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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

August in the garden
Plenty of summer squash, and so much more!

by Carolyn Singer
August 13th, 2011

mulch in summerLate summer is a time when many gardeners feel their garden is waning. Spring is viewed as the season of lush, green abundance. Personally, I favor August, when the edible garden is producing so many choices. What will it be for dinner tonight? Beans and dill? Tomatoes and basil? Or maybe a roasted tomatillo salsa made with the serrano peppers and garlic? A salad of greens (planted four weeks ago). Perhaps a few of the first late summer raspberries for dessert.

And planting continues. More greens may be sown this week as we approach the August full moon. This is also the time to think about growing green garlic from those tiny bulbs forming on the garlic left in the ground from the late spring harvest. I'm going to get you excited about year-round garlic growing yet! Each stage has a slightly different flavor.

seedlings sown in JuneSeeds may be started for the fall planting of broccoli, kale, onions, chard, and cauliflower. With so many varying microclimates in the foothills, each garden differs in the vegetables that can be grown for fall and winter. Right now I am sowing peas for a fall harvest. Lettuce transplants were added to the garden last week, moving aside decomposing straw mulch to slip the young roots into the cool soil. I'm hoping the later sowing of carrots, beets, and even leeks will give me a winter harvest.

This is a good month to fertilize summer vegetables (squash, tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant) with liquid kelp. One foliar application, applied to the leaves after sunset, will increase frost resistance. In my garden, I am beginning to prune the indeterminate tomatoes, removing about two feet. The flowers will not produce ripe tomatoes before my first fall frost, and I would prefer that the plant put its energy into ripening the fruit that has already set.

This week I had the meadow in front of my house mowed. While the fawns are probably disappointed, a quail family moved right into the open space, safe in their browsing with their tiny offspring. I love the movement of the grasses in the meadow, and delight in the play of light through the foliage from dawn to late afternoon when the sun is hidden behind Sonntag Hill. But children are due to arrive next week, and the mowed area will be much easier for croquet.

Where hydroseeding was done on open cuts last fall, annual grasses may have germinated in spring from seed that was already in the soil. These are the grasses that are now brown. Most hydroseeding mixes contain California native grasses (basket grass, red fescue) that are green at this time of the year, and do not add fire hazard. As long as the percentage of native grasses is greater than the annual, the fire risk from a few brown annual grasses is minimal. The root systems of the perennial native grasses are far stronger and will gain depth each year, crowding out the annuals which are the fire risk.

native yarrowFor even greater fire safety, revegetation mixes should also include the native perennial yarrow (Achillea millefolium, photo right), which has green ferny foliage and white flowers. It spreads easily among the perennial bunch grasses. It also makes a terrific lawn substitute, needing only natural rainfall for irrigation. Spreading by seed and rhizomes, yarrow sown without grasses or wildflowers will cover within one season. It may be mowed to keep it low, especially if the rainy season has stimulated lush growth.

The Colfax Garden Tour is coming up in August too, this year on August 27th (tickets available in local nurseries). I took a pre-tour a couple of weeks ago, once again amazed at the variety of gardens hidden on country lanes in Nevada and Placer Counties. But more about that in my next column. Right now I have many seeds to sow before the moon is full.
Rudbeckia nitida

©2011 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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