August sits on the air like a bag of wet hot cement. Mid-day movement in the garden is impossible, and thoughts of ice baths are paradise compared to dirt digging. Still, if you’re a growing addict fiending for a garden fix, there are plenty of things to do. Some of these entail indoor activity, while others suggest limited outdoor work. Just take precautions by working early or late in the day when the sun isn’t as sinister.
Cover crops planning
While it’s still a little early to throw cover crops in the ground, now is a great time to do some research. If you’re in raised beds (or lasagna gardens, etc.), you can determine which ones will have fall crops, and which sites will be prepped for cover crops. Check out our archived discussion on cover crops which details the benefits as well as the most effective plants.
If August is good for one thing, it’s the onslaught of tomatoes. Small cute plants bought at market in May are now precocious viney monsters intent on taking over all the land and dropping fruit at an amazing clip. By now, recipe ideas are exhausted and the need to blanch and store come to the forefront. Here are some of the better canning advice sites:
If you’re willing to brave the heat, now is the time to put seeds in the ground. Check out the NC State fall planting guide for this region.
Germination (especially lettuce) can be tough in the heat. According to the magazine and website, Growing for Market, there are several ways to counter the heat and get a jump start on the fall crops:
1) Add about 1/2 inch of compost (like McEnroe) on the top of beds. This will help hold in moisture.
2) Drench your garden thoroughly with water. Soak it long enough for it to be wet several inches down. Make sure to keep the soil wet until the seeds rear their wee green heads.
3) Cover your freshly seeded beds with a light to medium weight row cover and leave on until the plot is fully germinated.
Discover Your Inner Bookworm
If you insist that inside is the only way to play, there are numerous garden books that will feed the brain. Here are some of the best:
- The Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion by Shane Smith–Thorough writing on how to get a greenhouse going. Smith’s writing caters to both the newbie and the expert. There’s even a section dedicated to specific veggies and flowers for the greenhouse and optimal planting dates.
- Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth–Home gardening guru Suzanne Ashworth (who donated her text to support The Seed Saver’s Exchange, an 8,000 member genetic preservation organization in Decorah, Iowa) has given all fledgling seed savers hope with her comprehensive (bible) book, “Seed to Seed”. The author covers seed preservation techniques on over 160 non-hybrid vegetable crops, ranging from the Peruvian Carrot to the Unicorn Plant.
- Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte–Louise Riotte explains the value of placing certain plants together to deter insects and unwanted weeds. Carrots love Tomatoes covers everything from disease and weather resistant varieties (i.e. the Yolo Wonder pepper, which is tobacco mosaic virus resistant) to even want not to plant together (i.e. never plant tomatoes near potatoes, since it makes them more susceptible to potato blight). A must have for every type of grower.