It seems like in the late summer to early autumn everything needs to be done in the garden. The weather is hot, so watering is crucial. With the heat and water, weeds are growing like gang-busters. And all the while, there is produce to pick and process.
Here are 3 tricks that can help you more efficiently attend to your priorities. Whether it be finding weeds or finding produce, you need to tame some of the garden growth. It doesn’t have to be done with precision, nor does it need to take much time. (click any photo to enlarge)
1. Prune Back Growth
I could actually just say “cut” plants back. The plants that need this are most likely growing vigorously. The main idea is to trim them back into manageable spaces. These spaces allow better access to ripening produce, create open pathways, and keep plants from rotting on the grass.
While I do try to save some of the obviously ripening produce, some has to be sacrificed. But keep in mind that some would be sacrificed if you didn’t cut the plants back, because you probably wouldn’t be able to find it! Also, some of it might not ripen because the plant would be putting so much energy into starting new produce.
Sometimes trim so that there will still be foliage close to fruit at the outer edges of what foliage I leave. Some of this is for sun protection (tomatoes) and some is to make sure that part of the plant will still be able to produce enough energy to support itself.
e.g. tomatoes, squash
2. Remove Spent Plants
By this time of year, some plants are basically done. There is no need to wait until “fall clean-up” to remove them. Get them out of your way now. This will give more room to grow for plants that are still producing. It will also help make harvesting easier, as well as help you to monitor for harmful insects that seem to flourish in the heat of late summer.
Some plants might have one last picking on them, but it would be easier to harvest with the plants completely loose. They can be set up on a table and moved around a lot.
Since I have been interplanting flowers with my vegetables the last couple of years, some flowers fall in this category, too. The cosmos that I had with my cantaloupe looked quite pretty mid summer, but they were in the way when my melons were ready to be picked. I had to barely untangle a couple of melon vines, but once the cosmos were gone there were quite a few melons visible that I couldn’t see before.
e.g. bush beans, corn stalks, cosmos
3. Harvest to Maintain Production
Don’t feel guilty when the abundance is overwhelming. Sometimes you just need to pick it quickly and throw it away, compost it, or give to chickens. This will allow the plants to keep producing something that is useful to you.
If someone shows up at the right time, I will ask if they want it, but I am not going to spend time begging people to take my good produce. If I try to do that, I end up spending what time I have gained dealing with produce I don’t want. It is my garden and I am free to use the produce in ways that benefit my overall gardening goals the best.
e.g. everything that is growing
4. Enjoy the Bright Spots and Produce
This doesn’t exactly tame the garden, so much as it tames the soul. Don’t get hung up on what isn’t being done. Practice overlooking the weeds and things that aren’t getting done. Enjoy the beauty that is, gaze at the flowers, and eat some fresh produce that you have been waiting for all year because it is so delicious!
e.g. all producing plants, all blooming flowers