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 https://www.almanac.com/gardening/frostdates. 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.
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.