Virginia Cooperative Extension

Between the Rows - A Guide to Vegetable Gardening
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August in the Vegetable Garden

Hot Days are Here!
Welcome veggie gardeners! VCE supports local gardeners with a host of resources, including free classes, plant clinics and this newsletter. Want to know more? Subscribe here to receive future issues. Missed out on past issues? You can get them all here.
Garden Guide
August To Do List
  • Pay close attention to your garden's water needs, especially if it doesn't rain for multiple days; water evenly and deeply
  • Consider covering less heat-tolerant plants with a row cover or canopy to protect them from direct sun and heat
  • Prune and mulch plants to allow them to conserve energy and to keep soil moist
  • Check your container plants daily, making sure they are well-watered and adding a liquid fertilizer to the water every week or so
  • Completely remove cool weather crops and add compost to soil, or intercrop with warm weather crops and remove cool weather crops over time
  • Continue to both direct sow and start from seed indoors plants for Fall; also be on the lookout for pests and diseases on your plants (see steps outlined in July's post)
  • Direct sow cooler weather herbs: cilantro, chervil, chives, dill, lovage, and thyme
  • Continue to harvest warm weather crops; eat fresh, dry, freeze or can, or give to your local food bank
  • Continually deadhead herbs and leafy greens by snipping off floret tops to avoid bolting, which can make the plant bitter to taste (unless you want to collect seed or encourage reseeding for next year's crop)
  • Plan for Fall planting and extending the growing season into the winter months
  • Order garlic, onion, and shallots for Fall
Plant, Pest or Other Garden Questions?

Contact the VCE Horticulture Help Desk 

Knowledgeable Virginia Cooperative Extension volunteers are available to answer questions Monday-Friday from 9am to noon.
Watering takes on greater importance during very hot, humid weather, so you may need to increase your watering if you notice your plants wilting. Water deeply and thoroughly early in the day, up to 1 inch at a time. 

Watering strategies during the warm drier months, as recommended by the Hudson Valley Seed Library, include:
  1. Water roots, never foliage, which can singe leaves in peak heat and contribute to fungal diseases;
  2. Water more, but less often, since it is best to saturate the soil after it dries, instead of lightly watering the surface daily, which will encourage roots to grow toward the surface in search of moisture instead of reaching deeper down;
  3. Water in daylight hours (morning, afternoon, or early evening);
  4. Weed regularly since weeds will use up available water; and
  5. Mulch between rows, or plant some crops in rows covered with black plastic, to control soil temperatures and retain moisture levels.
In general, signs of both too much or too little water include yellowing of the leaves, droopy plants, and stunted growth. Recommended practices for optimal watering include:
  1. Water seedlings with an even, gentle spray that neither batters nor floods them, and provide more water than simply a fine misting;
  2. Allow seedlings to dry out between watering without letting plants get too dry; neither should your soil stay wet constantly;
  3. Water deeply and thoroughly to promote healthy root growth and to drain out any salt build up;
  4. Check the moisture of your soil beneath the surface since the surface of the soil can appear moist but still be dry beneath; and
  5. Break up any soil crusting that may occur, which is generally prevented through thorough watering.
Hopefully you have been harvesting the fruits of your labor, and are enjoying juicy red tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers and peppers, and firm, fresh beans. Check guidelines on the right time to harvest for best flavor. 

Prolonging your harvest of perishable produce can also be tricky. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains a website with information regarding current research-based recommendations for methods of home food preservation. Free downloadable guides are available. USDA also provides specific instructions for drying, freezing, and canning your produce. Other online resources include recipes for canning and pickling, and for making preserves and jams. Consider attending a local food preservation workshop for additional tips. For information on 
drying, freezing, and preserving herbs, see the Summer Herb Supplement. 

Sharing your harvest with others is a great way to build a sense of community and interest in your garden.  Remember, you can always bring extra fresh vegetables to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) where it will be distributed to needy families.  Read more about AFAC’s “Plot for Hunger” program and consider designating a portion of your harvest to this great effort.

A great way to mentally cool off this month is to plan your Fall/Winter garden. As you remove spent or dead plants, replace these with cooler weather crops started indoors (broccoli, cauliflower, kale) or directly sow seeds outdoors (radishes, carrots, turnips, beets, and most leafy greens). Putting seedlings outdoors may require some extra care/water while it's still warm, but generally there will be fewer insects and weeds. Learn how to extend your garden season here. Check area planting guides for recommendations on when to plant and harvest Fall/Winter crops.
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