Pickaway to Garden
Before the Fall
By Paul J. Hang
Not that fall, that was in the Garden of Eden. I mean the season. Some of you may have noticed that I use a lot of equivocation in my columns, using a word with two meanings, using a word one way when I really mean the other. It’s ambiguous but I am not trying to mislead dishonestly. Equivocation is often used in humor, in jokes. So, August is before the fall and there is still some gardening to be done, if you are up to it. By now a lot of us are tired and it is still too hot to spend much time playing in the dirt. I gave up trying to create a Garden of Eden a long time ago and have settled for a garden of eaten.
You can have a fall garden producing food right into winter. Long term forecasts predict a warmer fall than usual. The temperature will be cooler for working outside. There will be fewer pests. Our average first frost date is October 15. Work back from there. If your seed packet says your desired crop will mature in 60 days you can plant it by August 15th and it might be ready on October 15th. Fall brings cooler temps and shorter days with less sunlight so it might take longer. On the other hand, if you cover the crop when frost threatens, you will probably have enough time to reap what you sow. Things like lettuce and arugula can be harvested anytime so they are safe. Collard greens, spinach, cabbage, turnips, peas and radishes can withstand a frost. If you can find plants for cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, winter squash, try it. Cucumber plants can be planted now but can’t take a frost uncovered.
Once we have a frost (you did cover your plants to protect them, right?), we can usually count on a few more weeks of warmer weather. The odds are in our favor. Don’t have enough room? Plant between your tomato plants. Pull up those onions, green beans, squash, cucumbers and other plants that may have stopped producing and make way for other veggies. Plant some radishes among newly planted beets to mark the rows and harvest them before the beets are being crowded.
Garlic and onions can be planted now for harvest next summer. Spinach can be covered lightly with straw or in a covered tunnel and you can harvest it until spring. Just don’t uncover it on those bitter cold days. Give it a try. I hope you are tempted. With this knowledge you might find gardening paradise. You’ll know after the fall.
Things to do in the garden:
August is Tree Check month. Trees are valuable assets to your property and to our community. Fall is the best time to plant trees. For advice on what trees to plant and where to plant them, go to www.arborday.org or contact our City Tree Commission.. To gain an appreciation of our oldest living things see www.treesintrouble.com.
Pull all that crabgrass before it goes to seed. Take heart though, the first good frost will kill it. Water if we don’t get at least an inch of rain each week. Water at the base of the plant and do it in the morning. Water trees and shrubs planted in the past two years or if they look distressed.
You can still have a garden for food. Plant healthy looking broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants if you can find them early in the month. Direct-seed beets, lettuces, spinach, radishes, turnips, and snap peas mid-month, for a fall garden. Harvest vegetables and herbs in the morning for best results. Keep the seeds and soil moist for best germination.
As plants die back clean up the debris so bad insects and disease don’t have a place to over- winter. This is particularly important for the vegetable garden. Some landscape plants, such as coneflowers and those with hollow stems, also native ornamental grasses, you may want to leave alone for seeds for wintering birds and insects and for visual winter interest. Put the debris of healthy plants in the compost bin, diseased plants in the trash.
Want to have a new garden next year? Now is a good time to prepare the site. Cover the area with black plastic, thick cover of newspaper or cardboard weighted down or even old carpet. Anything that will block the sun will leave bare earth come spring.
Disbud and fertilize your dahlias for bigger blooms. Side dress (fertilize) peonies with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. Order spring bulbs and plant biennials. Divide, transplant or give away perennials that are overgrown and plant new container grown ones. Add new mulch where needed.
By the end of the month consider disbudding your tomato plants. Remove the growing tips of each branch and pinch out all the blossoms that bloom. It takes six weeks from blossom to fruit. This practice will give bigger tomatoes and prevent all those marble size tomatoes that the frost gets and never reach the table. If you’re not sure about this, try it on some of your plants and compare to those that you leave alone. Experiment! Try this also with melons and winter squash.
Tomatoes not ripening? Be patient, the plants are still growing and putting down roots not just ripening the fruit that has already set. Consider picking tomatoes before they are completely ripe. They will ripen off the vine if they still show a blush of green on an otherwise red, purple or yellow tomato. Totally ripe tomatoes still on the vine can burst with a glut of water from rain or the hose. They can be sampled by birds and mammals. Follow this advice and you will enjoy better tomatoes.
Monitor for pests. Think before you spray. Know your enemy. Use organic methods first. Remember, 97 percent of insects are either good or neutral for our gardens and landscape. As Joe Boggs, OSU Extension Educator recommends, use the digital method, in this digital age, to eliminate some bugs. You can squash them with your digits. That, coupled with the additional two step stomp technique, can be quite effective and no bug species has developed a resistance to these tactics.
Need gardening advice? Call the Gardening Helpline at the OSU Extension Office 474-7534. Other resources are ohioline.osu.edu and, to read a weekly discussion of plant problems check out bygl.osu.edu. Buckeye Yard and Garden Line (bygl) is a real education.