Monday, July 26, 2010

Time for the Fall Garden!

Ha, i think my mom will think THIS post is insane, as it only just warmed up at her home in southern Oregon - and is still dropping in the 40s at night. Oh how i wish for cool nights - but then i wouldn't have eggplants! The weather is really heating up here in Austin. My thai pepper is finally blooming. All the hot peppers are being pretty productive. The pests are out in force, and the cukes are much smaller and less productive. I have to water pretty often, but have lots of cover crop (purple hulled peas) stuffed in between my veggies, so the roots are pretty well shaded and most the plants are still happy despite the heat. It may be hot now, but Autumn is just around the corner - and that means putting in the fall garden. Instead of planting new tomatoes, my plants are healthy enough this year to be cut back and encouraged to produce for a second time. I cut back my heirloom plant a week or so ago (after the birds stole almost all the beautiful fruits) and it's currently showing little shoots here and there of new growth. Today i hacked my Porter Improved by about 50%. It is in a very sunny part of the yard, so i didn't want to cut it back the full 75% so that the roots remained somewhat shaded. That Porter is just covered in Leaf Footed bugs, but they're drowsy in the morning and easy to plop into a cup of water or cut in half with my pruning shears, mwa ha ha ha.

Before - big and bushy
After - thinned out significantly. 
Green tomatoes harvested and placed in a paper bag in the window with an apple to ripen.

Pests and diseases are often a big problem in the heat of the Summer. The plants are already stressed, so it's a great time to pounce for a garden predator. Give your veggie plants some TLC with seaweed/fish emulsion sprays and a little extra fertilizer and compost. You can dilute compost tea and foliar feed (water the leaves and blooms) - and remember to only foliar feed early in the morning or late at night as the heat of the sun combined with the goodies in the liquid fertilizer can burn the plants' leaves.

Porter Improved tomatoes, little Matt's Wild tomatoes, and some ripe serranos

Squash vine borers devastated all my winter squash - i ended up with two tiny butternuts. So sad. So i pulled out what was left of them to go into the compost and will replace them with new hot pepper transplants. Again i will attempt to plant a cayenne - can i escape the curse!? I sure hope so, as my cupboards are bare of homegrown/ dried peppers. I happily have plenty of ripening jalapenos, serranos, whatever the not-cayennes are, and a few habaneros (more on the way, i hope). I use these fresh in salads and stir fries, and also freeze many for storage: you don't have to blanch or cook hot peppers before freezing - just pop them right into a freezer bag. They won't be crispy when you thaw them out, but they'll taste the same and be perfectly fine for cooking with (and easy to cut when still frozen).

Serrano, Mucho Nacho Jalapeno, Habanero, 'not cayenne' mystery pepper hiding at the right.
harvest of cucumbers, purple hulled peas, red ripe serranos, and tomatoes

Are you planting a Fall garden this year? Here in Texas it's often our best season. Those plants that have made it through the brutal Summer will bounce back with joy for a respit from the heat and produce like crazy. I hope i have a good season. I didn't plant any bell peppers, and do miss them from last year - especially the Giant Marconi and Golden Bells. Maybe i'll stick on in along with the cayennes in my main bed. There's a bit of room since i along with the failed squash i've also pulled out the Mexican Sour Gerkins i planted and hated. They did nothing but vine and look pretty. The tiny fruits they produced were too insignificant to warrant keeping them around. 
The Natural Gardener has some helpful info on what to plant when - here's what they say about July here in the Austin area. Texas A & M also have a really helpful planting schedule that is usually right on mark.

Good luck bearing the heat, sun, and mosquitos that Summer brings, and happy gardening!

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