The end of August and beginning of September is still peak harvesting around here, and my garden is in full swing. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year that I get killed into complacency because the harvest time is so easy and the garden just continues to produce without me doing much more than picking and watering as necessary. September is the time where it feels like I’ll always have something fresh to pick when I feel like it, but it’s really the beginning of the end when most produce is concerned until all the way into March or April.
Of course I should have some kale to pick come January, and garlic scapes shoot up in February, but for the most part, things taper off in October, or at the very latest, November. But since it is just the start of September, I have to remind myself now is the time to prepare for those winter months or I really won’t have anything to harvest once the summer plants are done for the year. It’s hard to beat the satisfaction of having garden produce to pick in the dead of winter, and this last year was the very first time I picked straight through the year without a break or at least a month or two. I’d like to keep that up next year as well.
It’s hard to believe it, but I am still picking blueberries (and just a few strawberries). By far this has been the best year ever, and they just keep on coming. I planted our first couple of bushes the first summer we moved into our house and they’re now mature enough to produce quite a bit of fruit thanks to a bit of pruning and composting love, and not much else. I just can’t sing the praises of perennials enough. Once you’ve put in the up front work, they can be the workhorses in your garden no matter how little time you have to devote to them in the future.
Beyond blueberries, we’ve been picking cherry tomatoes for a while now and the larger tomatoes are starting to ripen as well. There really is nothing like homegrown tomatoes and I try and eat my full this time of year because I honestly can’t stomach the taste of out of season hothouse variety any more, beyond a slice on a sandwich or cooked into a meal. Unfortunately, some of my Amish paste tomatoes have some blossom end rot, which is really unfortunate. I’ve supplemented with calcium through the summer, so I’m not quite sure what happened.
We have one trellis with hops, and while it’s not quite as tall as it should be (hops will grow up to 20′), it does well enough to produce a crop that will be plenty for a beer brewing or two. Pre-kid, my husband did a decent amount of beer brewing but not near as much these days. Previously, we didn’t have enough hops to brew a full beer, so he did a hopped cider with local apple cider, and it turned out great.
Other ripe vegetables right now include a smattering of peppers, potatoes, cucumbers, some herbs, garlic (always garlic!) and a few sweet onions. I didn’t plant a huge variety this year like I have previously, and while I wish I would have gotten around to planting some carrots this spring, I’ve been pretty happy with how I filled our garden beds. My first few years of gardening I way overbought on seeds and varieties and we ended up with way more zucchini and eggplant, for example, than we would ever eat as a family. Cherry tomatoes, garlic, peas, and blueberries, on the other hand, we can’t seem to get enough of.
Much like the limited things I’m now canning, I’ve learned what we will eat and have done away with the rest. With both gardening and cooking, I was enamored by all the options early on and was tempted to try some of everything. Now I grow – and make – only what I know we will eat or give away as gifts, and there is a lot less waste associated with both.
End of summer is also a time for seed saving for the next year. While I’ve been saving green bean and sugar snap pea seeds for years now, I’m starting to be more mindful about saving some of the seeds of almost everything I grow. Obviously saved seeds are free versus $1-$4 a packet, but it also reduces transportation and packaging waste as well.
Since I’m continually trying to head in the zero waste direction, this is very important to me. I’ll probably always buy a few seeds from time to time to try out new varieties, but I’d like to get to the point where I’m doing very little of that each year. Perhaps eventually I’ll get into seed swaps beyond a bit with my neighbors, but that’s an extra time commitment I’m not willing to take on at this time. After all, there’s a true cost to saying yes to too many things.
The seeds I’m saving now:
- Naughty Marietta marigolds
- Wildflowers (variety picked out by my son)
- Sugar snap peas
- Snow peas
- Blue Lake bush beans
- Evergreen bunching onions (green onions)
- Black seeded Simpson lettuce
- Walla Walla sweet onions
In regards to seed saving, even if a plant bolts early in the season, like my lettuce did in the unexpected heat, the plant can still be useful if you let it mature and go to seed. This was especially true with this lettuce planting because it was from older seeds (packed for the 2014 season) and almost none of the ones I planted this year actually sprouted. By saving the seed by the plant that grew to maturity, I get to restart the seed clock and the new seeds will be good for a few years now.
I have yet to attempt saving seed from any peppers or tomatoes, but I may this year. From what I’ve read online, they need some time to “ferment” in order to be ready for sprouting the next season. This would also mean growing the plants from seed in the future instead of buying starts. In order to have big plants, I’d need to find a place to start them inside, and we currently don’t have a place to do so in our small home. To be decided.
I’m a bit late, but I think I will plant some carrot, sweet onion, and garlic seeds in hopes of having an early spring harvest. I didn’t do a good job of this with onions or carrots this year, but it was awesome having green onions ready in the spring. After a long winter of not much besides kale, early spring vegetables are extra appreciated. I was hoping my kale would go to seed by now, but so far I’ve been out of luck. I’ll need to dig out any partial seed packets I have left or buy some kale starts. Perhaps I’ll grow some other brassicas this fall as well, but I’ve yet to have good luck with Brussels sprouts. Early still, but I’ll be planting garlic in October or early November as well. (For those of you in the Pacific Northwest, I check in with Erica’s monthly garden to do’s at NW Edible to make sure I’m on track – her breakdowns were especially valuable for me when I was just starting out).
Summertime in the garden really doesn’t cost a lot of money. Other than a small increase in our water bill, there were no costs associated with the garden in August. I am using up some old fertilizer, but half of the fertilizer I do use is coffee grounds and any spoiled milk we end up with in the fridge (tomatoes love calcium). I spent quite a bit setting up the garden in the first few years, but now it costs us very little.
Garden Cost, July: $10
Garden Cost, August: $10
Garden Cost, YTD: $85.32
While we’ve spent almost no money on the garden this summer, it has produced some serious fruit and vegetables for us that put us well into net positive as far as money making hobbies go. I may not consider gardening to be an “income stream,” as I don’t sell any of the harvest, it’s definitely a money saving endeavor at this point between what we eat ourselves and what we gift to others as presents, both fresh and canned goods for Christmas.
What are you harvesting this time of year? When does the season “end” for you, or do you grow things year round?
46 thoughts on “Summer Garden Update: August 2018”
My garden’s season has pretty much come to an end. Although, I still get an occasional zucchini squash from it. My flowers and landscaping are still doing great though. This week, I have been splitting hastas in the yard and I planted a few new perennials. Can’t wait to see how they fill out next spring/summer!
I actually didn’t plant any zucchini this year. New perennial flowers I presume? I still haven’t done that but I’m starting to want more flowers in the garden.
our lettuce bolted too in the heat. i loathe paying for things like potatoes and onions as it feels like robbery but we have limited space. i also would add a few varieties of squash and rutabega (maybe next year) you can freeze things like tomato if you have space but they take a lot of room. you rock for saving all those seeds. i have produce envy.
I realize that potatoes and onions don’t have the best ROI for garden produce, but especially with the potatoes the kids absolutely LOVE digging them up. It becomes a neighborhood affair 🙂 So totally worth it.
Hops! That’s really cool. I love the smell of fresh hops. It’s so heady. Our community garden is doing well too. It’s a great time of the year. We can get fresh vegetables without doing much work. Today, Mrs. RB40 is going to get some kale to make greens for our BBQ. It’s great.
We (community gardeners) started basil with seed this year and it turned out very well.
Basil never used to do very well in the PNW without a greenhouse but with the hotter summers we’ve had lately it’s done a lot better. Silver lining, I suppose.
My jealous-meter is pegged….. 🙂
I do have a pretty fabulous garden these days 😉
We have tried a garden a few times, but the large trees that border our yard limit the area we have. We’re not going to cut down the giants, even if I dream about it every fall while i clear the leaves!
The various squirrels, birds, raccoons, and chip monks have destroyed more than one crop of tomatoes. We need to do better about protecting them. Our small dog is not enough. We have tried to clear out bushes and brush to allow the foxes and hawks scare them away. I’ve actualy seen a hawk eating a squirrel in the yard twice.
Our cat has done a really great job of keeping pests down. He’s nine though, so I’m not sure how the garden will fare once he’s too old to chase them down.
We have a neighborhood cat; actually my neighbor’s semi-outdoor cat. Maybe I need to leave more food out for that cat!
Ha no – you don’t want to fill up it’s belly so it has no incentive to hunt! 😉
I am gardening vicariously through you. (Lazy to do it myself…) Too bad it is almost over.
We’re inundated by so much garden bounty for months and then all of a sudden, it more or less stops for 4+ months. Somehow I’m always caught off guard.
I miss not having a small garden sometimes, then I remember driving in my van I have a vast expansion of a garden with many beautiful things all growing wild fresh and free.
However your garden sounds magnificent ❤🙏
The garden is certainly a big part of what roots me in one place for now!
I’ve been taking a plastic container into work and people from my staffroom have been dropping in their banana peels/apple cores/edamame pods etc. I’ve been taking them nome for my new composter.
Today I forgot to bring the container in. I was so upset! Then I walked down to the Food Tech room to ask if they had a container. While I was there, they asked what I needed it for and we started to talk. The long and the short of it – I’m able to put a bin with a lid in there and all the compostable food scraps that the kids don’t use will be mine!
Then they suggested that I go and talk to the ladies in the canteen. They said I could bring a 20L bin with a lid. We have 2,300 kids at this school – imagine the scraps. Then the woman who runs the canteen asked if I wanted any horse manure – she has a couple of horses!!!
My garden is going to be an oasis of abundance with all of this going on. (Plus I ordered 6 worm feeding stations.) I’m so excited!
Oh this is so awesome!!!! Way to start something big!
That’s some money saving garden! So cool what you guys do. I’ll garden through you for a few years 🙂
It’s taken a few years to get it to be a money saving hobby, but it’s definitely there now 🙂
Living vicariously through you! That’s a fantastic point about saving your own seeds being much more environmentally-friendly. It doesn’t seem like seed packets would be a huge deal, but every little bit adds up!
You haven’t seen the ridiculous number of seed packets I used to buy… 🙈
Whew boy do I have a lot to learn. Thanks for these amazing updates.
How do the pink lemonade blueberries taste? I’m really hoping we have similar climates and soil pH so we can try them 😉 Also how do you protect the berries from birds and squirrels? We have one very enterprising squirrel in our neighborhood, I’m willing to bet there are more.
Hmmm…. a little bit different. I’m not very good at describing flavors, but you can definitely tell they’re blueberries. Lol
Our library does a seed swap! It’s so awesome, even if I do get some duds sometimes. I might give cold-frame gardening a go this winter. Which means I’ve been spending too much time on gardening Twitter. 😉
I’ve heard some awesome things about library seed swaps, but I’ve not heard of any local ones. Absolutely nothing wrong with gardening twitter in my book!
That’s awesome how little you spent on the garden this year and reaped so much! I started a list for next year’s garden and garlic is at the top. And learning to harvest seeds for what I want to repeat next year.
Best of luck having a year round garden through winter 2019!
I wonder if the same garlic I grow would do well in your area? If you’re interested, I could send you some! Same goes for marigold seeds 🙂
Oooh one of the best things about knowing someone (family) with a garden is come Xmas – theres gifts of loads of jam jars!!! I love people like you bawahahaah!!
Crazy enough, my family prefers my homemade taco seasoning to my jam!!
I am incredibly envious! Look at all those fresh fruits and veggies! Our grocery bill would go way down with those.
And the tomato plants smell soooooo good!! 😉
Great progress Angela – you have done much better than me. We’ve not had enough rain here all summer.
We’ve had a crazy dry summer here as well, which is why I’ve had to include a water bill in my calculations the past couple of months.
Wow the garden is coming along nicely, even though it’s coming to the end of the season. I have never heard of pink lemonade blueberries, that’s neat! I want to add blueberries to our garden at some point, but there are also loads of wild blueberries where I live, so no sense in “wasting” garden space on something I can forage. That’s really great that you are able to grow hops for your brewing.
Oh yeah, the reason I don’t grow blackberries is because of all the “wild” ones around here, as tempting as it is sometimes thinking about growing thornless ones.
Gardening is so wonderful! We had to spend a bit more to get started based on our yard (and dog). But we had a pretty decent harvest this first year for us! Congrats, Angela and nice job!
Dogs go out back, garden out front 😉 I can’t imagine what we would have to do to dog proof our garden haha
I can’t believe you still have blueberries, I’m so jealous. I don’t know of anyone up here who grows blueberries up here so I don’t think they do to well but we have really good luck with raspberries. We’re still harvesting carrots and tomatoes but everything else is about finished for the season. The weather turned cool extra early this year and we’ve already had a frost so fall gardening has been a bust. I’m looking forward to getting into our new house and starting fresh with our new yard next season.
Frost already?!?! That seems nuts. And if you can grow raspberries it seems like you should be able to grow blueberries – they little more or less the same thing.
“Of course I should have some kale to pick come January”
Haha! We’ll be picking ice out of our boots in January HERE. 🙂
Nice work Angela. I’m especially impressed with how you’ve managed to save seeds. I wish I’d done that with an excellent cucumber our nanny gave us. Sadly, our own cukes were very bitter this year. That, and our carrots and kale were abysmal. The motto goes on – “will try again next year!”
Yeah, again, we may get a lot of rainy, gray days up here in the PNW, but we can garden (and hike and camp) year round, so it more than makes up for it.
I totally agree that a little up front garden work pays dividends this time of year. You should totally save your heirloom tomato seeds. I have grown my own tomatoes from seed for years. Let me know if you need any tips. Speaking of, I need to go whip up a batch of homemade salsa. Cheers.
I’m definitely interested in tomato seed saving tips! Do you start them indoors? I really would have to find a spot to do that.