Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

August Planting Tips: Ready, Set, SOW!!

Male Lesser Gold Finch
Dear Folks,

I like to joke that summer in Arizona is like winter in North Dakota - you just hunker down and maintain. 

However that is not entirely true.

[Pictured -- a Male Lessor Gold Finch enjoying our sunflowers.  We look forward to a visit from these athletic and funny little "feathers" who enjoy our sunflowers too!]

Late July and August are the months to get your fall planting plans set up, prepare beds if necessary, and begin sowing fall crops.

The cool-weather seeds "know" to germinate as the soil begins cooling in late August - as long as you MAINTAIN soil surface moisture through daily evening sprinkling and light mulch.  The monsoonal rains aid this.  In the past I have sown cilantro, chervil, etc. (all cool loving herbs) in the beginning of August and they sprouted the beginning of September - it is IMPORTANT to maintain the soil surface moisture.

Sometimes Patience Really Pays Off!  My coffee tree died back this winter, just a big set of sticks.  I figured I would pull it eventually, but I decided to just let it sit and see what happened.  And, I was dealing with my eye surgeries so I was not in any rush.  To my absolutely delight when I could go out and actually  look around, lo and behold, the coffee has new growth at the base! Yippeee!  The leaves to the left are from a bay tree, and you can see the Leaf Cutter Bees have been hard at work, harvesting their watermelon cuts from the leaves (for those of you who do not know - this does no harm to the plant but instead illustrates their activity - all beneficial - in your garden).

I sowed Black Tail Mountain Watermelon seeds back on January 31st - transplanting them March 19th, and right on schedule (about 4 months active growing time) I harvested one of them.  The plants are starting to show stress from the heat and I could finally really bend over and look for the dried tendril.  While this was tasty, the heat had it maturing a tad too much, so looking forward to others.  I like this variety as it is perfect for just the two of us and I can give these "personal size" whole ones away as available.

One more critter picture to share.  I was not completely sure about this bunny until I could get a good look at his/her ears and legs.  We have a young Jack-Rabbit visiting us!  How cool is that!  The bunnies - we usually only get the cotton-tails - all like to mow our small lawn and hang out in the shade.

Look At Those Ears!  Sorry that one is blurry I took the pictures through the window - they won't let us get near them - which is a safe thing for them to be cautious of people.


Large selection of seed-only (sowing) planting.

Beans, Snap (bush and pole)
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Greens, all
Onions, Green
Squash, Winter


Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Portulaca (Moss Rose)
Sweet Alyssum

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.  Typically we do not see below 90 temps between May 29th and September 29th (other than a storm but the temp drop is short-lived).
    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 through 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 over-fertilize 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 over-watering, 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 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.

. . .
To supplement what you grow, do you have a favorite farmers market?

National Farmers Market Week is Sunday August 4 - Sunday August 11th. 

LocalFirst has listings of Arizona Farmers Markets here.

OR, you can check out the USDA data base of farmers markets here.

. . .

Helpful Podcasts

If you are not familiar with my friend Greg Peterson, you need to check out his website.

Greg Peterson of Urban Farm in Phoenix, has the most interesting guests on his podcasts.  Check out the latest and more with topics like:  native bees, alternative funding for farms, egg incubation, rural living in the future, and you can even find my guest appearances (#130 and #208), along with some other folks you may already be familiar with (in the side bar you can search by name or topic).

. . .

I am finally through the 2nd Cataract Surgery and my eyes are healing but not quite settled down yet.  Everything will be re-checked mid-August, after we return from our annual trip.

I have to say the procedure is quite fascinating. I am also one of the few who winds up with a blood-shot, black eye!  Quite the contrast to the new clear lens, I will tell you.  But, as I say, I am healing with the Doc saying the eyes are "looking" good to him.  Looking at myself in the mirror I now notice more wrinkles - eye surgeries do produce some interesting results, however the really good news is I do not need glasses any more for computer work or reading, only distance.  That is a really good thing.

I hope you have a wonderful time planning your fall garden and reaping the bounty from your summer garden.

You can always find my calendars and books on my website, and I am always happy to answer questions.  If you message or email while I am away for 2 weeks, I will answer you as soon as I return.

Be kind, be safe, and enjoy nature!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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