September Garden Tips: Make Peace with the Chaos

Greetings Gardeners!

It’s September.  If you’re anything like me, amidst all this chaos you may have forgotten you even have a garden.  Garden?  What garden?  All I see is smoke and tall weeds – thanks. 

A couple of weeks ago, when we were evacuating, I realized all of our tomatoes had chosen that moment to become ripe.  But alas, we had to go and no tomatoes made it into our go bags.  When we (thankfully) returned, I donned an N95 mask and picked the plants hard.  But then we had a house filled with tomatoes and it was HOT and smoky – not the ideal processing scenario I had imagined back when we decided to go big on tomatoes this year.  So, I did what 2020 seems to be asking me to do.  I adapted.  Did you know you can freeze tomatoes whole?  That’s what we did.  Sometime, when it’s not the perfect storm of heat and smoke, I’ll take them out and make sauce. 

I invite you to see how you might simplify the processing of anything that’s coming out of the garden right now.  If you have freezer space, you’d be surprised at what you can freeze. Or, maybe give some of that bounty to a neighbor.  It can be relaxing and empowering to process garden goodies, but if it’s not, try asking around if there’s someone else who might like to process your food in exchange for sharing it together.

My husband is always quick to remind me when I get overwhelmed about the garden that it’s a space that’s meant to serve us, not cause us stress.  With everything that’s going on right now, we certainly don’t need any more stress in our lives!  How can you find joy in your garden right now?  Try taking a walk through at dusk with your harvesting basket without an agenda. Or going on a bug hunt with your kids (or getting them to pull out plants that are done).  Get out your phone and take some close up pictures of flowers.

Now that I’ve waxed philosophical, here are some practical tips for this month:

Fall gardens: Now is the time to get bigger sized starts in the ground for fall and winter harvest (Edy should be in touch soon with starts for Sierra Garden participants).  Kales, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuces, and cilantro can all be planted as starts.  You can also direct seed radishes, turnips, and spinach.  In Oct/Nov you’ll want to plant garlic so keep that in mind when thinking about space.  

How do I know when my plants are done?  This is the question!  Right now, we are definitely in the decline of most of the summer veggies, but they will slowly continue to produce for the next month or so until they get frosted.  You are probably starting to see yellowing and even some powdery mildew (a whitish gray dust on the leaves).  This is the plants telling you they are nearly spent.  It’s up to you how patient you want to be with this.  I’m lazy (and I have a lot of space) so I’ll leave things until the frost handles the decision for me.  However, if you are wanting to make space for new fall seedlings, now is the time to say goodbye to some of the summer producers.  A good place to start is summer squash and/or cukes.  Unless you did a late planting, they are likely getting to the end of their lifespan.  Same with green beans.  Pulling them now will free up space as well since they are so big.  If you are planting directly where another plant has been all season, make sure you add a nice dose of compost to your new planting.  

Irrigation: Remember to check your irrigation!  The mature plants that are on their way out definitely don’t need much water, but if you are planting new seeds and starts be sure they are well watered.  Check your irrigation filters, as they tend to get clogged more at the end of the season.