In the Garden
- August 26, 10:30am-12:30pm, Harvest for the Hungry Garden, 1717 Yulupa Avenue (behind the Methodist church), Santa Rosa. "The Transitional Food Garden: Summer to Fall.” Learn about sustainable soil practices. Demonstrations and hands-on activities with fall and overwintering veggies are included. Bring your sunhat, garden gloves and water.
- September 9, 10:30-12:30pm, Windsor Town Green Community Garden, at Windsor Road and Joe Rodota Way, just off the Windsor Civic Center. "The Transitional Fall/Winter Food Garden." Learn how to maintain soil health, transition your garden from summer to fall/winter (demonstrated in the square foot garden) and put your garden to bed for the winter. Bring your sunhat, garden gloves and water.
This is the second in a series of articles about Sustainable Food Gardening. Learn how you can have a delicious and productive food garden by watering wisely and employing a variety of sustainable practices: know when to water and how to calculate how much is needed, and discover methods to direct water to where it is needed and in a manner that promotes water retention, plant health and productivity. Click here to learn how to conserve water and have a thriving vegetable garden.
Food Garden Tips
August Tasks and Tips
For what to grow this month, click here.
- Start germinating cool-season veggies. Sow root crops such as beets, carrots and parsnips directly in the ground. Pay close attention to days of maturity. Timing of planting is very important. Fall crops must mature and produce before the growing season ends; winter crops must develop vegetable structure before winter so that they won’t bolt in spring without producing. Bulb onion seed sown now will produce green onions throughout the winter and bulb onions in the spring.
- Set out fall/winter vegetable transplants later in the afternoon and use a row cover for a couple weeks to protect tender seedlings from the sun. Mulch will help with water retention and weed suppression now and protect against cooler weather in October and November. Mulch should not touch the plant stems. Stagger plantings of leafy greens and other favorite cool weather crops that can be harvested before mid-November (average frost date for Sonoma County) and root crops that will survive the winter for a continued harvest.
- Many fall crops are not the most water-wise, so, consider these strategies: Instead of direct-seeding in the hot, dry month of August, you may want to transplant when the weather cools (and, hopefully, fall rains arrive). Check for varieties with a shorter days-to-maturity that can reach maturity before the average first frost date (mid-November in Sonoma County). This will allow you to plant later—hopefully, not in the heat of summer. Given the uncertainties of climate, choose “drought-resistant” or “drought-tolerant” varieties if they are available. Note that this terminology reflects the established plant characteristics; all seed requires water to germinate. Also, see the Food Gardening with Less Water page on the SCMG website.
- Remove finished summer crops by cutting plants just below the soil line to leave the roots to decompose in place. Before planting fall/winter crops, pep up your garden soil by adding one to two inches of properly composted organic matter. No need to dig it in—just add it to the top of the soil and plant into it. Other options include 3-4-3 dried chicken manure pellets OR a complete organic fertilizer (always follow the fertilizer manufacturers’ instructions).
- As always: Weed. Do not let weeds go to seed! They are competing for water and light.
- Pinch back flower heads and spikes on your herbs to maintain the best leaf taste, to encourage new growth and to discourage bolting in August heat.
- If you split your citrus fertilization into three applications this year, make your last application this month. For mature citrus trees use 1 lb of urea or 6-10 lbs of steer manure (reduce for smaller trees). If spider mites are present, use insecticidal soap or a stream of water to wash them off. New mite generations develop rapidly and may require repeated treatments.
- Applying a few drops of mineral oil with a medicine dropper to corn silks just inside each ear 3 to 5 days after silks first appear may be effective in preventing damage from corn earworm.
- If there is disease in your orchard or food garden, dip your pruners in a 10-percent bleach solution or spray with a disinfectant spray after every cut so that you do not spread the infection.
- If you haven’t already added flowering herbs or ornamentals in or near your food garden, do so now to attract beneficial insects. But consider low-water options such as Achillea yarrow), Coreopsis, rosemary, thyme, chives and Salvia (sage).
- Know what pest you are fighting so that you can select effective pest management strategies. Check out University of California’s natural enemies gallery.
- Inspect crops regularly for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. If you could not control corn earworm (AKA tomato fruit worm) this summer, remove or disc stalks to reduce overwintering populations and prevent migration to neighboring crops. Use yellow sticky tape to control whiteflies or apply insecticidal soap to the undersides of leaves. Larger pests such as hornworms and squash bugs can be handpicked and dropped into a container of soapy water or cut worms in half with garden shears. Control ants to help control damaging insects that produce honeydew, such as aphids and scale. Ants are protecting these harmful insects from their natural predators.