Carolyn Singer: August in my garden Plentiful vegetables, amazing vines, and a surprise
My goal is to sit in one of the inviting chairs in the edible garden, either in the cool of the morning or after the sun drops behind Sonntag Hill. I plan to linger long enough to appreciate my recent efforts without assessing what should be done next.
I do take time each day to pause in my efforts. I even stand still in this garden, and when I do, I am almost always visited by hummingbirds.
It’s a special greeting when this sweet bird dances about two feet in front of me, perhaps acknowledging the special place we share. The hummingbirds are attracted by the July and August blooms of the honeysuckle (Lonicera purpurea) on the garden fence.
In the early morning I often watch the vines of edibles grow, twisting on wires or reaching with tendrils to secure the vine as it climbs. A source of continuing fascination, I enjoy the peaceful pursuit of assisting vines that have not made contact with nearby support. Lablab beans often need this helping hand, while the “Trombetta” squash would likely latch on to me if I stood still too long.
Morning is usually a time of harvest. The first tomato, an “Early Girl,” was ripe on July 1. Since then, there has been a steady supply of all the varieties I grow. “Sunny Supersett” and “Delta” crookneck squash are, as described, prolific in their crop. Next year one plant will be enough for the freezer, family and friends.
Sweet lettuce has been in continual supply since spring. With succession planting, sowing seeds every three to four weeks, the varieties most resistant to summer heat have succeeded under shadecloth. While 30% shade is effective, 40% slows the growth and prolongs bolting. Once lettuce elongates to bloom, the leaves have a bitter taste.
“Red Cross” lettuce (Johnny’s Selected Seeds) has done the best this summer, as it has every summer. I’m also growing “Rhapsody” and “Jericho,” both described as heat resistant or slow to bolt. All are irrigated every other day, even as young seedlings.
And the surprise? This week I finally stopped harvesting edible pod peas. The only reason I stopped was because the harvest of “Northeaster” beans took over. Time to let the peas produce seed for a fall crop. Ever hopeful.
Usually reluctant to start in the cold microclimate of my garden in spring, and a failure in the heat of the summer, peas are an elusive crop for this gardener.
In late spring I tried a variety I remember my parents growing, “Dwarf Gray Sugar.” Innoculated seed was sown directly into prepared soil. The planting site was on the shady end of my garden, where a large ponderosa pine several yards to the west casts some welcome afternoon shade.
Mulch of decomposing straw was increased as the peas grew, eventually reaching a depth of eight inches. Under this mulch the soil has been cool and moist with deep irrigation every other day.
Once the morning harvest is over for the day, I turn my attention to two challenges I have this year. Both are critical to control now that I am able. For two years, both were ignored because of health challenges. Accepting that there are times in our lives when we cannot garden as we would like, also means acceptance of an increase in challenges once we return.
Weeds produce seeds when our backs are turned. This year I have adopted a new yoga pose for morning stretching. It’s called “The Weeder.”
I try to catch the weeds soon after the seed germinates, and with my neglect of the past two years, daily attention is required. Catching them while they are young, these weeds are a good green addition to the compost pile.
The second challenge is the harlequin beetle, an orange and dark brown beetle that devastates kale, broccoli, mustard, mizuna and has even moved on to the Nasturtium leaves. I’ve read that it has no natural predator. Except me.
Daily patrol, dropping the beetles into soapy water, is beginning to reduce the population.
Those chairs will have to wait.
Carolyn has gardened organically in Nevada County since 1977. She is the author of the award-winning “The Seasoned Gardener, 5 decades of sustainable and practical garden wisdom”, and two volumes of “Deer in My Garden” (deer-resistant plants), available locally. Send your gardening questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her website at carolynsingergardens.com.
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