Summer in a Southern Garden
Abbreviated piece by The Man in Overalls, Nathan Ballentine, 2018
If you're anything like me, you're actively looking for excuses to avoid going outside this time of year. Here's the good news: If your garden looks a little worse for wear, it's okay. Really. Mine does too. As much as I aim for- and largely achieve- a productive & beautifully manicured raised bed food garden year round, June, July and August are tough. The green beans have largely faltered; most tomatoes have succumbed to the late season blight (or simply stopped setting fruit once the nights got too warm); potatoes have grown, withered, and been dug up; cucumber vines - if not already dead- are yellowing fast; and the squash and zucchini have likely been overcome by the squash vine borers. On the upside, it's not your fault nor does it mean you're a lousy food gardener. It's just... that time of year.
1. Let's talk weeds.The #1 thing you always want to prevent with weeds is them "going to seed," which is gardener-speak for flowering, growing, drying, and scattering their seeds "all over creation." When that happens, one weed turns into 100 or 1000 or 10,000! So, when you see flowers on weeds, pull them up. If you don't have time for that, at least chop off the top so they don't flower and "set seed" this week. (But be warned, they'll be back trying next week). Also on the topic of weeds, the smaller you pull them, the easier it is. It takes less time to pull 10 baby weeds (or "cultivate," i.e., cut the roots with a weeding knife or butter knife just under the surface) than it does to pull 1 "big boy" weed.
2. Cleanup: just pull it (or chop it). All those leftover bean plants, lingering pest-ridden kale stalks, moldy cucumber vines... just pull them out. If you still have a cherry tomato or pepper or eggplant or, strangely, a squash vine that's still half healthy and producing, fine: prune off the dead branches, leave (or reposition - as needed) the portion remaining, but ev