By Cassandra Warner
A sweet, summer delight might be seeing a small child look at a towering sunflower with eyes filled with wonder and amazement. Or it could be spending time with family, enjoying all the yummy goodies that fill the August garden, like sweet, juicy watermelons, cantaloupes, luscious blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, still a few strawberries, all kinds of tomatoes, and cool, crisp, crunchy cucumbers. What could be better on a hot summer day out at the creek at LaLa Land (LaLa is what my grandchildren and great grandchildren call me) than cooling down in the water and eating our fill of these fresh, sweet, summer delights.
Oh Baby, It’s Watermelon Time!
Moon and Stars watermelon is what I am growing this year. My one-year-old great-granddaughter, Ariel, is like a dog with a bone when it comes to her watermelon. She is one serious watermelon eater. Cantaloupes, blueberry jam and cucumber dipped in ranch dressing also rate high on her list of favorites. Now Ariel’s older sister, Amaya, age 7, really likes watermelon also. But Ariel loves, loves, loves her watermelon, and I do believe I heard her growl when she thought we were taking a piece from her.
Life Lesson From A Flower
Recently, when our 11-year-old granddaughter, Ashlynn, was here for her summer stay with us, she wanted to help me in the garden. There was a nicely sized patch of dianthus that needed deadheading. So I gave her a small bucket and a pair of scissors and showed her how to snip off the spent flowers. She looked at me and said very seriously, “This is kind of an ugly plant.” I really think she was comparing it to the others that were all around in the garden that were in full bloom at the time, and there were only two little, deep pink blooms and lots of brown, spent ones on the dianthus.
I explained to her that just a short time ago, that patch of dianthus was covered in flowers like the two lonely, little blooms left, and it was a most beautiful sight and had a heavenly smell. I explained that the care she was giving the plant would once again make it look nice and also help it make more beautiful flowers. Then I explained that life can be a lot like a flower: it has beautiful glorious times, then times when it seems like it’s a little rough or ugly, then maybe a time of rest and some needed care, and then it can be all smelling sweet and beautiful once again. So always remember, if things look bad or ugly right now, there will soon come a time or season when things will be sweet and beautiful again.
Ashlynn snipped all the browned blooms. We agreed, she made the dianthus look like a soft, neat looking, mound of green, waiting now to be all beautiful in bloom and smelling so sweet when that time and purpose comes again.
Up, up and away. I have three different heirloom squash growing on an old teak umbrella skeleton, and they look like they are trying to make the great squash escape, up, up and away, and every which way.
1. Serpente DiSicilia is a long, light green, edible, heirloom Italian gourd which has a rich flavor and can be sauteed, fried, grilled, steamed or stuffed and baked.
2. Zucchino Rampicante, also an Italian heirloom, can be eaten as a summer squash when young and tender. It is mild and sweet tasting, or you can let it grow into a great winter squash, rich and flavorful, and great for baking and pies.
3. Red Kuri (Hokkaido) is a Japanese winter squash with five to ten pound fruits that are teardrop shape. It starts out golden and turns a red orange. The flesh is golden, smooth, dry, sweet and rich. It is a great keeping variety.
Continue sowing seeds until August 15th for a late crop of onions, beets, bush beans, cabbage, carrots, collards, kohlrabi, kale, lettuce, peas, spinach, turnips and radishes. Transplants can also be set for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, kale and onions.
Sow seeds of cool weather herbs: chive, parsley, garlic chives, cilantro and dill. Plant garlic now for a spring harvest. Plant fall blooming crocus and colchicum bulbs. For a fragrance to enjoy this fall, plant autumn clematis (clematis paniailata), annual stock and flowering tobacco.
Harvest vegetables such as squash, cucumbers, green beans and okra when young and tender for best flavor and to extend the plants production.
Pick vine ripe tomatoes, and maybe a few green ones for frying.
Pick corn when the silks turn brown.
Dig some new potatoes carefully.
Harvest all potatoes once the plant dies back.
Harvest herbs for fresh culinary use, drying, potpourri and making teas.
Harvest cantaloupe when ripe. They will have a sweet pleasant smell and will easily slip from the vine. Do not pull or tug. If it doesn’t slip off the vine with a little effort, it’s not ready yet. When melons are ready, there may also be a crack near the area where the stem attaches, and the stem will become brown.
Three Tests For Picking Watermelons Ripe Off The Vine
1. Get your thumper in tune. A ripe melon will sound hollow, as if the inside of the melon is empty, when thumped with a closed fist or your index finger.
2. If you look at the vine where the melon attaches, the stem will look dry and begin to turn brown.
3. Roll the melon over gently. The vine may break off at this point if it is ripe. But look at the part of the melon that has been resting on the ground: if it’s yellow, it is ripe.
Usually, by this time in the garden, we would have been doing some watering. But the only watering needed this season was for planting and transplanting. So we may not have as much watering in August as well. We can have more time to dance in the garden!
*Check plants for insects often to keep pests under control.
*Deadhead flowers to keep them looking nice and to encourage new blooms.
*Add more mulch to beds if needed.
*Prune summer blooming shrubs after flowers finish.
*Prune old flowering canes after last raspberry harvest. Leave 3-4 young canes per row foot.
*Let some vegetables and herbs go to seed to self sow or if you want to save some seed.
*Add compost or composted manure and worm castings in beds or rows that are available now for planting another crop or to get ready for planting a fall crop.
*Remove any diseased foliage and destroy. Do not add to compost.
*Keep the compost pile turned and moist.
*Fertilize new plantings of June bearing strawberries.
*Start to get your cold frames ready.
More “To Do’s”
*Begin to decide what spring, flowering bulbs you might want to add to your garden now so you can purchase them and be ready to plant them October-November.
*Begin dividing perennials, starting with Bearded Iris.
*Keep a journal of your garden. You will be able to use much of the information for planning the next season of gardening. Take photos to enjoy looking back at the different stages of growth through a picture journal.
*Savor the smells, flavors and beauty filling the August garden.
For Beautiful Wild Wings, Plant Wild Things In Your Garden
Milkweed, a wildflower, is absolutely necessary for butterflies like the Monarch. The larvae feed exclusively on milkweed. The larvae of the Zebra Swallow Tail feed exclusively on the trees and shrubs of the Paw Paw family. During the late spring and summer, they will feed on wild flowers such as Joe Pye weed, Rudbeckia and Goldenrod. One of the favorite food plants of the Monarch is the butterfly bush (Buddleia). Some other good food plants for butterflies are the orange Butterfly Weed, Passion Flower, Speedwell, Lantana, Leatris, sunflowers, Coreopsis, Aster, Pentas, Bee Balm, zinnias and Fennel Flower, to name a few. So add some of these wildflowers to your garden to provide habitat and feed those beautiful, wild wings.
Hope your August garden is full of sweet, summer delights; happy bees buzzing; butterfly kisses on all your flowers; sunny, sunflower days; and lovely watermelon moon and stars nights.
Originally from Texas, Cassandra Warner is a transplant to the garden of Tennessee. Gardening has been one of her passions for forty years. “Gardening connects you to the miracle of life and provides healthy exercise and stress relief. Mine has been a learn as you grow school, and I plan to always ‘Keep it Growing’.”