I normally adopt a dry farmer’s attitude—I get plants established and then let the rain do the rest. But not this year. Keeping up with watering needs has been a challenge. There was a span of a couple of days where I watered, it rained, I watered some more and by the end of the week my tomatoes were still looking thirsty. Watering in the morning every other or couple of days with a deep soaking seems to be the best way to beat the heat and the drought. More watering tips here.
August is also the month to stay on top of harvesting. Don’t let those zucchini and summer squash get too big. On warm days, they can swell up to baseball-bat size in the span of a day or two. If they do, harvest them, remove the seeds, grate the flesh and freeze for winter zucchini bread and cakes. Harvesting every other day is a great idea. If you're getting sick and tired of the breads and cakes, consider harvesting the flowers and making stuffed zucchini blossoms. Now is the time to eat from your garden—tomatoes, beans, garlic, cucumbers, okra and lots of other produce is abundant.
Is frequent harvesting leaving bare spots? Or, are those spring peas done? There’s still time to plant fall greens like lettuces, arugula, mustard greens and roots like turnips, beets and radishes. Just make sure to practice crop rotation and plant something from a different plant family than what was planted there before.
This time of year, I find myself lingering in the garden to appreciate all the pollinators buzzing around. I’ve been using both the Xerces Society’s Upper Midwest Citizen Science Monitoring Guide to native bees and iNaturalist to identify who’s who in the garden. I’m getting pretty good at finding common eastern bumble bees and am having fun finding brown-belted and red-belted bumble bees. I’m still on the lookout for my first rusty patched bumble bee.
With the new addition of monarch butterflies to the endangered species list, monitoring those and helping to document their migration is more important than ever and easy to do. I just joined Journey North—you just set up an account and document any monarch sightings. Pictures are not required, although I’m sure they are helpful.
No matter what, get out and enjoy the garden this month. Now is the time to watch all of this season’s hard work pay off.
Hort society community programs director Courtney Tchida has a degree in Environmental Horticulture, a master's in Agricultural Education and a certificate in Permaculture Design. For 16 years, she managed Cornercopia, the University of Minnesota's student-run organic farm.
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