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GARDENER COLUMN: Putting up the first harvest to get a second one
“Earth is… so kind… just tickle her... and she laughs with a harvest.”—Douglas William JerroldThe harvest season is finally upon us – or at least at my house. My purple, yellow wax and scarlet runner beans are coming in strong, along with my weird, cross-pollinated squash. I’m not sure what they really are because they don’t really resemble what I planted. I know squash can cross-pollinate, but I was running out of room in my garden this past spring, so I planted several different types too close together. The beets and the onions are ready to be pulled and I’m still getting broccoli and tons of kale. My tomatoes are looking better than ever so when they start turning, I’m going to be inundated with them. Just yesterday, I canned eight pints of beans, four pints of corn, and made seven batches of garlic scape and kale pesto to put in the freezer. If you can your garden produce, make sure you use the proper method for processing it. Not everything can be water bathed; some need to be processed in a pressure cooker. Low-acid foods like beans and corn should be pressure cooked if you plan to can them. Of course, you can freeze them as well, but I’m out of freezer room. Also, don’t forget to test your pressure cooker’s dial gauge, especially if you haven’t used in a couple years or you purchased it secondhand. In fact, it’s recommended to have the gauge tested once a year. Contact Extension Sauk County at 608-355-3250 to arrange a time to have your pressure cooker tested. You can also visit Extension Sauk County’s website for more information on testing your canner and numerous food preservation publications at https://sauk.extension.wisc.edu/pressure-canner-testing. Another great resource to learn more about canning and the correct processing method can be found at the National Center for Home Preservation at https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/general.html.Once you’ve pulled up all that produce to harvest, consider planting a second crop of fast-growing vegetables such as beans, basil, arugula, and radishes. Pay attention to how long it will take these plants to reach maturity, as the first expected frost date in the Sauk County area is around Sept. 20. These plants can be protected with row covers as needed, but it will require you to keep a close eye on the weather in September. If you decide to plant a second crop, take the time to find a way to provide frost protection quickly and easily. It’s much easier to protect plants if you have the structure in place, to throw a cover over the top of them. A few slower-maturing vegetables that can be planted now as they enjoy cooler temperatures are lettuce, spinach, beets, and kale. Many of these vegetables can be direct sowed but should be planted a little deeper than recommended for spring planting when the soil is cooler and moister. You may also need to provide shade and extra moisture for the young seedlings. Another option to consider is sowing a cover crop that can add nutrients and organic matter back into your garden when the dead plant material is turned over into your garden the next spring. Some late summer cover crops to consider are ryegrass, rapeseed, or oats, as they grow quickly in cooler weather. Do your research and see what works best for your garden.Once you’ve dealt with your vegetable garden, venture out into the rest of your garden. If you have some particularly interesting geraniums or coleus, take cuttings from them to get them rooted for winter houseplants or next spring’s containers and planters. Keep an eye out for chrysanthemums to start showing up at local stores, nurseries, and farmers markets. If you can get them planted now, help them become established with a side dressing of fertilizer and potentially survive over winter.Most will need some protection – at least for the first year. Divide any spring-blooming perennials such as bleeding hearts, dicentra spectabilis; hellebores, helleborus; and lungwort, pulmonaira, if needed.If you have bare spots or are starting a new lawn, mid-August to mid-September is the best time to establish grass seed. As I write this, it’s raining, but it won’t last, so you need to be prepared to keep the soil moist or the seeds will dry and die. Also, now through the end of September is the time to plant evergreens.They too will need to be watered regularly.For more information or gardening questions, the University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension Sauk County office at 608-355-3250 or email [email protected]
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