During August, we will lose 2.5 hours of daylight. That’s good news to photographers who’ve waited for the return of the northern lights viewing season. To gardeners though, August can be depressing, signaling the beginning of the end of summer.
Either way, summer seems to be moving on a fast track this year: Plants (domestic and wild) matured more quickly than normal. Just look at the fireweed, nearly topped out. Still, I like to think that over the next couple months the best is yet to come.
How’s that? Late summer and early fall brings sweet light and colors to our already lovely landscapes. In the garden, harvest is in full swing. More on that later. For now, though, if you want to enjoy a longer bloom and harvest season, you need to spend a couple hours each week tending to a few things.
That said, don’t be in a hurry to tidy up kale and mustard greens that have gone to flower. Those yellow blossoms are just what bumblebees need right now to “stock up” for the winter.
De-slug as often as possible. You can bet that many generations of slugs are on the prowl any time the weather turns damp.
In the greenhouse and hoophouse: Be brutal and trim away excess tomato leaves. This helps provide much needed air circulation to prevent explosions of aphids and gray mold. Speaking of hoophouses, did you know that from 2010 to 2014, 460 high tunnels (hoophouses) were built in Alaska? This was done under the Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a federally funded nationwide program authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill. Most of those hoophouses reside in the Kodiak/Kenai district.
Make zucchini crepes: Ani Thomas swears by this recipe, which comes from her grandmother:
1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Throw in blender, melt butter in medium-hot pan. Pour in just enough batter to cover bottom of pan. Turn heat to medium and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Serve with raspberry jam and Camembert cheese, banana and Nuttela (hazelnut cocoa spread), lemon and sugar, or try savory fillings!
Finish harvesting rhubarb. While you’re at it, but be sure to remove the soft/squishy old stalks that slugs love.
Keep up with weeding to prevent a flurry of seeds setting up more weeds next season.
Prep or build compost bins. Fall is the best time for making compost, what with grass clippings, leaves and storm-tossed kelp all available at once, it’s the best combination.
Last call for fertilizing your lawn. Spread sifted compost or organic/natural fertilizer over your lawn for a soil-building boost that will enhance your turf grass root zone and ensure a better winter survival rate. Chemical fertilizers only trigger rapid, green growth that’s waterlogged and weak. To create a healthy lawn you need healthy soil, and chemicals kill microbes, earthworms and other soil builders .
Make pesto from spinach, parsley, basil or cilantro.
Divide perennials and move or plant shrubs and trees. The ground is warm, top to bottom, and there is ample time for the roots to become established in their new home before winter arrives.
For potted plants like fuchsia, dahlias and other late bloomers, keep them evenly moist. Rotate pots and hanging baskets so the other side can enjoy the sun. For begonias, hold back on feeding.
Bleeding hearts: Trim back plants when the leaves turn golden yellow.
Make jam. Here’s my favorite recipe:
Any Berry Jam
4 cups raspberries, gooseberries, salmonberries, etc.
3 cups sugar (3-1/2 cups for tart berries)
In a medium (non-aluminum) saucepan, add berries and crush a few on the bottom layer to produce moisture. Simmer the fruit until warm, add sugar, and stir until it is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 221 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees higher than the temperature of boiling water). Be patient. It can take up to 30 minutes.
Once the mixture reaches the right temperature, spoon it into hot, sterilized jars, allowing for 1/8 inch headroom for half-pints or 1/4 inch headroom for pints. Wipe the rims with a damp towel and screw on the lids. Invert the jars for 30 to 60 seconds then upright them again. As the jam cools, the lids will pull down and snap.
Here’s to an extended summer season!
To connect with local gardeners and growers, visit the Kodiak Growers Facebook page and local farmers’ markets. To contact Marion, send her an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or head over to Facebook, Instagram at marion_owen_photography.com or her blog at marionowen.wordpress.com. Or pick up the phone, 907-486-5079.