August in Sweet Caroline
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The hot times of August in sweet Caroline may have you doing a little “song sung blue”, but this is a great time for redemption of your gardening sins of spring and summer. Start in the vegetable garden with a fresh crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and beans. Approach things more scientifically by sampling soil and water to identify problems like high pH, low pH and marginal nutrients including phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. (yes, we have all of those problems locally) Even if you fix all of these problems, you still won’t be able to grow a sweet “cherry, cherry” and your hollies won’t be holy. But, you’ll be able to legitimately claim green thumb status among your friends and neighbors.
The intense heat of our summers and the long growing season make autumn a great time to grow vegetables. Transplants of tomatoes and peppers moved into the garden in late July and early August still have plenty of time to produce before Old Man Winter rears his ugly head. Seeds of squash, cucumbers and beans started at the same time will germinate quickly in the warm soils and often provide crops until frost.
Wait until mid to late August to move transplants of cool weather crops such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower to the garden. You can also seed leafy greens like turnips, kale and mustard along with carrots and beets in September for harvest into the fall and winter. All this work will have even a skeptical Kentucky woman singing your praises.
You may feel like a solitary man for putting all of the effort into getting soil and water samples , but the success you have after solving these basic problems will have all of your gardening friends and neighbors thinking you walk on water.
Soil samples are still provided at no charge this time of year, so all it will cost you is the time. Instructions along with the necessary boxes and information sheets are available at the Cooperative Extension office located at the New Hanover County Arboretum in Wilmington. This is a great time to submit samples to the lab in Raleigh because they aren’t overwhelmed with samples from farmers and commercial growers right now. Wait until the spring fever hits in February and March and you may have to wait six weeks for your results. The turn-around time now is about two weeks.
If you use a private well to water your lawn and garden, don’t forget to submit a sample of that water for testing. These samples are strictly analyzed for growing plants – not for drinking water for humans. For a measly five-spot you can find out if your irrigation water is part of your horticultural challenge. To take a sample, turn the system on and let it run for several minutes. Grab an empty water or soda pop bottle (16 to 20 ounces). Rip the label off, rinse it out and then fill with your well water. Use a permanent marker to label the bottle and you’re done. Drop your samples off at the Arboretum and we’ll get them to Raleigh for you and even help you figure out what the numbers mean when you get the report.
All of you workaholics who think that these tasks are too simple and that you’re done too soon, relax. Drink a little red, red wine. Remember, the grass won’t pay no mind and there were no serious Neil Diamond fans harmed in this article.