If you think it is hot now, just wait until tomorrow. August can bring extremely high temperatures in South Texas, plus little or no rain, which together can quickly put our gardens at risks. Even the most skilled gardeners must dig deep into their bag of tricks to keep their garden flourishing and producing this time of year.
Essential garden tasks
To extend your summer gardening season and keep it looking good, there are some essential gardening tasks you can do now that will also prove beneficial to your fall garden.
- Water early in morning
We all know watering regularly is a must if we want our gardens to thrive and keep producing through late summer and into fall. Water evaporates quickly during our hot days, especially during midday.
Early watering in the morning is best to give the moisture time to reach thirsty roots. Water composition in a variety of vegetables is above 90 percent, and adequate fluid intact is a must for their survival.
- Mulch to keep soil cool
Late summer vegetable gardens do well in a soil-cooling mulch, such as shredded leaves or straw. Using compost is also suggested as a wonderful way to keep your plants cool while providing nutrients at the same time.
Texas A&M horticulture department recommends the use of compost or mulch to protect your plants from the heat, help keep moisture in the plant and reduce weed populations. Mulching is perhaps the No. 1 water-conserving technique for areas that receive less than 40 inches of rainfall annually per The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
- Watch for pests, weeds
Regular pest patrol is a summer must as insects like aphids just seem to thrive in our intense heat and long growing season. They can quickly make themselves right at home in a garden, eating the fruits of our labor and spreading diseases.
And let’s not overlook weeds, which can harbor insects and disease. Immediate removal of them is the surest way to keep them under control and cuts down on prep time for your fall garden as well.
Fall officially begins Sept. 23
Timely planting is the key to a successful fall garden. Warm days and crispy cool nights are perfect for growing vegetables.
- Choose favorite vegetables
Consider what you and your family like to eat and begin planning what you want to plant based on that.
Think about where to purchase your seeds or plants. Local nurseries will have both plants and seed packets available.
- Order seeds and plants now
And then there are colorful seed catalogs to browse through. By the way, did you know there are more than 100 mail-order seed and plant companies to order from?
Seeds or Transplants
Planting from seeds: all vegetables can be started from seeds.
- Start seeds indoors now
For fall gardens, think broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, leek, lettuce or spinach seeds. All may be planted indoors in small containers starting in the first part of August in a well-lit location.
- Follow seed package instructions
Plant the seeds in a good starter mix or make your own using 50 percent vermiculite or perlite with 50 percent fine sphagnum peat and mix in a tablespoon of fertilizer. Be sure to read planting directions on the seed packages as some may require refrigeration before planting.
- Plant seeds outdoors after Sept. 1
Vegetable seeds can be planted directly into your outdoor garden with no problem starting around the first of September. August can still be rather warm for seedlings.
Or you may want to use transplants, which have several advantages, such as providing crops earlier and having a longer harvest. And certain vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, might not produce at all if not grown from transplants.
Allow two weeks for a transplant to establish a good root system. Transplants are usually sold in multiple-plant packs or 4-inch pots.
Plant by the moon
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, one should plant by the moon. Above-ground bearing crops should be planted from the day the moon is new to the day it is full. And below-ground bearing crops should be planted from the day after the moon is full to the day before it is new again.
A myth or not? This practice has had success for many years with scientific support.
Fall will come
Continue to wear your sun hat as our South Texas days are still hot, watch for pests and keep your plants hydrated and your garden tidy. By all means, take a moment to sit and think of the tasty fall vegetables you soon will be enjoying.
Remember, fall will come – it always does.
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