With mid-May snow and now all this rain, it’s hard to say where we are in the growing cycle. More than a month past their usual ripening date, I still have blackberries trying to ripen. The calendar says it’s mid-August so here are my top 10 mid-season gardening chores:
1. Make notes in your garden diary. What worked well this spring, and what didn't? Where did you plant various crops? You want to switch out crops every two years or so to not deplete soil nutrients and make invasive bugs comfortable, including in deck pots.
2. Weed and transplant. There's no better time to remove unwanted plants than right after a good rainstorm when the ground is soft and roots are easy to pull. I also like this time to move plants. The ground is still moist and plant roots have a better chance of settling in when dry surrounding soil doesn't absorb all available moisture. I don't usually transplant this time of year but with cooler temperatures and the moisture we have been having, I am sneaking a few plants around the garden. The more time a plant has to settle in before winter, the better the chances it will make it.
3. Recycle extra pots. Pots marked #1 and #2 can be dropped off at Rolla's Recycling Center. Wash out the rest and store in a marked box or bag. They're good to use when moving, and sharing, extra plants in fall.
4.If you haven't been saving used, clean bottles for seed storage, this is a good time to start. Old-fashioned marigolds, zinnias, tomatoes and peppers all can easily be saved for use next year. If you don't want to re-use containers, you can also save in used paper envelopes or small plastic re-sealable bags. I like to keep my main supply in marked recycled bottles, then I share with friends by dividing seeds up into small white envelopes.
5. Some plants should be going to seed soon so start gathering seeds to dry. I keep several woven baskets handy I can line with paper towels for seed drying. To help speed the process, store baskets on top of the refrigerator, where the hot air will help dry seeds faster. It also keeps inquisitive paws out of mischief, especially when drying catnip.
6. Compost. The best time to prepare a garden bed for next year’s growing season is this fall. Add compost, manure and maybe a cover crop if your garden is big enough to till with some form of equipment. I tend to dump out my composters in my nearby raised beds, then fill composters back up to cook another batch. About 75 percent of what we throw into landfills through garbage can be composted. Who around here can’t use more soil?
7. Fall crop planning. Are you planning to plant crops this fall? This is a good time to get your seeds and start weeding that garden bed corner where you want to plant. Toss weeds into your composter if they are not in bloom, or use them, cut up, as a cover to hold down the soil until you are ready.
Page 2 of 2 - 8. Make holiday gifts. If you will soon be swimming in vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, consider making salsa in 6-ounce gift-sized jars and add the recipe. Any other homemade preserves are wonderful gifts, too, from jellies to pickles, especially if they are a personal, or family, favorite.
9. With all this rain, this is a good time to watch water-moving patterns and identify locations for rain barrels. Think about placing them where the spigot is easy to access. I have two rain barrels, one on my deck, the other one near my raised bed garden and have two more locations identified. Rain barrels make water collection easy – I’m attaching mine to gutters with a run-off connection back into the gutters – and provide an easy source of water.
10. Enjoy your garden. I take daily early morning walks with my camera, often taking photos from the same spots so I can see what's growing in the areas through the seasons. Sometimes the photos remind me of something I need to fix or they may capture a moment of beauty. Either way, it's a good reminder to regularly check, and appreciate, all that our gardens have to offer.
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Copyright 2013 used with permission by Rolla Daily News - St. James Leader Journal - Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org.