It’s the dog days of August and after a three-week trip off the island, the garden is looking a little stressed.
I wander down its paths, deadheading cosmos, snipping away the flower heads on the basil to keep it producing, nibbling on the remaining blueberries.
I’ve left standing the kale, which bolted when I was gone. Its bright yellow flowers attract the bees and make the vegetable garden look like a mixed border.
The garden heading into squash and bean season, I begin to think of fall and a new start. New start, you say? Doesn’t that happen in spring? Yes, but fall in our maritime climate is a time of beginnings too.
There are some vegetables which overwinter and give you delightful gifts early spring. Planted now, purple sprouting broccoli will go dormant when the cold weather comes, only to spring to life in that warm February burst we have, and produce broccoli in April. Merida carrots planted in September will produce carrots in May.
Garlic should be planted in October or November for harvest the following July. Some folks plant leeks in early fall for spring harvest. In mild winters, I’ve had chard and even a hardy lettuce last the winter without protection. But protection is easy to make.
The same tools you used to start early in spring can be used to prolong the garden in fall. So, bring out the cold frame, get a supply of frost weight remay, and dig over the pea garden in readiness to plant greens, and some radishes, a turnip or two in September.
A really quick way to create a hoop house is to take two sawhorses, put them about four feet apart, and drape clear plastic visqueen over them to the ground. Presto! Protection from fall frosts for lettuce, chard and greens. Just make sure the plastic goes to the ground.
If you want more advice on four-season gardening, stop by the Master Gardeners’ booth at the San Juan County Fair. We’ll have a model hoop house, instructions on building it, and information on cool weather vegetables. Hoop houses are inexpensive and easy to build — that proverbial afternoon project — and can provide you with vegetables well into October and November.
Harvest for the Food Bank is in full swing too. Each week, the Master Gardeners give fresh produce and vegetable starts to the Food Bank for distribution. Last week, the six packs of bean starts were gone before our volunteer even put them down on the table. We put growing instructions with the starts to increase the odds of success.
To date this year, the Master Gardeners have donated 290 pounds of fresh produce to the Food Bank. More is on its way through August and September. Other island farmers do the same.
In my own garden, the zucchini are once again imitating rabbits. The patty pan and yellow crookneck squash are on an unchecked population explosion too. I’m taking the extras to the Food Bank this week. You can too.
If you’ve got a vegetable garden and more produce than you can use yourself, bring it to the Food Bank on Wednesday morning before 11 a.m. Our whole community, including you, will be better off for doing so.