To Do In The Northwest Edible Garden: August 2011

From the Maritime Northwest Garden Guide:
“The cooler weather that takes the heat out of summer frequently arrives during the final two weeks of August.”

So just in case you’ve been feeling beat down by the sweltering high-60s/low-70s weather we’ve been having, relief is on the way! I jest of course. This summer officially isn’t. Still, there is finally plenty to harvest so we’d better enjoy it while we can!

Obviously the low temps have slowed down our heat lovers, but once those get going you’re sure to be swamped anyway (only having 6 weeks of zucchini might be something of a blessing, actually). More worrying for me, as a year-round gardener, is how long the spring crops have hung in the ground. I pulled garlic yesterday and the onions aren’t even close to dying down. That means the fall stuff that needs to be in the ground doesn’t have a place to go, so it is running behind too…it’s the knock-on effect for the winter garden that has me twitchy. Right now there’s plenty to pick, but in January…well, that takes proper timing now.

Plan & Purchase:

  • Garlic should be ordered now for planting in late September/early October.
  • Now that you are harvesting in some real quantity, think about what you have enough of, what you are overwhelmed by, and what you really wish you had more of. Write this info down, along with how much of each thing you are currently growing. You’ll want it when you plan next year’s garden.

Sow Indoors:
I start a ridiculous amount indoors, but my seed lights are dark right now. It’s too late to start cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc. (though good nurseries will have appropriate season starts in now to purchase if you need).

Sow Plant Outside

  • Greens! August is a great month to direct sow fall greens. If this month continues the trend and stays cool, it will be perfect for lettuces, spinach, etc. Just be diligent about watering the emerging seedlings. In general it’s better to water deep and less often, but until baby plants get some root under them and have a few true leaves, plan on at least a daily sprinkle. Try lettuces, arugula, mustard greens, spinach, chard, frisee, endive and salad blends.
  • Kale – it’s not too late to sow kale. Your plants won’t be big going into winter, but they’ll give you something to pick from. I’d sow relatively thickly and plan on eating the thinnings.
  • Radishes – gotta love anything that can be ready to pick from seeding in 3 or 4 weeks. If you let them go to seed you can try my new favorite weird food: radish seed pods!
  • Green Onions: I’m always surprised how long green onions take to mature, but a sowing now should give you some in fall.
  • Asian Brassicas: why does Chinese Cabbage seem to mature so fast when round cabbage takes forever? In any event, early August is a great time to seed all kinds of fast maturing Asian brassicas: Chinese cabbage, bok choy, Chinese mustard greens, mizuna, tatsoi, etc. My nursery carries seed from Kitazawa Seed, a specialty Asian vegetable seed company, and the variety of Asian greens is pretty amazing. Check it out.

Radish Seed Pod

Transplant Out
Ok, here’s the big job: get those transplants you started in late June and early July in the ground asap. Hopefully they are 4-6 weeks old now, nicely filling out their pots but not rootbound. Water them!

  • Cabbages
  • Cauliflowers
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Sprouting broccoli
  • Kale
  • Leeks – this really should have been done last month at the latest, but I love leeks so I’m going to keep hope alive that an early August transplanting is ok for a winter/spring leek harvest. My kid upended my entire nursery flat of fall leeks and stomped them. No leeks for me this year, unless someone has some they want to share? (No seriously, anyone long on healthy leek starts? I can trade super fresh angelica seed.)

Harvest - Oh pretty much everything except the fall root crops, winter squash and some of the fall/winter brassicas (for me, brussels sprouts are fall/winter only). August is prime time in the garden.

  • Artichokes
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic – just pulled my garlic and it’s curing
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Salad greens
  • Tomatoes – the grape and cherry tomatoes are doing well and a few of the full size tomatoes are taking on color
  • Zucchini

Fruit

  • Strawberries – everbearing types are still chunking along.
  • Blueberries – someone teach my son to pick the blue ones.
  • Raspberries – still going strong.
  • Blackberries – I’m thinking the wild ones will be ripe at the end of month in my neighborhood, later than last year.
  • Currants – lots of white currants.
  • Cherries – I wish my trees were mature! Around here the cherries started to show ripe about 2 weeks ago. I think we are at peak cherry moment right about now.
  • Apple – The earliest apples and pears should start maturing in late August, though I suspect this year they’ll run late like everything else.
  • Pear – see apple. 
  • Peaches – I decided the peaches I could grow weren’t worth the space for the tree, so I cut my peach tree down last year. But as I recall, they came ripe around mid-August.

Maintenance - basically the same as last month. Weeding, watering and harvesting (plus preserving any extra) are the biggest jobs. Especially harvesting. I am currently a slave to my green beans. Keep a close eye out for bugs. I spotted aphids on my kale and when it comes to slugs I feel like Mad Eye Moody: “Constant vigilance!”

  • Weed – I know some people have a holistic, live-and-let live, it’s here for a reason approach to weeds. I don’t. They will outgrow zucchini if you let them, and my aesthetics prefer a relatively tidy garden. Relatively tidy, notice I said relatively.
  • Water – pay close attention to anything fruiting (cucumbers, beans, etc.), plus transplants and seedlings coming up for the fall and winter garden
  • Mulch – this came up on the Take Back Urban Homesteading page on Facebook. If you use soaker hoses and have a choice, they go under the mulch.
  • Cure garlic and onions – I’ve got my just-pulled garlic sitting atop the mesh roof of the chicken coop.
  • Pinch out climbing beans – you should definitely do this when your beans hit the top of their supports. That said, I never do it.
  • Train tomatoes – I do do this. I train my indeterminate tomatoes to single cordons (1 unbranched stem). This keeps them in line and manageable, but it does require that I regularly pinch out the sideshoots that want to grow out.
  • Train cucumbers - You can get fancy and pinch out side growth, or pinch out main growth, or pinch off growth two leaves past the fruit. I don’t know, I’ll leave it to the British to explain proper training; I just shove mine back into the trellis and periodically cut off any huge leaves that are overshading the plant, or chop some unfruitful parts of the vine off if they get way, way out of control.
  • Side dress heavy feeders – Definitely do this if you notice your plant growth slowing or leaf color lightening. Anything that is working hard for you over a long time should be fed. I’ll side dress summer and winter squash, cukes, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower. A light side-banding of organic fertilizer ought to do it. Little and every few weeks is better than a lot all at once. Super leafy things (think spinach or basil) get the occasional foliar feed with fish emulsion.
  • Net ripening fruit against birds if that’s a problem for you. Or get cats.
  • Summer prune soft fruit and tree fruit
  • Prune summer raspberries
  • Tie in blackberries
  • Prune espalier trees, stone fruits, and grape vines
  • Apply Sluggo regularly if necessary
  • Apply BT for cabbage moth control if necessary
  • Foliar feed with fish emulsion
  • Preserve – freeze, pickle and dry what you cannot eat fresh. Eat fresh when possible!

Ok, who else has entire meals out in the garden while “harvesting.” I can eat my weight in green beans and raspberries.

Comments

  1. Erica,

    Where do you order your garlic? I'm on the west side of the sound.

  2. Sarah – I order almost everything from Territorial, including garlic. After my experience with the White Rot (which I cannot blame on the seed – I really do not know where it came from) I would highly advise getting certified virus free seed.

  3. Here we're in a drought with 100+ temperatures for the past several months … but the weather sure changes fast, and in a few weeks hopefully the heat will break and we'll get *some* rain. Thanks for the reminder to be ready!

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