Thyme To Sow For Fall! The picture at the right is me crumbling leaves between the double berms of my Barbados Cherry tree.
Yes, I know it is 105+ on average, but if you want winter squash/pumpkins for the holidays and get a jump start on your fall gardening. Sowing in August and forward into the fall is the way to grow.
Note: I am off traveling for until early August. I am providing a lot of information to help you ready your fall garden.
Shade the soil not the plant. Density of planting. ["NURSE PLANT" -- Pictured is one of my 2 foot wide posts using purslane to protect the soil of some pepper and moringa plants.] As much as possible there should be little or no soil showing. Light twig or leaf mulch* over the seed bed can help deter birds and critters and keep the seeds moist.Seed beds need to be kept uniformly moist, so the seeds never dry out before breaking the soil surface. This may require sprinkling each evening.
"Nursery Beds" can be used, with existing plants or summer loving flowering plants like Portulaca (Moss Rose), where you use the edge of the flower canopy to sow under.
Critter control can be maintained with chicken wire hats. My Frist Short Video on using chicken wire. I just created a second video on choosing a different Chicken Wire Hat, when the critters are really intent on your seedlings. I also show using a collar to ward off sowbugs, slugs and snails.
*Light twig or leaf mulch the picture of me at the top is from my short video on double berming a tree, but the same principle of crumbling leaves as a mulch applies to sown beds. Just crumble the leaves to a light dust, to help retain moisture to the seeds while they germinate underground.
Two principles of sowing here in the desert garden are key to success.
1) Seeds respond to soil temperature and fall primarily into two categories -- those that love their feet warm and those that like their feet cool. In other words the seeds and plants respond to soil temperature. They also respond to daylight hours and that coincides with the soil temperature. Carrots like cool soil and don't mind shortened daylight hours. Tomatoes need their feet warm and the longer the day the better.
2) Seeds are dormant. To break dormancy consistent moisture and temperatures are needed to keep the seed germinating. If you let the soil dry out while the seed is germinating underground - it will die.
If you think August is too soon to sow, last August 1st I sowed cilantro and chervil seeds - on September 25th I saw the Chervil seedlings, followed shortly thereafter by the cilantro responding to the soil cooling! The plants then took off.
I am repeating here a post from my facebook page on the density of planting and radiant heat.
Density Planting and the issue of radiant heat.
I talk about this, a lot, particularly now while we are in our high heat times, but it is applicable year-round in the desert garden. If you shade the soil, not the plants, you will have better production and healthy plants.
If you put your hand on the hood of car on a July afternoon, or touch a metal handle that is in direct sun, you know exactly what radiant heat feels like.
It is really simple. The direct sun bakes everything, even in the winter the temperatures of objects (pots, concrete, block walls, bare soil) exceeds the air temperature. In the winter I found the effects of our desert sun on the sides of pots (for example) to be 20+ degrees higher than the air temperature. In the summer it is more like 80+ degrees over air temperature. You know all the jokes about frying an egg on a street in July? That does not occur at 105 or 110 air temperature, but it does occur at radiant heat of 180+.
I took a picture of the edge of my strawberry bed to give you a visual of what is happening. The edges of the bed are dried to crispy-critter stage. Move in and you see lush green with only a tiny dried leaf edge here and there.
The mass of green holds in moisture, minimizes moisture loss, and lessens the over all temperature of the soil and root zone.
Keep this in mind as you review your garden and for planning, planting and sowing activities. I am getting a blog post together on August Sowing and Gardening Tips.
Mulch is the secondary density. Use 2-4 inches around plants, but not touching them.
Large selection of seed-only (sowing) planting.
Beans, Snap (bush and pole)
EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:
Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Portulaca (Moss Rose)
GARDEN TIPS for August
The new-to-desert gardener may be asking how can anyone plant in August, with 105+ temps. Well consider: If you want pumpkins for Halloween, you have to count back 90-120 days for seeding in. These seeds will germinate in the 'cooling' soil.
Cool weather annuals and biennials can be sown every 2-4 weeks (beginning in August) through end of January for a continuous crop through next spring.
With food plants such as pumpkin and corn and their long growing season requirements, a one-time planting is sufficient. AND, give the pumpkins room!
With corn, plant in 'blocks' not 'rows' space the individual seeds approximately 6 inches apart imagining a 12 inch square, then the next square etc. you will have rows in a sense, but not the typical farmers rows. The reason for this is pollination - the anthers of the corn knock together better with the closer planting and therefore you get more corn.
PLANT ONLY one variety of corn a season - otherwise they may cross. Save one or two cobs, allowed to dry on the stalks at the end of the season for, replanting next corn season
Heavy pre-fall seed planting begins now (corn, pumpkin, etc.).
Higher humidity can reduce moisture loss to plants, reducing watering frequency, but check with water meter regularly.
Hold off on any major TRANSPLANTING until the fall when the temperatures drop back to prime planting weather.
Chlorosis may appear particularly in the fruit trees. This yellowing of the leaves, leaving the leaf vein showing through bright green is the result of the iron in the soil being made unavailable to the plant due to excess water in the soil which causes the iron to bind to other minerals.
Easily treated with an application of ironite or green sand before watering. These elements do not burn the plants and can be used as needed throught the season. The yellowing of the leaves usually resolves within 1 to 2 weeks of the application. Use only ironite or green sand and not a fertilizer containing it as you could overfertilize and THEN burn the plants.
Although this is a result of a lot of water in the soil it does not necessarily mean you are overwatering, only that the additional water required due to the high heat of the season is causing the situation. It sometimes also occurs in the winter time when the cold soil causes the same thing to happen.
HOWEVER - you can over water during the Summer Monsoons. Use your moisture meter to check soil moisture after heavy rains. You may be able to skip the next watering cycle if it is within 2 days of the rain.
SUNBURN damage: Like frost damage - do not prune until danger of sunburn is over - the damaged plant protects the lower growth.
TOMATO "RESTART" TIP
Tomato plants that have continued through the summer will start setting fruit again as soon as the night time temperatures drop below 80 again. Towards the end of August to September prepare for new flowering times by pruning back about 1/3 to ½ of plant, do this gradually over several days, to give the protected lower growth time to adjust to the higher light levels.
TIME to watch for aphids and other pests that start to flock back as the night time temps dip down at the end of August.
They like the cooling weather as we do! The squash family (pumpkin) is particularly vulnerable so keep your safe soap spray handy (1 quart of water, 1 teaspoon each of vegetable oil and dawn dish detergent) Shake spray, shake spray undersides and tops of leaves every 5 days as needed. Do this in the evening so the spray does not sunburn the plants.
With the cabbage family another food plant favored by the bugs, pour a quarter cup of light soapy solution right down the center stalk once a week (1 quart of water and a finger tip of dawn dish detergent) Grandma would dump the used dish pan water down the plants to do the same thing.
Geoff Lawton shared a short video with an Australian Permaculture Farm - well worth watching for the concept of dry land farming possibilities using permaculture practices.
That is all for now folks. I know I threw a lot at you here, I want you to be successful in your gardening journey.
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-- Catherine, The Herb Lady
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