bay area, Container gardening, Edible gardening, Urban gardening, Zone 9

What to plant in August?

Summer is at its peak and the garden is full. Next set of planting is not in our minds yet and there is no space to fit yet another plant. But it is important to plan this now and get going with planting, to get the garden continue to produce during the Fall and winter months.

March/April plantings of melons, squashes, beans, cucumbers, determinate varieties of tomatoes and cantaloupes are probably dwindling down in production or diseased. Determinate varieties of tomatoes would have put out all of their tomatoes and maybe giving you just an occasional one. It’s time to replace it with another set of determinate/bush variety of tomatoes that will ripen right before the first frost. Cucumbers are slowing down and probably have powdery mildew and you are unsure what to do with them. Zucchini and summer squashes have become very long and though putting out a good harvest, may have powdery mildew, squash bug infestation or look unhealthy. Beans may be affected with spider mites or other diseases, or look tired after spending hours in the hot sun past couple months. Whatever the case maybe, Bay Area temperatures and long growing season allows us to do another round of planting before the summer growing season officially closes.

For several years I thought growing vegetables successfully was only during the summer, until I educated myself about growing cycles, frost free days and how to read the information on a seed packet to determine what to grow.

Here’s how to determine what to plant in August.

Determine your first frost date. A good resource to use is Key in your zip code and you will know your first frost date and last frost dates. Based on that you can determine how many frost free growing days you have in your area. We are lucky to have a total of ~ 273 frost free days with no protection, and most often can extend the season a beyond that using frost blankets and greenhouses.

For my zip code, the first frost date is the last week of November. The number of days between August 1 and last week of November is about 16-17 weeks, which is roughly 120 days before the frost hits. The seed packet will indicate the number of days for plant maturity, which is the first date when we can expect a harvest. While these number of days are not exact and will vary based on soil and weather conditions, it does provide a good idea of what to expect. To be on the safer side, I would pick seeds/plants that will mature in about 100 days. Just for a fun experiment I chose the butternut and honeynut squash variety that matures in about 120 days. You will be surprised to see that there are plenty of options to choose from.

Some options to choose from…

Here is a breakdown by the week to ensure that there is continued harvest in Fall and early winter.

August 1st week – With ~ 120 days left, you can now sow sweet potatoes, bush/determinate tomatoes, corn, mini watermelons, salad leaves, sambar cucumber/dosakaya, peppers, papdi/avarai/hyacinth bean for an early spring harvest, chillies, early maturing eggplants, okra, early maturing cantaloupes, zucchini and summer squashes.

This is a good time to transplant beetroots, peppers and eggplants if you already started them indoors. With cooling temperatures in September / October bell peppers have less of a struggle with the scorching heat and tend to flower and fruit better.

August 2nd week – plenty of time to direct sow cucumbers, bush/container zucchini, mini butternut and delicata squash, yellow squash, bush tomatoes, mini watermelons, cilantro, swiss chard, salad leaves.

August 3rd week – direct sow beetroots, kholrabi, bush beans, peas, last chance to sow mini early maturing watermelons such as Ice box. Now is the time to transplant tomatoes and anything else that you started in July and early August. Keep an eye on the temperatures as it could still get very hot risking a safe transplant. Start seeds indoors for brassicas such as broccoli, kale, collards, Napa cabbage, cauliflower, cabbage, herbs such as parsley, sage. The cabbage and cauliflower varieties I am trying new this year are the Pixie cabbage and Amazing cauliflower from Renee seeds. I have not had much luck with broccoli in the past and this year I am going to try my luck with Long standing broccoli from Renee seeds.

August 4th week – Swiss chard, peas, beetroots, carrots, kale, parsley, plants in the brassica family, khol rabi, turnips, diakon radish, beans such as dragon tongue from Bakers creek heirloom seeds.

It is important to start the cool weather crops such as the ones in the brassica family by August as it will provide enough time for the plant to grow large enough before the day length shortens. To give the plants the best start, it is best to start these seeds indoors in a controlled environment as the outside temperatures continue to soar. Cauliflower and cabbage do better as plant starts rather than directly sown in the garden.

Vegetables that you can sow continually every 3-4 weeks are beetroots, carrots, radish, cilantro, bush beans, pole beans. Stop sowing bush and pole beans ~ 70-80 days before first frost date, as many varieties mature in about 55-60 days.

Kick start your fall garden and please do share tips on what has worked for you. Happy gardening.

bay area, Container gardening, Edible gardening, Nutrition, Urban gardening, Zone 9

Growing lush cilantro

Lush vibrant cilantro

Cilantro is the leafy counterpart of the spice coriander seed, which is ubiquitous in Indian, Mexican and Asian cuisine. They have incredible detoxification benefits, particularly well known as a chelator for heavy metals. Added to smoothies, made into chutneys, or garnished they are versatile in their use.

Cilantro is a cool season edible and aromatic leaf that grow well in both containers and in the ground. Growing them is fairly easy, but they bolt pretty fast if they are heat stressed.

Here are 6 tips for lush cilantro growth :

  1. Seed choice: Choose slow bolt variety seeds, and not the one from the pantry for reliable good leafy growth.
  2. Growing media : Easy to grow in containers / ground alike. Pick a shallow (4-6″ deep) and wide container, and fill with a mix of compost, perlite and coco coir for good water retention, nutrition and aeration.
  3. Germination and timing: Best germination is between 55 deg -70 deg. Each spherical seed pod has two or more seeds in it. Gently crush to separate the seeds in half. Soak in water for up to 24 hours. Densely spread on growing media and add about 1/2 inch soil to cover the seeds. Once they germinate, thin them optionally. If you want large plants, thin the plants and replant in separate areas of the garden.
  4. Watering and feeding: Use a regular watering schedule and ensure that the soil is moist. A high nitrogen fertilizer will promote good leafy growth. I use a liquid fertilizer periodically but most often good compost is adequate to provide the nutrients.
  5. Harvest : Regularly remove leaves from outer sections of the plant once the plants are at least 4 inches tall. If allowed, the plants could grow as tall as 1 – 3 ft.
  6. Extending the harvest: Start the first couple batches indoors with the help of a heat mat, when outside temperatures are still in the 40’s. Set out transplants once the seedlings are 2-3 inches tall. Direct sow seeds every two weeks when day time temperatures are between 55 deg – 70 deg, until summer and start again during fall season once weather starts to cool off. As temperature rises, pick different cooler spots in the garden at each sowing. Under a tree canopy is a great location. Mulch with bark or compost to keep roots cool. Water adequately and frequently when temperatures rise.

A cilantro pesto recipe for a savory spread for breads / flat breads:

2 cups cilantro leaves and stem

1/2 cup walnuts, almonds – optional

2 chillies, salt to taste and a 1 tbsp of cooking oil

1/2 tsp turmeric powder.

A small bit of tamarind or 2 tsp lemon juice.

Heat a heavy bottomed pan, add oil, chillies and turmeric. Add all the other ingredients. Saute’ them together until the cilantro slightly wilts. Blend until well incorporated into a paste, adding a bit of water as necessary. Alternately, you can skip the saute’ and blend the ingredients raw. Store in the refrigerator and use it liberally as spreads/chutneys. Its particularly tasty as a spread in an avocado sandwich. It also tastes great with freshly steamed rice and a dollop of ghee.

Cilantro is an excellent addition to the front yard garden. Lush bright green is refreshing to look at in late winter/early Spring. They add ornamental value besides culinary and medicinal uses.The whiff of smell as you water the cilantro plants is delightful to the senses. Try some in your garden this season!

bay area, Container gardening, Edible gardening, Limited space, Urban gardening

Cinderblocks in the edible landscape

I had 12 cinderblocks left over from a backyard seating project. I hit up Pinterest for ideas, and there were several cool ones. I debated between building a cinderblock seating vs using it for planting vs building a retaining wall. So guess what I finally ended up doing…

Continue reading “Cinderblocks in the edible landscape”
bay area, Container gardening, Edible gardening, Limited space, Nutrition, Urban gardening, Zone 9

Lesser known herbs… Cuban Oregano

Several years back, in the Niles antique market I stumbled across a pot of cuban oregano / Indian Borage / Mexican mint / Karpooravalli / Doddapatre. I was beyond delighted, as this was particularly hard to find 8 years ago, and was always grown in my mom’s kitchen garden. Growing up, I found delight in nibbling a couple of leaves while watering the plants. It has a sharp taste to it, and is medicinal. When added to a kashayam (steeped medicinal herbs) its used to ward off a chest cold or digestive discomfort. Its also periodically incorporated in cooking, for micro-doses of herbal goodness. The seller was surprised and intrigued when I showed such keen interest in the plant, as he had no clue that it was edible or what to make of it. I wrote down a recipe for him to try.

It was fairly easy to grow. I always planted them in a pot and little bits would fall off and create new ones, much similar to a succulent. The plant is currently in the edible landscape in our front porch, by the steps. They are beautiful succulents to look at, grows quickly trailing over the pot, needs very little water, and adds to the aesthetics of the front yard garden. What’s more to say, they are edible too! Crushing it gently releases aromatic essential oils, which is quite refreshing. They are frost tender, so a bit of protection under the eaves may be necessary. Its very easy to root indoors in just plain water, and I’ve liberally shared cuttings with my friends. I have never seen it flower or produce seeds. Often, I like snipping cuttings to arrange it in a flower vase for our dining table. This arrangement stays good for several weeks, if not months!

Pictures …


Popular Recipes…

  • Kashayam : Snip a few leaves and add it to boiling water with a tsp of black pepper, and cumin. Allow to steep, strain and drink several times a day. This is quite relieving for congestion. By itself, its excellent digestive aid, and I’ve often given this to my children when they were less than a year old, and is pretty much a must have plant for young families.
  • Dish or dip to go with rice: Sauté a cup full of leaves in a tsp of ghee, with black pepper, cumin and optionally a green chili. Transfer to blender, and add 2 tbsp of coconut and 1 cup of thick yogurt. Blend well. Optionally, add tempering of ghee with mustard or cumin and curry leaves if using it for eating with hot rice.

Remember, a little goes a long way as the smell is quite overpowering, similar to thyme.

 I would love to hear from you in the comments. Drop me a note if you like some cuttings. Pick up only.