Gardening Tips for Region and Season

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There’s a sense of joy and satisfaction as we get caught up in the flurry of late summer harvest. If you have more than you can use, contribute to your local food pantry.
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Early August is an optimal time to start fall crops of spinach, lettuce and other short-season greens.

New England/Maritime Canada

Early August is an optimal time to start fall crops of
spinach, lettuce and other short-season greens. Prepare the
garlic patch ahead of time by turning in compost and
well-rotted manure. Azomite, a trace mineral supplement,
has been key in helping to increase the size of my garlic
heads. Spacing the plants from 10 to 12 inches apart helps,
too. Mulch new ground with cardboard and cover that with
straw, hay or grass clippings for neatness and to hold the
cardboard down. By spring, the sod will be dead, the
cardboard and mulch broken down, and the ground will be
ready for tilling.

Mid-Atlantic

This is your last chance to put in those frost-sensitive
plants such as beans, cucumbers and summer squash that
mature in less than 60 days. Sow cool- weather crops like
beets, carrots, radishes and hardy greens in two-week
successions. After plants develop the third set of true
leaves, try undersowing with white Dutch clover to suppress
weeds, attract beneficial insects, fix nitrogen and live on
as a winter/spring cover crop. Try planting perennial onions this fall — yellow potato onions
yield heavily in this region. If you are saving your own
garlic, pick medium to large heads that are tightly formed
for replanting, and just enjoy eating the largest bulbs.

Southern Interior

Yes, it is steamy hot outside, but fall gardening in the
Southern Interior is some of the best gardening of the
year. In August, sow Brussels sprouts, which are best grown
as a fall crop, as well as cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi and
carrots. Keep them well watered, and mulch them to conserve
moisture and keep the soil cool. They tolerate a good deal
of frost, which actually will improve their flavor. By
September, the weather has cooled considerably — just
in time for another round of planting. Mustard greens, easy
to grow and very nutritious, can be sown in beds or rows.
In Zone 8 or warmer, turnips can be grown from early fall
into early spring. Beets and garden peas are also fine
candidates to round out the garden.

Gulf Coast

Prune the best peppers and eggplants back a bit, and mulch,
water and fertilize them to encourage a fall crop. The rest
of the garden can be tilled several times, or solarized, to
dry out the soil and reduce nematode populations.
Solarization also requires tilling, but you want the soil
to be moist before covering it with a layer of UV-resistant
clear plastic; in six to eight weeks, most of the weeds and
other pests will be reduced. Also, seed snow peas now and
bush beans through early September. Be sure to keep them
watered and covered with fabric row covers until the heat
gives way to cooler temperatures.

Central/Midwest

Reaping the rewards of the season sometimes seems like an
endless job! Try to pick produce in the morning after the
heavy dew is gone and again in late afternoon. To spread
out tasks such as making spaghetti sauce, freeze key
ingredients now and make the sauce on a cool fall day.
Extend the harvest season by plant-ing cool-weather
varieties such as lettuce, peas and greens. Be vigilant in
watching insect populations; squash bugs multiplied
particularly rapidly last year and ate our winter squash
crop!

North Central and Rockies

Late summer is fire season in much of our area, so
preventative and protective measures are in order. Make
sure your roofs are clean, and rake dry plant materials
away from siding, fences and decks. Even city dwellers need
to maintain a 30-foot fire-resistant landscape around
buildings. Firebrands can be carried a half mile or more by
winds accompanying forest fires and can easily ignite dry
foundation plantings. Farther from the house, expect a
certain amount of brown in the landscape — summer
dormancy is nature’s way of surviving this droughty
time of year. Mulches and drip irrigation will make every
drop of water count in both landscape and garden. Sow hardy
greens through August. And remember to take a shaker of
garlic-basil salt with you to the tomato patch — the
big pay-off for all that work is a juicy bite of
just-picked, sun-warmed, vine-ripened tomato with just a
touch of the salt.

Pacific Northwest

There’s a sense of joy and satisfaction as we get
caught up in the flurry of late summer harvest. If you have
more than you can use, contribute to your local food
pantry. Start transplants or direct sow cold-hardy onions
such as ‘Walla Walla Sweets’ by early August,
but wait until late September to plant garlic. September
conditions are excellent for planting and transplanting
perennial herbs. For salad treats this fall and next
spring, plant successions of cold-hardy European greens
(corn salad/mache, chicories, kale) and Asia mustards and
Joi Choi. Fall beets should be in the ground by early
August.

Southwest

Enjoy the Southwest chile season, stringing red chiles into
ristras, and roasting and freezing green chiles for next
winter’s stews. Keep sowing fall greens, including
spinach, kale and lettuce through August at higher
elevations and September at lower levels. Sow fava beans in
September in areas where winter temperatures don’t
drop below 20 degrees — they will make a tasty spring
treat. Clean up and compost crops that are finished or that
get hit by frost. Then, plant the ground to fall cover
crops. Winter rye or winter triticale mixed with vetch or
peas work well at both high and low elevations. Mulch
perennials with straw or bark chips in colder regions to
increase winter hardiness. Share extra produce with
neighbors, schools or a shelter.