Of Bugs, Blooms & Vittles, Sow summer seeds soon for fall food

By Chandra L. Mattingly

Is it too late to plant a garden?

Not at all! While it might be harder to get cool-weather crops such as lettuce, spinach and beets to germinate, there are other vegetables that will pop right out of the ground and get to work.
And even the cool-temperature crops may germinate if covered with a shade cloth and kept moist, or started inside under lights for transplanting.

So, what should you plant first? Sweet corn. I usually am able to get a late crop of sweet corn, even full-season varieties such as Silver Queen, if I plant it by July 15. You can soak the seeds overnight and water them in well to get a quicker start.

Bush green beans planted now also have enough time to mature, as do cucumbers. Even summer squash are likely to produce some edibles, though it's probably too late for winter squash and watermelon.

Carrots will mature in what's left of the summer but can be tricky to get up, especially in clay soils. Try planting the seeds in broad rows, water, then cover the area with a wide board. Check the area daily, keeping it moist, and remove the board as soon as seeds germinate. Keep watering regularly until the little carrots are well established.

Or you can try covering your carrot seeds with a mixture of sand and soil to keep the ground from crusting. Again, keep the area watered.

The same treatment works with beets, but only if the soil is cool enough. Beet seeds won't germinate well at higher temperatures. Yet if you can get them up, they make a great late summer/fall crop.

Peas planted now may produce come fall, and you can choose standard or snap peas. I've always had better luck with the latter, especially as fall crops. Plan on some sort of support; even so-called non-staking varieties do better with light fence or string to keep the delicate vines off the ground.

Even potatoes can still be planted and will produce taters, though perhaps not large ones. The difficulty with late potatoes is the hungry insects; they never seem to go after the early potatoes as voraciously. There are organic products that work on potato beetles, with limitations.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterium which is effective with early larval stages. Beauveria bassiana is effective against all larval and adult stages, but doesn't work well in temperatures above 80 degrees F. Both are organisms which occur naturally.

Cabbage and broccoli seeds also can be planted directly in the garden for fall crops, but should be watched for pests and nibbling bunnies. In our garden, which essentially has been organic for decades, wasps and other predators carry off the cabbage worms for the first half of the summer to feed their young. Once those young are raised, we begin seeing cabbage worms on the brassica.

At that point, you can squash the caterpillars, pick them off and feed them to your chickens, or spray Bt or rotenone. If you use rotenone or other pesticides, be sure to dust or spray early in the morning or in the late evening, when honeybees and other pollinators are less active.

Speaking of honeybees, my home hives are thriving, as frequent rains are keeping the white yard clover blooming.

We took honey off in late June, a sweaty job I wrote about in advance in an earlier blog, and ended up with about 360 lb. of honey from four overwintered beehives (up to six hives at the moment with divisions.)

While I did the heavy, clothes-drenching work of removing honey supers from the hives, volunteers at Jim Orem's Spring Sling in Milan did most of work involved in extracting: decapping the combs, loading and running the extractor, unloading the extractor, and cleaning up cappings, etc.

So here's thanks to Jim Orem, Brianna Johnson, Allison and Matt Knue, Chris and Darrell Hosmer, and Donnie Flannery and his son Seth Flannery.

Others there when we were included Randy Salatin and daughters Mary and Emma Salatin, Ted Cooley, Virginia Tidman, Jim Rector and Bert Fischesser.

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