvious way is to simply plant more vegetables. These should be crops with a short growing season, such as radishes and leafy greens, or those with a longer growing season but can withstand a light frost. These include carrots and beets as well as members of the cruciferous family, i.e. cabbage, kale, kohlrabi and turnips. These can be sown directly now. It is also worth sowing bush-type peas and green beans.
As an alternative, fill in these empty spaces by sowing seeds of a cover crop. Cover crops not only smother weeds, they absorb mineral nutrients that would otherwise leach out of the soil. When plowed, cover crops enrich the soil by providing significant amounts of organic matter as they decompose. My favorites to plant now are buckwheat, oats and sudex (sorghum-soudangrass). These are not hardy and kill the winter by leaving a layer of dead plants on the surface of the soil, thus reducing soil erosion during the winter. Debris is plowed in the spring about 2 weeks before planting any vegetable crops. Mustard is another cover crop I plant now, especially in areas of the garden where garlic should be planted this fall. This is because mustard acts as a bio-fumigant, i.e. it releases organic chemicals called glucosinolates which suppress soil-borne diseases including nematodes, a major problem in agriculture. garlic in recent years. Again, this cover crop should be tilled for about two weeks before planting the garlic.
- Harvest basil by cutting off the shoots but leaving a section of leafy stem on each plant for later growth. In addition to using basil leaves to season various foods, prepare a large amount of pesto. The pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays or, as our daughter does, place small parisons on wax paper-lined cookie sheets. Once frozen, the cubes or parisons are placed in resealable plastic bags.
- Hang old CDs or other reflective materials from tall stakes in the cornfield to deter crows from eating on the corn. Hanging a few metal objects, such as small tins or bells, together to create a noisemaker can also have a deterrent effect.
- Cut the canes of raspberries and blackberries at the base once the harvest is complete.
- Avoid following the same path when crossing the lawn to visit neighbors, the vegetable garden, the clothesline, the garage, the tool shed or the outbuilding. The grass is drought stressed and can easily be injured by repeated foot traffic.
- Adjust the cutting height of the mower to no less than 3 inches, and preferably 4 inches, during these dry periods. This will reduce the stress on the grass. If the grass has browned, stop mowing. Drought-stressed grass often goes dormant and appears brown and dry. Once the wet weather returns, the grass will turn green again.
- Direct the water at the soil of container-grown plants rather than at the leaves of the plants. This reduces the risk of powdery mildew and other leaf diseases.
- Pinch (ouch!) the elongated shoots of houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. This will result in well-branched, bushier plants when they are ready to be brought indoors.
- Do not break flower stems when picking flowers for the house. Instead, cut them with a sharp knife. Breaking the stems reduces the vase life of the flowers. Cut flowers early in the day while it’s still cool and cut off excess foliage. As the flowers in the arrangements begin to wilt, remove them as they produce ethylene gas which will hasten the death of the remaining flowers.
- Examine the performance of annuals and perennials in flower gardens. Not all plants are suitable for all garden sites. Note the ones that did poorly and uproot the plants. It’s not worth nursing plants that aren’t doing well when there are so many other plants that could be doing better.
If I add one more thing to this to-do list, it will surely lead to abandoning gardening in favor of another activity like lollygagging.