Dill umbels in bud, bloom and setting seed. July 25, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

NATURE’S TURN: August turnover: garden digest

July 29 – August 11, 2019

Mount Washington — Snap pea pods dangle from vines that are climbing above their trellis; a few of them stand 2 feet above. At 8 feet tall, they are a marvel defying gravity. Most of their rose and pink lipstick-tone blossoms have turned into plump pods that swing in the breeze. The variety, Magnolia, is a good choice for spring planting, but I have found 57- to 65-day varieties worth trying for a fall crop. Pea shoots are also a delectable succession crop.*

Across the aisle from the peas (see photograph below), a drift of yellow umbels captivates me. Each is composed of a wiry green framework on which rests an exquisite circular arrangement of florets. These dill specimens – and white-flowering cilantro, too – are self-sown from plants that I routinely grow between crop rows to prevent weeds and provide a quick harvest of the annual herbs. Mostly harvested before they compete with the main crop, dill and cilantro left to flower and go to seed provide an abundance of leaves, flowers and seeds to add to daily dishes and pickles. Field-dried seed is saved for sowing next year. I am reminded to continue to sow this duo so that fresh plants will be available for pickle recipes until the end of the season.

Beets, feverfew, feral allium and dill flowerheads in foreground; carrot seedbed, center. Garlic and sunflower left. Dill, peas far left. July 21, 2019. Photo: Anonymous contributor

There is so much information to digest and respond to in the expanse of a mid-summer garden. When the bottom leaves in a stand of garlic plants turn tawny, the gardener is prompted to reach for a spading fork and dig a bulb to inspect for fully formed cloves that are distinct in an intact wrapper. Another measure of readiness, if not urgency, to harvest the garlic is that three to four weeks has passed since removing garlic scapes**.

The blanket of beet leaves in the photograph of my garden communicates that the crop is nearing maturity. I began to pull crowded plants two weeks ago to allow for fewer roots to grow larger while thinnings are providing luscious greens, nutritious stems and tender roots. Beyond the beets, notice a bed with alternating brown and tan strips. What appears to be bare ground is studded with carrot seedlings; the alternate rows are a mulch of dried grass clippings. I will take a chance on planting another crop of 60- to 65-day varieties of both vegetables in beds cleared of lettuces and Asian greens.

Sargasso Sea: after rain, cabbage seedlings mulched with chives. Left of cabbage: basil, collards, radish, fennel. Right of cabbage: search for tiny carrot sprouts. July 23, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

The plot identified as Sargasso Sea in another photograph was planted nearly three weeks ago. Not to be harmed by light frosts, there is fennel and carrot from seed; cabbage and collard were transplanted seedlings. Interplanted quick radishes, turnips and basil will be fetched before the large vegetables need the space. I cut an overgrown patch of chives for mulch to keep moisture in and weeds out of the soil.

When July turns to August, my garlic and beet beds will be sown to frost-hardy fall crops or cover crops. Refer to Johnny’s Selected Seeds for a comprehensive guide to succession planting ***.

A Rothko: red onion, beet stems, tofu on bed of red quinoa; Magnolia sugar snap peas, shiitake mushrooms. July 23, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff


*Short season snap peas and pea shoots

**Garlic harvest
https://www.sustainablemarketfarming.com/2015/05/11/garlic-scapes-three-weeks-to-bulb-harvest/ and https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/harvesting-garlic-zbcz1708

***Chart of succession planting – https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/vegetables/succession-planting-interval-chart-vegetables.html

Opportunities to participate

August at Berkshire Botanical Garden – programs for all ages

August 9 – 11 Northeast organic Farmers Association Summer Conference, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA http://nofasummerconference.org/