This last month of summer is harvest time, whether or not you have green corn. As gardening has become more firmly entrenched in the lives of more people, we can feel a kinship with many generations …
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This last month of summer is harvest time, whether or not you have green corn. As gardening has become more firmly entrenched in the lives of more people, we can feel a kinship with many generations of growers, whether we have a large garden plot or a simple container with a few tomato plants.
Although we no longer need to grow all of our own food, many of us, with great satisfaction, are seizing more control of our food with our gardens.
Colorado gardening is ALWAYS a challenge because of our mercurial weather patterns, but we intrepid souls regularly accept nature’s challenges. All frustrations vanish when the first sweet snow pea dissolves on our tongues, the real flavor of beans reminds us of why we tended those plants, and when we experience the indescribable lushness of the initial bite into that first ripe tomato, we know why we garden.
Harvests are always uneven, whether they be on farms or home gardens. DO NOT WASTE UNUSED PRODUCE. All food banks can use fresh produce. Share with them, with elderly friends who can no longer garden or with neighbors who lack gardens. Many Denverites, especially children, have insufficient food in the summer when school isn’t in session. Gardeners are generous and creative. Use these qualities to find sources for your excess produce if you have any.
Q. For several years, I’ve tried growing kohlrabi, cabbage and cauliflower and have failed every year. The plants either don’t mature or they get eaten by something or both. Any ideas?
A. These veggies are all cole (mustard) family members that require well-drained nutrient-rich soil with plenty of regular moisture. Can you alter your planting environment for them such as planting them in a protected spot, or give them some shaded protection with floating row cover?
The insect problem is easier to remedy. Again, use floating row cover to prevent the cabbage moth from laying its eggs. If you do see signs of insect damage, sprinkle paprika or red pepper all over the plant.
Since kohlrabi is a fast-maturing plant, sow some seeds ASAP in a semi-shady area with good soil and enjoy the tender vegetables in the fall.
Q. I’ve seen an interesting shrub/tree that has sort of purple leaves and what appears to be large colored puffs of something that looks like cotton candy. Is this natural, or is it some kind of disease? If it’s natural, what is the tree and what are its growing requirements?
A. You’ve seen the smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’). It is indeed spectacular. The common name is appropriate for the colorful flower panicles that you so aptly described as like cotton candy. These puffs change from a pink/peach to beige to a pale cream by autumn. All offer spectacular contrast against the dark foliage of the leaves that turn burgundy in the fall. This undemanding show-stopper is a drought-tolerant (after it’s established) sun lover.
Q. Is there any reason why my tomatoes split? The fruit tastes fine, but I hate having to discard half of the tomato and also don’t have nice-looking slices for food.
A. This usually isn’t a problem here because it’s caused by the fruit absorbing so much water the skin can’t handle it. It generally occurs after a heavy rain.
Q. Something is taking bites out of my tomatoes. The plants are large, staked and in full sun, and I have no slugs this year.
A. It’s probably squirrels and/or mice. They seem particularly fond of heirloom tomatoes, and the sweet tomato juice probably tastes good to these rodents during our dry year. Try putting some plastic bags or the muslin produce bags you see at natural food stores around your fruit. Strips of metal or aluminum foil will deter birds, but nothing seems to deter squirrels. Coyotes, anyone? Good luck.
Q. Our tomatoes look as if they’ve been sunburned. This is our first year to grow things and we’re doing a lot “by the book” instead of from real knowledge. The plants are staked in containers in full sun and we’ve pruned side branches for sun exposure and air circulation.
A. Your tomatoes are indeed sunburned. Although they are heat-lovers, they are not desert dwellers and our intense high altitude sun is often too much for these fruits with tender skins. Give the plants a bit of protection to diffuse the sunlight. Next year don’t prune quite so much foliage from the plants. It protects the fruit.
Q. Our buffalo grass lawn is a few years old and rather sparse. My husband mows it to keep it neat, but I think letting it grow would fill it in. Who’s right?
A. Oh, I do hate entering marital disputes, but letting the buffalo grass grow to its full six-inch height when it will produce seeds will fill in your lawn. Mow it in the fall and let the clippings lie on the lawn. Since this grass produces runners, you might also sever some of the runners and replant them in sparse areas.
Now is the time to plant cool weather veggies (lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.) ASAP. They can be planted in sunny areas and protected with floating row cover. Germination will occur in September.
To a hot, busy August.
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