On August oaths

P1000709Greenhouse-grown ratatouille fixings

I am not sure about all of you, but August’s garden kicked my butt.

This entire year in SW Michigan has been as strange, weather-wise, as it has been elsewhere in the US.  So sure, let’s pick an easy scapegoat:  the weather!  Nothing I can do about the weather but complain, right?  But no.  Sure it was hot, sure it rained a lot, sure there were weather-related events stringing together long before August that worked against this gardener’s interests.  But other things conspired to keep me busy in places other than the garden this month.

And I suppose that’s it:  we’re always going to have obligations other than weeding the garden, right?  Than just getting out there and doing the daily tasks necessary to keep things running smoothly?

As Year Five of a summer garden, Year Two of a year-round one, I am getting a handle on any season’s ebbs and flows.  And what I realize now is this:  August is a busy time.  Busy for weeds, busy for bugs, busy for the human inhabitants of this farm.  If I am ever to come to a place of happiness with the August garden, I need to realize the limits of my time and try to use the warmth and enthusiasm of August’s weather to my advantage.  So: what does this mean?

It means that next year, nearly the only things I will have growing in the outdoor garden in August will be dry beans, corn, and winter squash!  They require NONE of my precious time.  I’ll have the fall-started crops, but I’m planning on cutting way back on summer squash, beets, and canning (green) beans.

So!  Tomatoes, cucumbers, take heed:  you will all be either July or September crops, no exceptions!

(do you think the tomatoes will listen to me?)

13 responses to “On August oaths

  1. They are likely listening and taking careful notes. You are a wise woman to adjust your garden schedule so that you are in control…relatively speaking.
    Good for you.

  2. Nope. Tomatoes never listen and they always ripen in August. It is just in their nature. It is a nice thought though. I’d love to control the harvest of my crops, but they don’t listen to me either. I’d especially like to have a lot of the cucumbers come all at once and the rest of the year just get a couple a week. That way I could make some nice pickles one week and not have to do them in little tiny batches.

  3. I’m with you sister. August has always been problematic for me, philosophically speaking. That means I used to dread every chore that I considered a time suck from my overall quality-of-life ambitions. But oddly, despite this crazy season, August was largely enjoyed this year…much of my teeth gnashing mere hyperbole. (Mind you I’m in my ‘Life is a Gas’ mindset at the moment. We’ll review the situation come January!)

  4. There are good reasons that folks in high-gardening areas lock their cars in August. Nothing listens. I’m with you on the time-management thing, though. I’m going to get a handle on life or else! (Think it will work?)

  5. Tell me about it!! I have been canning and canning and canning some more. I am tired!!! The garden will be a little smaller next year.
    I was worried because of the weather this year, but I have sold, gave away, froze and canning more this year than EVER!!
    The tomatoes have NOT been what they should be. We have alot but considering what we planted, I should have tons!!
    We just haven’t had the warm nights here.
    My late cabbage is about ready-they think it is fall!! I have never picked them this early. I will be doing kraut next week-end. Pumpkins are turning. My granddaughter can’t wait till she can pick one!
    Carrots, and onions are great. Beets were wonderful!! I only sow them once. Gives me enough to eat, sell, give away and can.
    This year we have given lots to the local food bank. So many need so much….
    Looking forward to fall!

  6. Ha! I was actually fantasizing about taking a year off of gardening this past week (yes, I’m a little burned out) but what that entailed was planting the entire space with self-preserving veggies! 🙂 I was thinking dry beans, root vegetables, winter squash, and onions….

    What was it with the tomatoes this year? I think I’ll end up with a similar overall harvest as last year, but the bulk of the ripe fruit was in one 10-day period. Actually, that’s not a bad thing (if you *could* train your tomatoes to listen) but I just wasn’t prepared for it, expecting the usual few pounds at a time. Oh well!

  7. My mantra for the past few weeks has been ‘Next year things will be different’. I got about 40 quarts of tomatoes before the blight hit and wiped out everything in a matter of days. Of course, the 6+ inches of rain we got in the 2 days immediately prior to that didn’t help. But, at least I’m done canning tomatoes now and can have a life again after work. And I’m thankful that I got what I did.
    Oh, and if you do figure out how to make tomatoes listen, let me know- and then, you can work on making the weeds listen as well.

  8. I feel in an odd place – as the first year year of my garden (2d “sort of” since I moved last June and had limited options), this was such an unusual start, so next year seems almost like it will be Year One all over again. Sigh. All a learning experience I guess in these first years.

  9. Not a chance! But I do like the theory. Tomatoes are a large part of our diet so if I could relegate them to July only production life would be much simpler in August. (No way I’m aiming for September with them, September is worst than August here.) Still, I highly doubt they’ll oblige.

    And just as a little note, I do believe this is the first ever comment for me. I’m a long time reader who has always been very inspired by your blog — I love that you’re also in Michigan so your growing season matches mine to a certain extent (Mid-Michigan here), most gardening blogs I have run across are written by people further south.

  10. It’s nice to read this. I’ve got a longer growing season than you, but the issue’s the same: nice garden, nice garden, nice garden, explosion. Everything detonates in August, and not just the veggies: the weeds, the foliar diseases, insect activity. That’s when I kick myself for not using better mulching practices, not succession planting, not harvesting a few things earlier when I could have. But now I have to go pickle the damn banana peppers. And dig the potatoes. And pull up the last beets…

    Gardens keep us humble. Sort of.

  11. Pamela, yeah, it’s all about the illusion of control, isn’t it? Hah. The garden laughs at us.

    Ooh Daphne I found a solution to the ripen-at-once, enough-to-pickle cucumber thing a few years back. I planted a TON of cucumbers. Good dog there are *still* pickles in the pantry from that year of craziness! I ended up pulling many of the plants so I could get down to what you have now…the garden teaches us many things.

    Randi I am rather fond of your hyperbolic teeth-gnashing. But yes, it’s a bit of fun, being buried under this mountain of plant matter. Beats snow!

    Stef, what I find important is simply *remembering* the lessons learned in the gardening years before. I do just feel slightly guilty if the garden gets the shaft to the rest of life because, of course, I planted the garden. But yeah. Lock the car doors.

    Grandmabecker, that’s great you’re giving some of your bounty away to a food shelter. Really great. But yeah, even with reduced ambitions you’re still swimming in produce, isn’t that great? Just don’t book anything important in Aug/Sept and you should be just fine 😉

    Sara, yeah, even with my tomatoes being inside in the greenhouses I had the same thing happening. (The greenhouses moved the tomato peak back about 3 weeks from what outdoor tomatoes do: not bad). My timing was awful because a ton of other things coincided with the tomato peak! But now, yes, the outdoor gardens require none of my time, a nice feature. I just need to kill the tomatoes and I should be a lady of leisure 🙂

    Oh Judy you’ll be one of the first to know if I actually get the tomatoes to listen to me. I need to practice a lot more accurate “tomato family planning,” because I really don’t need all the plants that inevitably show up in the beds. Sorry about the blight, but it sounds like you should have enough regular tomato-based meals for a while.

    MC, the learning curve is a shallow one as I never have learned all there is to know, and I have been at it for quite a while! It’s a good thing, actually. But yes, indeed, the best gardens are always “next year’s gardens.”

    Hi Diana! Welcome, and how happy I am to learn about fellow Michiganders, especially gardeners! No, you’re right, September is just as crazy for many things gardening- and non-. Maybe I should aim for July. Hmm! Or maybe I should just take a tomato vacation next year. THAT is quite tempting. Anyway, I am really glad you piped up.

    Mac, yes, and what’s nuts is we should know better. And maybe we do but there’s something holding us back so we remain surprised, and…fully employed by the garden. See, people think I am crazy for gardening year-round but I do swear the resentment one feels for the garden in early September is NOT what one feels in November, or February, when you’re achy for the green things of August. Maybe that’s it: you just have to love it. Banana peppers and all.

  12. Ditto year. A very big garden. Too many out of garden projects. Garden to harvest. Harvest to process. Fall garden to plant (not done well). Garden to weed (ahahaha!!!!)

    Definitively need to budget time better for next year

    (as far as timing tomato crop – plant determinate tomatoes only and count back from desired harvest date to determine planting date…. yeah, yeah, I know like that a sure thing…)

  13. Yes, Sylvie, I do love the one determinate tomato that I do grow: trouble is, they all tend to get going at about the same time no matter what you do. Yes, it has been quite the year, hasn’t it? But it’s been a good year despite my complaints.

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