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Avid gardeners need not give up in August


In August, most vegetable gardens in western Oregon are in full swing. Tomatoes are ripening, cucumbers and zucchini are overproducing, and sweet corn ears are filling out. Onions and garlic should be harvested when about half of the plants have tops that have fallen over. The Anglo-Saxons called August “weod monath” or “weed month” because, as gardeners know, it is the month when weeds and other plants grow most rapidly.Gardeners are harvesting their bounty this month, but that doesn't have to end with summer.

Find a moment between weeding and harvesting to plant some crops for fall and winter. With 60 to 75 more frost-free days, many crops can still be planted. Mustard greens, like red giant or mizuna, can be seeded at the beginning of August. These greens have a sharp mustardy bite that is pleasant mixed in salads or as a green on sandwiches. They can be harvested for leaves in the fall, but are also hardy enough to stand through the winter without protection.

Spinach can also still be seeded for fall. The plants are fast-growing and will continue to produce past our first frost. Spinach doesn’t appreciate constant rain, however, so without cover it won’t last the winter.

A fall/winter green that can be seeded throughout the month of August is corn salad or mâche. This is a European green with a lovely, nutty, floral flavor.

The plants grow in small rosettes that can be harvested whole. They make a fantastic salad on their own or paired with roasted beets. Corn salad scoffs at cold weather and rain.

It can be broadcast into garden beds now and harvested all winter.

Lettuce should also be seeded in August. Early August seedings will mature unprotected for fall salads. Seedings after the third week of the month should be put into beds that can be covered with hoops and plastic.

Other salad greens like escarole, frisée and radicchio are hardier than lettuce and make a good substitute lettuce for gardeners who do not want to put up winter protection.

Transplant winter greens in August such as collards, kale, and chard. These vitamin-packed plants produce leaves in the late fall and early winter.

After a slow-growth period during the darkest time of the year, December and January, the same plants will start regrowing in February. Some of the best harvests will be in March and April, before they start making flowers. The buds of collards and kale are also edible and are known as “Canadian broccoli” or raab.

Overwintering broccoli and cauliflower will be transplanted into our garden in August. These unique Northwestern crops stand outside through all but the coldest winter and make a crop in April and May. They are pest- and trouble-free and produce as the raab is finishing up.

Celery and Florence fennel (bulbing fennel) can also be transplanted in August. Both can be stringy if they are planted in the spring because they mature as the days are getting hotter. Planted now, they mature as temperatures cool down and stay tender.

Both vegetables will last in the garden through November or December, although they do succumb to harder frosts. Transplant them now and have fresh veggies from your garden for Thanksgiving.

— Polly Gottesman owns Pumpkin Ridge Gardens, a 20-acre organic farm near North Plains, with her husband, James Just.