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Caring for your vegetable gardens

North Country Gardening

My vegetable garden is in full swing right now. Just this morning, I piled my harvest of carrots, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, cucumbers, fennel, and eggplant onto the counter. And, I still left plenty in the garden that will need to be harvested over the next few days and weeks as well. In addition to the never ending watering and harvesting, there is still quite a bit to do in the garden during the month of August.

One of the important tasks in the vegetable garden in August is to encourage the warm weather crops to ripen their remaining vegetables. The first step in this process is to stop fertilizing your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Fertilizer will only encourage the plants to put on new growth and new flowers instead of ripening the fruit on the vine.

In addition, you want to take the time to prune off all of the tomato’s lower leaves. This prevents the spread of fungal diseases from the soil up the plant. While you are pruning, now is also the time to consider pruning off any blossoms on your indeterminate plants. Removing the blossoms will encourage the fruits that are on the vine to ripen before the first frost of fall, which aren’t too far off.

Now is about the latest that you would want to plant your cool season crops for a fall harvest as well. Crops such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts would have needed to be planted earlier (around mid-July) for a fall harvest. But leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and arugula can be planted now for a fall harvest.

I always plant a larger crop of fall greens than a spring crop. The longer days of August and the summer heat gets them off to a good start. The cool, crisp fall weather gives the greens a sweeter, milder flavor and prevents the plants from bolting. What’s great about fall greens as well is that they can withstand light frosts and with some protection can even handle heavy frosts.

While many annuals and perennials are starting to look leggy and tired this time of the year, the vegetable gardens look great. With some additional planning, planting, and pruning, harvests can be increased in both quantity and quality!

Anne Lenox Barlow is a professional horticulturist who enjoys gardening with her family in Plattsburgh. She also chronicles her gardening experiences at her blog www.northcountrygarden.wordpress.com. She can be reached at a.lenox.barlow@gmail.com.

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