As we move into August, most of us want to stay inside away from the heat and humidity, go boating to cool off and ignore the weeds. But let’s be honest; the garden beckons, whether you’ve planted vegetables, fruit or flowers.
Get out early in the morning to avoid the heat. It’s prime time for picking tomatoes, squash, beans, cucumbers, figs, plus perennials such as dahlias, roses, panicle and Annabelle hydrangeas.
Your tomatoes may look a little ragged with browning leaves inching their way up the plants, but as long as the temperatures have stayed around 90 degrees or below, you’ll still get a good yield. Same with other vegetables, such as beans, peppers and squash.
We’ve been harvesting our heirloom tomatoes as soon as they start turning a little bit of red. Cherokee Purple, which we started from seed back in the winter, is providing us with a bumper crop of “real” tomatoes. Add in Brandywine and Mortgage Lifter heirloom varieties, and lunches at Rose Lane often consists of BLT sandwiches; we’ve also had suppers of buffalo mozzarella, thick tomato slices with home-grown basil drizzled with thick balsamic vinegar.
We planted two newer cherry tomatoes – Midnight Snack and nutty-tasting Sun Sweet golden orange – and a yellow pear-shaped mini-tomato and have been rewarded with some of the best-tasting tomatoes ever.
Once you’ve grown heirloom varieties you’ll never go back to Better Boy, Celebrity or Beefsteak again.
This year has been another stellar one for food gardening. The key is regular picking and consistent watering to ensure another month or so of harvest. Remember to fertilize your vegetables regularly to increase your garden’s yield. Vegetables are heavy feeders; be sure to read labels for proper application rates. You can alternate between granular feeding and a liquid, such as Miracle Gro, using a hose-end sprayer.
In case anyone is wondering, we’ve far exceeded our haul of fresh blueberries this season. We’ve beaten our 100-pound record from 2020 by another 60 pounds. We’ve run out of freezer space, even as we regularly shared with friends.
While it’s too early to start cool-season crops, such as Brussel sprouts, broccoli, leafy greens or root vegetables, you can begin planning for your fall/winter garden. Browse through gardening and seed-source websites, like Burpee, Gurney’s, Park Seed or SeedSavers and pick out your fall favorites. By mid-September, you can sow seeds outdoors for most plants. Hold off until early October to sow your leafy greens, arugula, mesclun, butter lettuce and spinach.
If you’re into gardening, you probably know that Walter Reeves, the Georgia Gardener, retired from his long-time gig on WSB 95.5 about 14 months ago. Ashley Frasca, who also does traffic on weekends, has taken his place from 6 to 9 a.m. on Saturdays with Green and Growing.
Walter still espouses his wisdom on each show, usually from 6:30 to 7 each week with a feature called Walter’s Wonders. He usually picks a topical issue and shares his expertise.
Those of us who still need a regular “Walter” fix subscribe to his bi-weekly newsletter through WalterReeves.com. Each issue is filled with timely questions and gardening tips. And if that’s not enough, Walter’s website is constantly updated with the latest in gardening news.
When it’s too hot to go outside, take a few minutes to check out Walter’s site and subscribe to his newsletter. With hyper-local gardening info, it’s good reading and it can also save you from making costly mistakes in your landscape while helping you maximize your investment of time.
Photo: by Pamela A. Keeene