Helpful tips from The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

THE ABUNDANT BENEFITS OF PLANTING A ROW OF KALE: You can plant a row of kale in the curly or Siberian variety and both are sweet and leafy and a treat any way you prepare it, whether raw or cooked. An ounce of kale costs less than two dollars and will provide all the kale an average family can eat. Kale can also be processed and frozen for year-round usage.

To make a dip or spread, all you have to do is boil the kale leaves until tender, drain and run through the blender in “puree” mode or “grind” mode if you like it more course. Add an 8-ounce pack of cream cheese and a tablespoon of ranch dressing (a little more if needed), mix with the mixer and serve with dipping chips or vegetables of your choice.

To plant a row or bed of kale, make a furrow about two inches deep, lightly sprinkle seed in the furrow, add peat moss on top of the seed, apply a layer of water from a sprinkling can or water wand. Cover with a light covering of soil and tamp the soil down with a hoe blade. The kale will sprout in about seven to ten days. Water during the remaining days of August for better results.

A HINT OF AUTUMN IN THE MIDDLE OF AUGUST: Autumn is still a month away but the dogwood leaves already have a tint of red in them and plenty of red berries. The maples have started to turn and some of their top leaves are already falling. The dews on the lawn are lingering longer in the day and there is a small “nip” in the evening air and days are getting shorter by a minute or more each evening. The hummingbirds are making fewer visits to the feeder and the crows are cawing more each day as if they know that a new season is on its way.

GARDENING IN AUTUMN IS MORE COMFORTABLE AND ALSO LESS WORK: Raising cool weather vegetables in the autumn garden plot is more fun with less heat and humidity and with a pleasant working environment. There are less insect pests to fight off and the cool weather crops don’t dry out plus many will provide a harvest through the winter with only a bit of protection from cold weather extremes. With no vacations in the schedule, the cool weather garden presents plenty of opportunity for a cold weather harvest. Unlike the summer sun that dries the soil, the autumn sun warms but doesn’t dry the soil as much which allows it to retain moisture and keep the soil cooler.

PROMOTING A GREEN GARDEN PLOT ALL WINTER LONG: Green is a beautiful color in spring and summer but we like it in the garden plot during autumn and winter. It is possible with some warmth from crushed leaves, piled in the spaces between rows of cool weather vegetables. Kale, broccoli, onion sets, turnips, mustard, spinach and mustard greens all benefit from the warm layers of leaves to protect against freezes and prolong the harvest. Don’t forget to pile a layer of leaves around collard heads also.

THE SUN IN LATE AUGUST BUILDS UP A BEAUTIFUL AND COLORFUL SUNSET: As the days of August draw to a close, evenings are getting a bit cooler and giving the ingredients for a colorful sunset. The season is slowly progressing toward autumn and sunsets are one of the welcome mats the setting sun rolls out for the new season.

CELEBRATING SAINT BARTHOLOMEW’S SPECIAL DAY: Saint Bartholomew’s day will be celebrated next Wednesday, August 24, 2016. Bartholomew was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. On his special day, legend says that cold dew begins to fall every night. Maybe this is the reason it lingers on the lawn so long each day in late August! We certainly do not think Bartholomew has anything to do with this cold dew, but the days of late August are the contributor. The late dews of August are heavy and many mornings the car’s wipers have to push it off the windshield. These dews are especially beneficial to the newly planted cool weather vegetables in the garden plot. Also keep an eye on the late August dew and don’t mow dew-laden grass because it makes a mess on the lawn, gets your feet wet and rusts your mower as well as causes grass clippings to stick to everything. Be patient and wait for the afternoon sun to dry the dew.

THE LATE, LATE TOMATO HARVEST HAS FIVE WEEKS TO GO: This means the first predicted frost is a little over six weeks away and these late Rutgers and Homesteads have that long to produce green tomatoes to be harvested and wrapped in newspaper sheets to ripen in the house for Thanksgiving until Christmas meals. They are now in bloom with small green tomatoes appearing. A few of them may even turn red before the frost deadline for an extra bonus treat. We have discovered that the Rutgers and Homestead varieties work better than Red Octobers and Long Keepers and will produce larger fruits.

SAVE THOSE GRASS CLIPPINGS FOR THE COMPOST PILE: Another reason for not mowing dew-laden grass is the simple reason that the clippings can be used to heat up the compost bin or pile. They are loaded with nitrogen which is a natural heating agent that is also organic, and the mower has already broken it down for you to just pour into the compost area

LATE SEASON FOUR O-CLOCKS ARE STILL BLOOMING: Even though not as full of blooms as they were in mid-July, they still put on a special display at sunset each evening. Actually they have been blooming since early June and their foliage has continued to grow. As August moves on, they are slowing down like much of summer crops.

DRY WEATHER AND LACK OF THUNDERSTORMS CAUSES A SHORTAGE OF FIREFLIES: It’s not global warming or insecticides but moisture from rain showers and thunderstorms that keep us from seeing an abundance of fireflies. Last month, after several nights of not seeing any fireflies, we checked outside after a thundershower and they were flickering everywhere. We also notice after that shower, their flashes were more frequent and there were more flying around. Now that Dog Days are over, we hope there will be more of them.

Ray Baird

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