August has never been my favorite month, not sure why but it’s usually hot, the kids go back to school, the garden is normally winding down a bit. Things grow a tad more slowly and the greens change from emeralds to olives. Generally, as was the case again this year, leaves from the cottonwoods begin to fall, even though it’s not supposed to be officially “FALL” in August. The cicadas’ songs become more strident and the birds start grouping into flocks.
This year, August has been a bit more pleasant, with some cooler evenings and adequate rain so there wasn’t the usual hose-dragging. I’ve enjoyed putting in the late plantings more and they are doing better than last year. I’ve decided to do a better job at extending the protager’s productivity, and it certainly seems willing to keep going if I am! Already the “Dragon Tongue” beans, planted July 6th are producing, the Jade II beans are setting tiny threads of infant beans and there’s a variety of new lettuces to pick (not shown but there’s LOTS on other beds!) This diagonal double row in the center is the very last planting of beans for this year, a variety called “Speedy” that’s growing nicely. They were planted August 15, and with a maturity of 50 days, it will be all Mother Nature’s benevolence if they produce, because the days are getting shorter. But it’s worth the gamble because every week that there’s a meal of fresh beans for the table, it’s one less jar of canned beans that I need to process. We’ve had fresh beans to use since June 17, so that’s 11 jars not needed and I believe we’ll have them through September, so that will be two canners-ful not required! Lots of energy saved there. All of the early potatoes have been tipped out of their pots, and now the “German Butterball” are being harvested as needed, and of course there’s still lots of indeterminate tomatoes and various peppers coming to the kitchen daily. Young beets are ready to harvest and three varieties of spinach are growing well. The “Wando” peas are nearly at the top of their fence and promising a good crop. And just take a moment to notice those “Hot Pak” marigolds. As edging, they still look fantastic and are holding up much better than the “Boy” series I’ve grown in the past. And, while I was in Italy, a few dropped seed and I’m delighted to report that the new plants are growing “true” so seed can be collected for next year’s edgings. The “Cannellini” beans seem to realize that their time is limited and are putting out even greater numbers of pods and blooms. I love sitting under their shade now, but looking at this photo makes me realize I need to paint that bench once the beans are gone. The hummingbirds are enjoying the blooms, although I’ve never seen them at the any other varieties of beans in the potager. Maybe it’s simply because the blooms are up high. The black-eyed peas are still producing and I’ve really enjoyed growing them this year as a trial crop. Something nibbled the tops of the recently-seeded snow peas, so not sure how well they’ll do. There’s lots of baby carrots growing nicely in various beds, but this row is “Kuroda”, a variety that is especially good for storage. The row next is bunching onions, which will provide green onions well into late autumn and early winter. Here and there are short rows of kale, turnips, and radishes There are mountains of winter squash vines here and there in the potager. Right now, it looks like “Butterscotch” will be most numerous. I clipped the ends of all of the vines this week in hopes that energy will go to maturing the fruits already set on. I doubt there will be pumpkins although the replanted “Baby Bear” do have a couple of tennis-ball sized fruit. That’s pretty iffy, but it’s more than they accomplished last year. Eventually, through trial and error apparently, I’ll get the timing right…if I live long enough! All these baby crops are a gamble and their success just depends, as usual, on when the first frost occurs, but for now, things look really good! (Knock wood!)
And now to the numbers! Last year’s August production was 181.0 pounds, the bulk coming from pulling all the onions, with tomatoes, summer squash, peppers & melons at full harvest as well. This year was less, only 177.75 pounds, largely due to the death of most of the squash and melon vines, but also partly because I intentionally planted fewer tomatoes. We just couldn’t use them all last year and there are still canned ones on the shelves. Last year I canned 100 jars of food in August. This year only 86…I’m out of jars and shelf space. Guess we need to eat more canned goods labeled “2017.”