August is my favorite month of the year. Who could not love tomatoes, peppers, corn and basil? Once again I planted too many tomatoes and peppers. The extras I will donate to the local food bank.
Two years the Napa County Master Gardeners were treated to a workshop by the Master Preservers from Del Norte County. This used to be a program available in most counties, but with budget cuts, it is no longer as popular. (Search for their website at Master Preservers, Del Norte, Cooperative Extension.) I have been putting up veggies for two years and now I make my own ketchup, tomato sauces, and can or freeze a number of veggies for use in the winter. This year I made zucchini pickle relish, and I think that it tastes better than the cucumber relish. And it uses up some zucchini!
For the home gardener, August and September can be the busiest and the most rewarding. The number one thing to remember is to watch the irrigation in the garden; keep it on track by checking the soil daily. These hot and windy days can speed up evaporation. Squash has a propensity to wilt in the afternoons; if it looks OK in the morning, then it does not need water.
Veggies do need to be fed on a regular schedule. Check the back of the fertilizer box for the recommended schedule. I use a blend of four parts compost, one part worm compost, and organic fertilizer with a low nitrogen number. Nitrogen is the first number on the box. Too much nitrogen will produce much vegetation, but little fruit, and a tomato is botanically classified as a fruit.
Weeding is an important chore right now; do not let weeds flower or their seeds will sprout in your winter garden.
If you had a viral soil problem this winter, July and August are the best times to solarize your soil. Put a layer of clear plastic over the infected soil and tuck into the soil. It takes about 60 days to get rid of the viruses, pests and their eggs. The soil will be ready to plant this September.
This is a good time to shear your alyssum and other ground covers. Water them and they will come back as new, or even better in September. Many perennial woody herbs can be cut back now. Save some cuttings and start with new, not so woody plants.
Other chores this month include: cutting back perennials after flowering; removing any spoiled vegetables or fruits before they attract pests and keeping the yard clean. The cleanup helps discourage pests this year and prevents overwintering of viruses and insect eggs.
Deep water your trees and shrubs to help them fend off borers and other pests during the stress of the hot weather to come.
To harvest, you will have tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, herbs, and peppers. Plant lettuce, parsley, and cilantro in the shade of other plants and you can enjoy them throughout the summer to fall. The shade keeps them from bolting so fast.
Fruits to watch for are: figs, stone fruits, pome fruits (apples and pears), and plums. Thinning these fruits will produce larger and more succulent fruit. Keep an eye out for the many pests that attack these fruits.
In the vegetable garden, watch for pests. Those pretty white moths produce larva that can damage your plants.
It is not too early to start seeds indoors for the fall and winter garden. As you pull up each plant in your summer garden; refresh the soil by adding compost and scratching it in about an inch. Research has shown that rototilling is not good for the health of your soil. The flora and fauna that inhabit the soil are disturbed by the deeper invasion of their habitat and have trouble returning. Besides, as one of the local Master Gardeners likes to say; “The noise of the rototiller gives the worms a headache.”
Invest in a Ball Blue Book to preserve some of your harvest. This is still the best book for all types of preserving. It covers safety, non-pressurized canning, freezing, and other methods of preserving your harvest.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor this month. You deserve it.
Vegetable Workshop: Napa County Master Gardeners will lead a workshop on “Cool Season Veggies” on Sunday, August 18, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Yountville Community Center, 6516 Washington Street, Yountville. Grow your own vegetables even when days are short and nights are cold. The key is starting while weather and soil are still warm. Learn which vegetables will thrive in cooler temperatures, how to protect them from heat when they are getting started, and how to time plantings for months of harvest. $15 per person ($10 for Yountville residents). Register through Town of Yountville, Parks and Recreation: Mail in or Walk in registration (cash or check only). For additional information, call (707) 944-8712 or visit their web site.
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. Napa County Master Gardeners ( http://ucanr.org/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions?
Open Garden Days: Napa County Master Gardeners welcome the public to their Demonstration Garden at Connolly Ranch every Thursday, except the last Thursday of the month, April through October, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions and chat about plants. Connolly Ranch is at 3141 Browns Valley Road in Napa.