June and July have been extremely hot and dry months. In almost all areas across Ontario, our gardens are crying out for water. Many of our edible crops are drying up or producing extremely small crops. Rural gardeners are afraid to water too much as their wells might run dry. Urban gardeners have water restrictions or are worried about their next water bill. I know you all know about the drought, but is the whole garden season lost? Being an optimist, I think not.
August is the time we can plant plants that we often plant in April. The days are getting shorter and hopefully the nights are getting cooler, which means many plants that bolted like spinach and lettuce or dried up like peas can be given a second chance. The plants that can be started now are the shorter growing season plants and plants that can tolerate a light early frost.
Lettuce—flourishes in cool weather. The seeds like it cool to germinate, so you may want to start them in a cool, shady spot until they appear or cover them with a damp floating row cover to get them going.
Spinach—much like lettuce.
Kale—takes fall frosts in stride and keeps on growing. The leaves become sweeter when nipped by cold.
Peas—soak the pea seeds overnight to give them a start on germination. I like to grow snow peas as the pods are so sweet and delicious.
Carrots—are ready to eat as soon as their shoulders appear. You won’t get the large, winter storage carrots but will enjoy them at their sweetest best.
Bush Beans—start to produce very quickly, but they will be killed by frost. You can prolong their lifespan by covering the plants with a floating row cover. I did not believe one of my neighbours who told me she always tried to grow fresh beans for Thanksgiving. I tried it and I did too!
Beets—you may not get full-fledged beets, but you can definitely enjoy the tasty and nutritious leaves.
Radishes—spice up your salads and are fast growing. Eat them when they are tender and small.
Before you start your seeds, take a little time to rejuvenate your soil. Clean out the finished crops and weeds and loosen the soil. Add some compost to give your plants their best start. The hardest part about growing the late crops is getting them started. Water the seeds and seedlings well. Fortunately, the seeds are not too deep, so they don’t require the same amount of watering as established crops.
Hopefully August will bring us cooler nights and a return to regular rainfall to make our fall crops grow and extend our edible season.