Early harvests and fall planting time
I am harvesting things earlier then I ever have in all my years of gardening. The warm spring and then the heat in June really put the garden into fast mode. I am harvesting tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini already. And I can’t keep up with the basil. I wonder what the September garden will look like, normally it is the peak of harvest around here but it might be fading this year. I wish I had planted more successions of beans.
The crazy thing about this next month is that just as you are in full summer harvest you have to start planting the fall garden. After years of straggly broccoli and cabbage, and miniature carrots in November, I finally realized I needed to start the fall garden sooner. Start cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower now through early August. Sometimes I start a nursery bed of these plants in rich soil and then dig them up and transplant them to larger spacing when they are a few inches tall. Parsnips also need to be started now (they take a long time to germinate so be prepared to keep the seed bed moist for a couple of weeks). By early August I start thinking about fall carrots and beets. Because the day length is so short in the fall months, most fall crops need to get established in August, though some can be started in September. Also think about doing a summer cover crop of buckwheat if you have a bed sitting empty. It grows really fast, is great for the bees, you can eat the young greens and it accumulates insoluble phosphorous and releases it in a more available form when it gets turned under.
Keeping vegetables well harvested and flowers deadheaded will give you a much longer season. The reason is that plants main purpose is reproduction so they are making sure they have mature seed. When you leave a giant zucchini on the plant or don’t harvest your beans regularly, the plant “thinks” it has its seed production set and slows down on producing more. If you keep it harvested, the plant continues to produce. Flowers are similar, deadheading flowers as they start to fade tells the plant to start all over again to get more seed. It is worth the time to go out in the garden on a daily basis and harvest and deadhead.
I have had an interesting experience in one of my gardens of not giving the soil enough so a plant could grow. There is one bed in my big Ceres garden that I did not put any compost or fertilizer on, I was out of both and thought well it’s a raised bed, new soil mix last year, it should have enough going that I can plant it without adding anything. I have a half-acre of garden all growing great, healthy beautiful plants and then this little 8 ft bed with a few summer squash plants is just sitting there and not growing. I mean the plants are literally not growing. They have been 3 to 4 inches tall for a couple weeks. I can give them some liquid fertilizer to help them along now but it is a good lesson on how much the soil needs to be regularly given for it to be able to keep up with the plants needs. We need to remember that annual vegetables take a lot of the nutrients out of the soil as they grow. Regular replacement of nutrients with compost and organic fertilizer is necessary. Nitrogen also moves with the water so can be flushed out of a raised bed and really needs to be replaced- blood meal, fish meal and feather meal are all important to add on at least a yearly basis.
Enjoy the harvest!