Weekend: August doesn’t have to be the end of the gardening season

By CATHY GROSSMAN
Some people consider August to be the beginning of the end of the gardening season. But your gardens can still have lots of life in them, if they get your continued attention.
Gardens can be extended until frost by completing several activities now and continue them into the fall.
Important activities in August are the frequent harvesting of the vegetables and the deadheading of the faded flowers.
In the vegetable garden, this is a time of abundance. Picking and preserving is the best way to prolong the benefits of all the spring and summer labor. There is nothing more tasty, nutritious, and economical than a meal prepared from your own garden.
Your garden can supply more produce than you can use at this time, so it is good to explore the various methods of preserving.
The OSU Extension office has information on canning, freezing and drying And you can check http://fcs.osu.edu/food-safety/home-food-preservation.
Removing faded flowers from plants before they produce seeds will not only prolong the blooming period of plants, but also brighten up your flowerbed.
Weeding and watering continue to be important chores to keep your gardens flourishing. When plants are in full production of fruits and flowers, water is critical. Plants need about an inch of water each week and, if it does not come from rain, we must provide it.
Weeds can take much of the water needed by our flowers and vegetables, so remove them as they appear and, especially, before they go to seed.
The weeds we fight this year are the result of weeds that went to seed in prior years.
Remove from the garden any plants that have stopped producing. These plants may be added to the compost pile or destroyed if they are diseased.
You should also monitor your gardens for insects. A few active green tomato hornworms can strip your plants overnight. These can be easily picked off and destroyed.
If you must use a pesticide, it is very important to read all the information included on the label. This will tell you how soon the produce can be safely harvested after the pesticide is applied.
August is also a good time to divide crowded perennial plants. By dividing and replanting now, the roots have time to establish themselves before the freezing weather arrives.
Trees and shrubs can also be transplanted now and even after frost. It is important to keep new plants watered until the roots are well established. Don’t stake trees for more than one year.
To reduce the incidence of diseases on our fruits and perennial flowers next year, it is important to clean up fallen fruits and leaves. Destroy these materials rather than apply them to the compost pile.
Many annual flowers will self-seed if the flowers are permitted to mature. Of course, they may turn up in the spring where you least expect them as the birds eat and drop seeds, often into neighboring gardens.
Many seeds of annuals can be dried and saved for planting next spring. Some of the newer hybrids will not produce seeds or their seeds will not produce the plant that you raised.
These plants can often be propagated from cuttings taken at this time of year. This can save you money as well as extend the joy of gardening into the winter.
For help in taking cuttings, see http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/hil/hil-8702.html.
Plant cool weather crops such as spinach, kale, radishes, peas, turnips and cabbage now. They will survive into the fall even with a light frost.
Late summer and fall gardening can be very rewarding. When we think back to the harsh winter we experienced, we want to do everything we can to prolong our interaction with the beautiful outdoors.
Grossman is a Ohio State University Extension Hancock County master gardener volunteer and retired registered nurse manager.

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