This is the first in a three-part series on late summer garden problems. So many words are expended on spring planting, when gardeners are already full of plans and optimism. I think folks need inspiration more after their plans and optimism have been subjected to aphids, weeds, drought, and just plain life.
By August, things can get confusing in the garden. Here's how to bring it into focus, accomplish the key tasks, and move on.
First, take a minute to just enjoy being in your garden.
Now, take a look at what is actually happening out there in the jungle. Make a list, or a drawing, or a phone memo or whatever is easy for you. Think about what you've been eating out of the garden and what you enjoy about it. Sort things into 6 categories:
Now you already have a plan: numbers 3, 4, 5,and 6 are where your fall garden going to be. (Or cover crops, or mulch.)
Number 1 is doing okay and might just need some compost one of these days.
Number 2 is where you concentrate your efforts. This is the part of the garden that will fail without help, but is in good enough shape that your help won't be in vain.
Let's deal with zones 3, 4, 5, and 6 first. If the combined area is small, pull everything out. Or get out the hoe and take it down. Then, either plant fall crops there right now, or cover it up until you can plant. (use a tarp, mulch, cardboard, plywood, bedspread--anything to keep weeds from undoing your work.)
If your renewal zone is larger and out of hand and you don't have time to deal with it, stomp it down with your feet, water it well, and put cardboard or a tarp over it. In a month it will be composted and ready for your fall transplants or your cover crop seed. Keeping it covered not only kills the weeds, it allows the worms to come to the surface and eat them. They will also fluff the soil up for you.
The stomping and covering shouldn't take more than an hour, once you have located the cardboard, mulch, or tarp. And trust me, it will make you feel great.
Start some seeds in pots, flats, or old containers of some kind, and you have a fall garden on the way.
Jamie Chevalier lives and gardens on a river in the Coast Range of Northern California. She has gardened professionally in Alaska and California, as well as living in a remote cabin, commercial fishing, and working with seeds. She is the proprietor of Quail Seeds.