Hands in the Dirt: MLT Gardening tips for August

The orange light from wildfire smoke in the atmosphere seems like it is becoming the new normal, but the garden is still producing. This week I harvested zucchini, chard and tomatoes, in addition to giant bouquets of herbs and flowers. The garden is abuzz with friendly pollinators.

To keep the garden producing, make sure to harvest regularly. Harvesting fruits and deadheading flowers can trigger the plant to produce more flowers since it hasn’t been able to reach the goal of an annual plant – to produce more seeds for the next round. This goes for leafy herbs, as well – pinching out basil blossoms can not only prevent the taste from changing, but can also encourage new growth from side shoots. If the flowers/fruits are “long gone” and dried on the plant, try your hand at saving seeds for next year!

Many of the heat lovers — like tomatoes, beans, eggplants, pepper, cucumbers and both summer and winter squashes — can also use a dose of fertilizer about now if you want them to keep producing until frost. Long-ripening plants like tomatoes will continue to flower until fall, but an early frost can end the season before they ripen. Pinching off flowers or “topping” plants by removing the primary growth them send a signal to the plant to focus on existing fruit.

Have you planned for the fall garden? Kale, chard, cauliflower and cabbage can all be planted now, as can the next round of root vegetables like beets, carrots, and radishes. Germination in the garden can be spotty without consistent moisture (which can be tough on these 80+ degree days), so you can boost your success by starting seeds in trays and transplanting. Local nurseries are also stocked with started plants for transplanting.

Have a question about gardening? Ask it on our Facebook page.

About the BOG

The Ballinger Organic Garden is a volunteer-led effort to develop a community garden at Ballinger Park. The BOG, in partnership with MLT Recreation & Parks and the MLT Senior Center and funded by a grant from the MLT Community Foundation, is currently in “Phase 0” while larger construction activities (creek restoration and trail installation) are completed. Phase 0 includes maintenance of the existing raised beds and a garden plot on the south side of the MLT Senior Center in Ballinger Park. Phase 1 will involve installation of a larger garden with plots available for community members to maintain.  Want to volunteer, or have an idea of what you want to see in the future garden? Please let us know.

To stay up to date on what is happening at the BOG, including what’s growing, work parties, and events, follow us on Facebook  or Instagram.

— By Robyn Rice

Robyn Rice grew up in Eastern Washington, pulling weeds and picking up rotten fruit as dreaded chores assigned by her Master Gardener father. Today, Robyn is a fisheries biologist for an environmental consulting firm, and has been gardening in the Seattle area since 2010. Her science background leads to endless research about the “correct” way to do things, but her enthusiasm and sense of adventure leads her to garden fearlessly because hey, what’s the worst that could happen?



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