August can be a trial for the gardener, especially when high temperatures and lack of rain precedes it in July. Many of my gardener friends have watched their flowers and vegetables grow brown and brittle this year. It’s just not fun to sweat, get faint from the heat, and still not reap an adequate reward for our money and time.
Fortunately, if we are industrious and wise we can orchestrate a “last hurrah” in the garden for this fall. My roses have experienced both my neglect and the hot, dry weather. I’ve promised them renewed dedication in the form of more water, dead-heading, and fertilizer. I’m most excited at the prospect of planting late summer-early fall vegetables. In an attempt to eat more healthily, I’ve explored new ways to eat vegetables I disliked as a child. Dark, leafy greens I now blanch and stir-fry with olive oil and garlic and top with parmesan cheese. I’m going to purchase Savoy cabbage plants, broccoli, bright yellow and orange kale plants at a local garden center. I plan to plant these after August 15. I will also consider planting new container gardens on my deck since a couple of mine dried up in the relentless hot summer. These I’ll just plan this month and plant in the fall, probably in time for the September column. Several older gardener friends have told me that they plan to plant collard and turnips this year late in August in order to harvest both the greens and the turnips well into winter.
One gardener told me his summer garden was not enjoyable but harvesting vegetables in the cool fall air reminded him of spring. As an avid spring fan I hope to revel in this experience instead of my usual mild case of the blues I suffer in the fall. I’m also excited over a renewed passion I’ve developed this summer when I was avoiding the heat–oil painting. This interest grew as a direct result of my interest in gardening and identifying plants. I would often sketch new plants I’ve grown as a recording method in my garden journal. I think gardeners would make excellent painters as they are so attuned to the structure and colors of stems, leaves, flowers and fruit. Botanical prints have long been regular elements in the homes of gardeners, as they attempt to express themselves with a subject matter dear to their hearts and minds. A trip to the garden or farmers’ market is an excellent way of procuring subject matter for a still life of fruits and vegetables. For those of you that might be interested in trying your hand at this garden-related activity, art societies are great sources of learning and social interaction. We are fortunate to have active ones in both Gaston and Cleveland. I belong to one in Kings Mountain and plan to spend time at the art center at the Depot when the days are too dark and cold for gardening.
I urge you to enjoy and enrich your life by planting or painting a late summer-early fall garden. Gardening books are great sources for both endeavors. Revel in the harvest of late summer and get ready to prolong the joy of gardening into the fall.