July 2009
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden

A New Life for Tomatoes

This month is often the tipping point for both tomatoes and gardeners. Plants may be just about done in because of diseases and the rigors of fruiting. Gardeners are also done in because of the heat. But, if you get outside early in the morning to beat the heat, you might be able to work your plants just long enough to rejuvenate them. Indeterminate varieties come back to produce well in the fall. In my garden, Early Girl is often the very first and very last tomato harvested. Remove diseased leaves stems, fertilize with a liquid plant food like Bonnie’s Herb and Vegetable Plant Food, and spray the foliage with fungicides like copper soap (copper octanoate), Neem (azadirachtin), potassium bicarbonate or chlorothalonil. There is also time to start a new planting from transplants for a fall harvest if you do so early this month. Look for Early Girl or other varieties that mature in fewer than 60 days.

Iron-Poor Leaves

If your azalea leaves are looking yellow between the veins, they probably need a little iron. Treat the soil around the plants with a little iron sulphate. Sprinkle it over the root zone of the plants, scratch it in gently with a rake and water thoroughly. This product can stain, so keep it off the driveway, walkways or anyplace where you don’t want an iron stain. This also works well on camellias, hollies and gardenias looking typically yellow by this time of the season. It’s also a great pick-me-up for centipede grass.

After taking a summer break, healthy bell pepper plants will surprise you with a bounty of peppers in the fall.

Peppers

Be patient with your bell peppers. Big bell peppers often stop setting fruit at the peak of our summer heat, but as soon as the nights begin to cool a little later this month, they will start fruiting again. If you’ve cared for your plants through the summer, the big bushy plants will soon be full of fruit. Be sure to support individual branches so they don’t break under the weight of their load.

Mattress Springs for a Trellis?

Here is a recycle-reuse idea for an old wire mattress frame. Turn it into a trellis. Use it to grow your sweet peas this fall, your beans next summer or a favorite morning glory.

   

Recycle an old wire mattress frame for use as a trellis in your garden.

 
   

Cover Crops

Fall is a good time to consider a cover crop in your vegetable garden or any planting spot that will be fallow through winter. Even if your garden is full of vegetables for fall, which I hope it will be, you can use cover crops in the walking aisles between planted rows. Grasses like rye add organic matter and break up soil. You can mow when the plants get too tall. Try clover to add nitrogen and organic matter. The selection and management of cover crops in a garden or on a larger scale is both art and science. There is a lot to learn, but the benefits are many: encouraging soil flora, inviting bees and other beneficial insects, breaking up hard soil, adding organic matter, and helping the soil hold moisture and nutrients. A great resource about cover crops and how to use them is the third edition of Managing Cover Crops Profitably, a publication of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (www.sare.org). The printed book costs $19, but you can download it in a .pdf format for free from the website!

Fall Vegetables

August is the time to start planting and planning your cool-season vegetable garden for fall. This includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuces and other salad greens, mustard, Irish potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, Swiss chard, turnips, a second planting of summer squash and beans. Spinach, leeks and onions can wait until next month. When selecting varieties for the fall garden, always choose those with the shortest time to maturity to lengthen the time of harvest before cold weather slows growth. This is also a good time to consider a little greenhouse, a cold frame or simple tunnel support for covering plants with plastic or fabric a row cover. This will allow you to harvest cool-season greens all winter long. Check the Alabama Extension website for a nice, easy to follow planting guide (publication #ANR-63) with dates, suggested varieties and other helpful information. It is available from the ACES website at http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0063/.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.