I know it's hot, you're tired, and you're ready to sit on the porch with a cold glass of mint lemonade. I know tomatoes are starting to line up on your windowsill and slicing them for sandwiches is about all the energy you have right now, and I know that, chances are, you can't really see yourself needing many more zucchinis than you're already getting.
However, there will come a day in the not too distant future when those first summer plants in your garden (which you may have even planted extra early because of our warm winter) will be done. Kaput. Finished. There is only so much you can ask from a plant, and if disease or those darn critters don't get them, sheer production exhaustion might. Plus, the final harvests of those lingering spring crops (carrots, potatoes, kale) may mean that some new real estate in your garden just opened up, so you suddenly have capacity for more plants. Can anyone say eggplant parmesan or sweet potato pie? That could be you in late summer, if you just get those plants in now. Here's how to keep your summer garden going well into fall by putting in a second planting of your favorite summer crops. In metro Atlanta, you may even have fresh garden tomatoes on your Thanksgiving salad, if you play your cards (or rather, plant your seeds) right.
1. Clear space. This is not hard if you've already prepared your summer garden. Simply clear out plant debris and compost any that's not diseased. You may want to till lightly where you intend to plant just to loosen the soil, but be careful not to disturb the soil too much because there is much beneficial life right below the surface.
2. Amend. Add some fresh compost and organic fertilizer where you intend to plant. Summer plants with big fruits tend to be "heavy feeders" so you want to be sure to replenish what has been used up in the soil by previous plants and to provide enough nutrients for the ones you are about to plant. If you are planting tomatoes, add bone meal to each planting hole to help prevent blossom end rot.
3. Plant. Check the Farmer D blog this week for our handy monthly planting chart for what you can plant now by seed or transplant. Think particularly about what you like and want more of, or what you didn't get a chance to plant yet. If you haven't been able to pick enough pole beans for the whole family to enjoy at one meal, by all means plant more beans! You may also want to take a walk around your garden and see what needs to be thinned. For instance, those basil seedlings that are all lumped together will all become big bushy plants of their own if you separate them, and the watermelon seeds that were planted by your child in one cluttered mound could, like Virginia Woolf, all use a little room of their own. Oh, and in case you don't already know this, winter squash gets planted now in order to be ready in the fall for fall and winter eating. That means it's time for pumpkin and butternut squash seeds to go in. If you already planted these during that warm spell in March or April, the first ones are probably ready to harvest right around now so you can simply replant some seeds from the very ones you grew. Your gamble with Mother Nature paid off this time.
4. Water. Be sure to water well when you first plant, and then each day for at least a week so seeds can germinate and transplants can acclimate, and about an inch a week after that. If you're really intent on kicking back in the hammock or perhaps even retreating to the air conditioner until, let's say, October, then now is definitely the time to consider that drip irrigation you've been thinking about adding each year. It's really not that big a deal, and it'll save water, keep your plants happy, and give you a little more time with the ball game or a book. If that's a cook book you're reading, skip to the salsa and pasta sauce recipes because, after a second summer planting, you're going to need them.
Need more advice? Be sure to check out www.farmerd.com, and come into the Farmer D Organics store on Briarcliff Road for your summer transplants, seeds, and other supplies. Why not post your favorite salsa or sauce recipes on our Facebook page? It's already looking like a banner year for summer gardens.