Bugs, weeds, and water are still demanding as much of our time as in the month of July. We are still amending the soil in beds now open after the final harvests of potatoes and onions, leeks and fennel, burnt out and bolting lettuce. We are also planting crops for late September and October harvests like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. We’re direct seeding root crops like carrots, parsnips, and salsify.
First Things First ~
Begin August vegetable planning with a long walk through your garden, assessing each bed and determining what stays, what goes, and what can last a few more weeks with a little determined attention. Do this with a notebook and write down what you see as you go by. Then, when at your desk use this list to build out your plan for the next three or four weeks.
Some questions to keep in mind while you are making your garden audit include:
- Which beds might best be ‘put to rest’ for the remainder of the season? For example, this year the broccoli and cabbage seemed to deplete the beds they were planted in, so we’re covering them with crimson clover and will let them be restored by this nitrogen fixing green manure and cover crop.
- Which beds need the soil amended with organic compost, an all purpose fertilizer, or the addition of some landscape fabric to help with weed control?
- If you have a crop rotation plan for your beds, take it with you and assess its usefulness in planning your fall crops. We use the garden planner from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange to keep track of our rotations. We are also small enough that we often deviate from our original plan based on our energy level and how difficult the previous season was on our bodies.
- Note which bed is best for garlic. It is planted after the first frost, sometime in October or November. Order your seed garlic, if you haven’t already.
- If you have built caterpillar tunnels, take a look at their condition. Will you need to schedule time for repairs? Do you have the UV plastic and/or agribon you will need for your extended season crops?
- Would you like to add new beds by using the ‘lasagna garden’ technique of layering mulch and allowing it to compost over the winter months? (These are my favorite beds as the soil is very rich and there are fewer weeds than the tilled beds.
Make Amends ~
The past four months have been hard on your garden beds. It’s time to make amends! Using the audit above, build a list that begins with repairs to the structures in your garden. Next, the soil, and finally creating the new. As you renovate the structure of a garden bed and repair its soil, you can choose which crops to plant and when to install them.
I like moving methodically through our garden from north to south. As I progress from bed to bed and row to row, it feels like a healing wave has moved across the garden. Take before and after pictures as the results of your labors will be dramatic.
Harvest, Preserve, and Plant ~
As you are moving through your garden for August vegetable planning, bed to bed, you’ll be harvesting and gleaning. Make sure to include time in your month to put up as much as you can for the winter months. Freezing is fast, fermentation is also a good skill for the busy gardener. Hot water bath canning is the most tedious of food preservation techniques but probably the best one for tomatoes.
Direct seed: lettuce, carrots, beets, parsnips, salsify, Swiss chard, bunching onions, spinach, beans.
Transplant: kale, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts.
Again, save room for garlic. It is planted after the first frost, sometime in October or November.
Once the garden has recovered and your to-do list is all checked off, be sure to make time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and the beauty of your space. Here, in the Harpers Ferry area, we usually get a very pleasant week at the end of August. The temperatures drop, the days are shorter, the very first of the leaves are falling (usually the black walnut trees go first). It is a very nice time to plan an outdoor gathering for friends and family.