By Faye Mahaffey
OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer
Can it really be August? The high temperatures are drying out the herbs planted in containers on the deck and the pallet garden could almost take a drink twice a day. We have been eating tomatoes for lunch and dinner along with our favorite cucumber and onion salad. Before long we will be harvesting enough that I can start canning chili sauce.
Did you know that temperature plays a very important part in the ripening process? Lycopene, the pigment that gives ripe tomatoes their red color, is only produced at ambient temperatures of between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The optimum temperature for lycopene production is 68-77 degrees Fahrenheit. Any great deviation from these temperature ranges will mean that tomatoes won’t turn red. Sometimes when it gets quite hot, tomatoes on the vine may have a yellowish orange look. If practical for the size of your operations, it might be better to pick them in the pink stage and let them ripen indoors in cooler temperatures. Tomatoes need warmth, not light, to ripen, so there’s no need to put them in direct sunlight. Place them out of direct sunlight where the temperature is 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
As I walk around my garden with my Tomato “map”, yes, I have to make a map so that when my husband asks, “What tomato is this?” I can give him a quick answer. Early in the ripening process I sometimes take a marker to the garden with me and put the number on the tomatoes as I harvest. I planted 25 different varieties of tomatoes this year, so I need all the help I can get when it comes to tomato identification.
Your Gardening Checklist for August includes:
1. Water and weed
2. Fertilize annuals, especially those in containers. Remove spent annuals and replace with new plants to keep beds and containers fresh.
3. Divide irises and daylilies as they complete blooming.
4. Divide and transplant peonies.
5. Cut back yarrow, catmint, coreopsis and veronica by one-third when plants stop flowering to encourage new foliage and blooms.
6. Harvest herbs for freezing or drying.
7. Re-edge beds.
8. Keep compost moist.
9. Do a final planting of vegetables for fall harvest: spinach, lettuce, kale and chard. (Don’t forget to water frequently.)
10. Check plants for signs of pests and diseases.
11. Evaluate your garden with an eye for improvements.
12. Collect seeds for next year’s garden.
13. Study bulb catalogs and order garlic and flowering bulbs to plant this fall.
14. Add extra fall-blooming perennials to the garden
15. Cut flowers to bring indoors to enjoy.
16. Direct-seed turnips for a fall harvest
17. Propagate strawberries or weed them and thin out runners.
Remember that a gardener can help prevent problems with pests and disease. Handling plants carefully, not working among the plants when they are wet, and routinely cleaning your tools can help a great deal. Encouraging populations of beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps and spiders is a great way to control Insect pests. Routinely inspect plants every other day or so during the height of the season to catch problems before they get out of hand. My biggest problem still seems to be the wildlife this year. Happily they decided to leave me the late blooming daylilies to enjoy.
The accelerated gardening season continues to amaze me this year. Last year my Magic lilies were finished blooming by Aug. 25, but this year they started blooming on July 28. The Resurrection Lily is a member of the Amaryllis Family, which includes other well-known bulbs such as common amaryllis, daylilies, daffodils, and snowdrops. These lilies are easy to grow and naturalize readily. Magic lilies have strap-like leaves that emerge in spring and die down by mid-summer. No leaves are present during summer months or when the blooms arise (hence the name Naked Lady or Magic Lily). These lilies make excellent cut flowers as well as beautiful garden plants.
Don’t forget to email your gardening questions to Mike Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you counted the jars on your canning shelf? Are you running short on some of your favorites? It’s time to make your list for this year! The Mahaffey’s list includes: Bread and Butter Pickles, Chili Sauce, Tomato juice and Pepper Relish.