Time To Move On
It’s hot, the tomatoes are just about worn out, the bean beetles have severely battered the snap beans, the summer squash is long gone. What better time to start a new garden phase? It’s time to get the fall garden plan underway! Several tasks are necessary over the next few weeks (in my part of Georgia) that will make a huge impact on the success of the fall garden. Most of these can be done while the ground is still occupied, although several items will be checked off only after the mid-summer crops have petered out.
Out With The Old
As summer crops are harvested or (as in the case with my worn out tomatoes) are slowed to the point of pointlessness, remove them. Getting rid of non productive crops is an important step toward disease and insect prevention for the fall garden season. Once the finished plants are gone, plant something else – anything- to protect the soil and conserve moisture and nutrients. Mid summer successive crops must be heat tolerant, and should germinate quickly. Beans and cowpeas are great options if frost-free time allows. Otherwise a quick cover crop like buckwheat can be planted.
In With The New
Mid summer is the time to sow the first wave of cool weather crops like broccoli, collards and chard. Do it indoors, as you would tomatoes in late winter. Areas with hot summers or short falls will benefit from the early start, even while it’s still too hot to plant these varieties into the garden. Doing so will spark an earlier, and possibly longer, harvest season after the temperatures finally abate.
Turn Turn Turn
Keep the compost heap well aerated and watered. Keeping up with composting duties could make the difference between having it fully “cooked” for fall planting, and being forced to purchase bagged soil amendments to plant your fall garden. Don’t be afraid to continue adding material up until the day you screen the compost for use. Whatever has not broken down by the time fall planting season arrives will become the starter for a “new” heap.
Keep It Clean
Whatever the state of the current crops, it’s important to keep garden cleanliness in mind. Don’t let weeds go to seed before pulling them. Unusable fruits and vegetables should be harvested and composted; do not leave them in the garden where they will attract insects and possibly spread disease. These precautions will help both current and successive crops.
Adding a layer of mulch and / or compost in the middle of summer is a way to protect standing crops and cool the soil for successive ones. This surface layer of organic matter also helps retain moisture and provides a haven for earthworms to do their job closer to the soil surface: a win/win/win for successors.
The Fall Garden
Taking time to prepare in summer for your fall garden will pay dividends when it’s time to plant. The soil will be in far better condition, resulting in speedy germination, reduced workload and higher yields. Do yourself a favor and get in the garden.