Ann Wright: Cool season just around the corner
As the page of the calendar flips to August, it’s time for late summer gardening activities and, of course the Nevada County Fair!
The summer rolls along, tomatoes continue to ripen on the vines (mine seem a little late this year — probably because they were transplanted late), Armenian cucumbers are producing beautiful pale, green tasty fruit, and gardening tasks are centered toward planning for fall and cool-season crops.
Cool-season vegetables are those that grow best and produce the best quality crops when the average temperatures are 55°F to 75°F and often tolerate slight frost later in the fall. Success growing cool season varieties depends on bringing plants to maturity in cool weather as hot conditions cause many to become bitter tasting and may bolt to seed rather than producing edible parts.
Many cool season varieties can be started now for transplant about six weeks before the first frost (date depends on elevation and micro-climates). Some can be direct seeded now such as kale, lettuce and onion seed to over-winter under mulch. Peas can also be planted in August for later fall yield.
Other garden tips for August include help for the roses. Now is a good time to fertilize roses to get a fall flush of blooms. Deadheading is the removal of dry blooms. This allows the plant to put energy into producing new buds. Cut the spent blossom back to the nearest five leaflets where the stem is about as thick as a pencil. Make sure the swollen bud (where the new flower stem will grow) points to the outside of the bush. This is also a good time to look for spider mites. The UC Davis pest note (http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PDF/PESTNOTES/pnspidermites.pdf) indicates these pests are arachnids rather than insects and are generally the size of a pepper grain. They thrive in hot weather, so during hot spells, inspect roses and look for stippled, mottled, bronzed leaves. The presence of webs under the leaves is a good way to distinguish them from other types of mites and insects such as aphids and thrips.
Spider mites cause damage by sucking cell contents from leaves, and a small outbreak usually isn’t a cause for concern but high populations (levels high enough to show visible damage to leaves with leaf loss) can be treated with blasts of water from hose, or insecticidal soap or oil. Additionally, spider mites have a number of natural enemies that help with population control.
Other August garden tips include feeding camelias, rhododendrons and azaleas with an acid fertilizer. Late summer is also the time for dividing flowering perennials such as peonies (Paeonia spp.), bleeding hearts (Dicentra spp.), dianthus and lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria spp.)
WORKSHOPS AT THE FAIR
To learn more about many facets of gardening, plan to attend the Master Gardener workshops at the fair – today at 10:30 a.m., “Container Gardening” will be presented. At 11:30 a.m. “Wonderful Wiggling Worms” will be presented and at 1:30 p.m. “Amazing Mason Bees”. On Sunday, workshops at the fair include, “Growing Iris in the Foothills” at 10:30 a.m. and “Winning the Landscape Contest with Deer” at 11:30 a.m. All workshops will be held at the Nevada County Master Gardener booth in the Family Farm area (formerly Ag-Sperience).
Other free public workshops this summer include, “Compost IS the Gardener’s Best Friend” on Saturday, Aug. 17 and “Growing Cool Season Vegetables in the Foothills” on Aug. 24. These workshops will be held at the Demonstration Garden at the NID Business complex, 1036 West Main Street in Grass Valley. Both workshops will be from 10 a.m. to noon.
Master Gardeners may also be found at The Market on Saturday mornings at the North Star House in Grass Valley. Call 530-273-0919 or check the website for more information (http://ncmg.ucanr.org).
Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.
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