August is a busy time in the garden with lots of planting for fall. This week we continue to add seeds to our garden, preparing for a fresh batch of plants for fall. We are running out of time to plant warm season veggies, and the last of them are being planted this week. These three plants have shorter growing times than the plants we started in July, so they will mature before the first freeze. All three plants are warm season veggies, but one of them has an advantage to bearing fruit in cooler weather.
We will also add our first cool season veggie. These plants struggle in the heat, but we will time them to mature when our weather has cooled. We will continue to add cool season veggies for the next six weeks!
Green beans can be planted throughout the month of August. Seeds planted today will start producing at the beginning of October. If you wait to plant toward the end of August, you will not get beans until late October.
Plant the seeds one inch deep and four inches apart. If you are doing several rows of beans, the rows should be 2-3 feet apart. Do not let the soil dry out until the seeds germinate, and after that water frequently during hot weather. Beans have a problem pollinating their flowers in temperatures over 90 degrees. Beans planted today will flower in September… hopefully we are done with the hot weather by then.
If planted during the first half of August, you can get another round of cucumbers in the fall. Cukes take 60-80 days to mature, so seeds planted now will mature in October and keep producing until the first freeze.
Cucumbers are a vine that can be grown up a trellis or allowed to crawl along the ground. Both methods are acceptable, it just depends on what fits best in your garden space. If you are limited in your garden space, I highly recommend building a trellis for them and letting them grow up instead of across the ground. There are many different varieties of cucumbers to choose from, but they are generally divided into two groups, pickling, or slicing cucumbers. Both are delicious, but pickling cukes are smaller and have rougher skin… and are better suited for pickling.
Cucumbers are easy targets for pickleworms and vine borers, and are susceptible to mildew. The vines should be inspected frequently for pests until cooler weather arrives in the fall.
August is also a good time to plant winter squash. Common winter squash are butternut and acorn squash. Like most squash’s, planting winter squash in the spring usually gives better results. Trying to plant these at the height of pest season can be difficult with vine borers and powdery mildew running rampant through gardens right now. If you can care for the vines, and inspect for pests frequently, you can coax the plant through the rest of summer, then it will be easier to care for in cooler weather.
There is a BIG benefit to growing winter squash in the fall. When grown in the spring and summer, the squash should be eaten right away because they deteriorate quickly. Winter squash harvested in cooler, fall weather will develop a harder skin that will protect the interior of the squash.
Fall squash harvested when fully mature during cool weather can be stored in a cool, dry location and can last 8 weeks or more.
Our first cool season veggie in the garden is cauliflower! Cauliflower is difficult to grow in the Carolinas. It is very temperature sensitive, and prefers average temperatures in the 60s. If we plant cauliflower in August, those preferred average temperatures will occur right when the plant is maturing in October. Cauliflower also does not like big temperature swings, which we tend to get in the spring. As long as our summertime heat does not last into October, fall is as good a time as any to grow cauliflower in the Carolinas.
Give cauliflower plants plenty of room to grow. Plants should be spaces 18 inches apart in rows three feet apart. Take care to keep the soil watered, even after the seeds have sprouted in 10-21 days. Cauliflower is delicious, and lots of insects target the plant. Watch closely and treat as needed, especially once the heads start to grow. Cauliflower planted in August will be ready for harvest in October.