It took four hands to trellis the tomatoes this weekend. Out of the 18 or so tomatoes planted at my house, I had only caged or trellised a lucky 12. The remaining 6 have laid on the ground without protest all summer, sending useless shoots and suckers straight to the sun, begging for light, and promising no fruit. I walked past them for weeks promising them a trellis, tomorrow, next Wednesday, tonight if I get home early. Poor things. Well, tomorrow finally came in the form of last Sunday. My first real and complete day off since June, and I gathered them up, shouted for help and strung them up. I am one of those people who loves to garden, but has so little time to do it. Maybe I should say I love to garden, but also love to swim, hike and read with the little free time in my possession. I have a feeling many of you are like this too. True confessions. But gardening is the hobby headquarters of second chances. You get a do-over every year, and within every season sits cycles of opportunity. Many crops take just a few weeks to mature, and redemption can be had that easily. Here is how I have been approaching the mid-August gardening rush....as a time to prepare the fall garden of my dreams. We have harvested garlic, cabbages, lettuces, escaroles, beans, and now there are wide swaths of blanks slate for fall crops. Or redemption, depending on how you look at it.
I am putting scallions in the nooks and crannys. Bulb Fennel too. These grow upright and vertical and do not take up too much space.
I experimented with planting arugula, cilantro, and dill in between my tomatoes this year, and the shade the caged tomatoes give has prolonged the life of these cool loving crops. I have been able to cut and cut again where normally, in the heat of summer, these quick lived herbs and greens would have gone to seed in a hurry. This is definitely something I will try again. I have added some lettuces to the understory as well, and they are doing well, although a little leggy from the lack of light.
I am planting another generation of beets this week. Right where the cabbages were - just adding a bit of compost, working the soil to loosen it, and transplanting. We grow them as clusters in 4-packs for easy planting - just water well and separate each plant gently and give it 2 to 3 inches of space. You can fill up a 2 foot x 2 foot square with one 4-pack - it is about 16 to 20 beets. And they will have plenty of time to size up before the ground freezes while taking advantage of cold temperatures that make them sweeter.
I am also adding another generation of spinach where some earlier lettuces and escarole had lived. It is important to keep summer planted spinach well watered since it hates the heat, but once well established it will grow quite nicely. This is another crop that is best to transplant in the heat of summer....it likes to germinate in cooler soil with constantly even moisture. Our 4-packs have about 16 plants per pack, and I gently separate them (like the beets) and plant each one about 4" to 5" apart. One 4 pack will give you a thickly planted 6' row that you can pick from repeatedly mid-September to mid-November.
Arugula and Broccoli Raab are going into a spot between the kale and chard in one of my raised beds. Here they will have a little shade from the taller plants, but they will also get plenty of sun since the taller plants are just on the outside edges.
There is still time to put in broccoli, cabbage, boc choi, Napa cabbage (kimchi!), cauliflower, romanesco cauliflower, broccoli raab, lettuces, arugula, cilantro, dill, parsley, and other herbs that can stay in pots to come inside for the winter when the temperatures start to drop. In a really long time, right?