After a hot and frequently wet July, it is terrific to get back to working in the garden. That’s a good thing because there is a lot to do! Harvest is at the top of the list. Even warm-season crops should mature this month.
Tomatoes are at the top of many harvest lists and fortunately when they start to produce, they do so in spades. Freeze them, juice them, dry them, can them. Just don’t let these precious pomes get wasted.
Early apples will start to produce and pears should be ready to pick as well. Pears that are left on the tree to ripen will be mushy and dry. Pick them when the color of the fruit changes from dark green to a lighter green and when the fruit is easily twisted and removed from the spur. Store in the refrigerator or other cool location and remove a few when desired to fully ripen at room temperature.
Potatoes are ready to harvest when the tops turn yellow and fade away. Dig carefully to prevent cutting into the spuds. Cure the tubers by spreading them dry in a well-ventilated area away from the sunshine. I like to cover my potatoes with a sheet or other lightweight fabric to keep the light from them. Curing toughens the skin and heals wounds to enable good storage. When the tops of your onion plants fall over, the bulbs have grown as large as they will get. Carefully dig them up. Like potatoes, onions need to cure for long-term storage. Spread out your harvest on screens in a dark, well-ventilated area or tie the greenery up in bunches and hang to dry away from the sunshine and protected from rain and dew.
August brings sweet corn to luscious ripeness. Pick at its prime with this simple test: pop a plump kernel with your fingernail and check for a milky juice. If the liquid is thin and watery, wait a few days and try again. If the kernel is dry, the ear is certainly edible but not at its flavor peak.
Freshen your flower beds. Unless the seeds are attractive to wildlife, deadhead spent blooms or harvest for seed saving. Weed regularly. Just a little bit of time in the flower bed can make a huge difference in its overall appearance and regular maintenance will make an enormous difference in next year’s spring garden. If your daylily production was less than spectacular this year, consider dividing them. Although daylilies can be divided as soon as they are done flowering, I prefer to wait until the cooler days of fall for these major events. It’s also time to order bulbs for fall planting. Browse the catalogs and get your order in now for the best selection and the prettiest spring color.
While essential in the flower bed, weeding is also critical in the garden. When you pull an entire crop, such as potatoes or onions, be sure to plant that exposed area with a cover crop or mulch it well to keep weeds from germinating this fall and in early spring. Don’t ignore the persistent weeds that keep returning. Some of them may be lovely to look at but can quickly take over your garden.
In the midst of all the weeding, watering and harvesting, take the time to pop in a few seeds for fresh fall crops. There’s plenty of time for lettuce, spinach, beets, kohlrabi and radishes. Enjoy the garden and take pictures frequently. The photos are nice to look at in the winter but are an especial help in the spring when planning the upcoming garden season.
Beverly Carney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.