August - What's in Steve's Garden?


In My Garden (Zone 9-10)

Steve Asbell
Steve Asbell is an illustrator, the author of Plant by Numbers and blogger of The Rainforest Garden.

I didn’t get a whole lot done in the garden last month, but I did spend a lot of time enjoying it with my newborn son and making new plans for the cooler months. Because it is crazy hot out there. I did manage to continue harvesting ‘Burpee Pickling Hybrid’ cucumbers, ‘Sungold’ cherry tomatoes, bush beans and ‘Mizuna’ greens in spite of the heat though, and feel especially lucky to have a salad garden growing in the middle of summer. It takes constantly moist soil to pull it off, but it can be done! Next summer though, I’ll grow the easy stuff; okra and sweet potatoes. Okra is tall when it matures, so it’s especially useful for forming a quick privacy screen in summer. Sweet potatoes form such a thick groundcover that I’ve even used them to shade out grass and weeds! Best of all, they are both very attractive and resilient in our sweltering summer heat. On second thought, I think I’ll plant some okra and sweet potatoes this year too – even if I am a bit late.

I knew that parenthood would be a challenge, but had no idea that finding time to garden could be so hard when you’re constantly carrying a baby boy around! The two of us do manage to take a tour of the garden every morning though, so he helps me plan the garden by listening to my ideas while I show him the dragonflies, butterflies, lizards, cicadas, honeybees, treefrogs and anything else that catches his attention. Sometimes even the pattern of lichen on a tree trunk is enough to fascinate him for several minutes, but before long the sun and temperature shoot up and we’re sent indoors to air conditioning, spit-up and diaper changes. I can’t get much weeding done out there, but at least we’re able to water the plants together!

The bright side - besides the joy of being a dad, that is, is that all of this time cooped up indoors gives me plenty of time to plan out the garden. If you haven’t jotted down notes or sketches to plan your garden yet, you’re really missing out on a whole lot of fun and fulfillment. Planning the garden on paper is especially useful if your yard is nowhere near where you’d like it to be or if it’s hard to visualize the end result. It also keeps you from making costly mistakes like planting too many trees together or planting sun-loving plants where they’ll be shaded out as other plants mature. My own garden blueprint has been immensely helpful because it made me get realistic about the amount of space I really have and how I’ll be using the different areas of the garden. For example, the bananas and fig tree will eventually fill in the space where I had planned on growing vegetables, so I’ll need to reserve some sunny spots in the side and front yards for veggies in the years to come.

The great thing about gardens though, is that they take time. It takes a while for a beginning gardener to look at it that way, but eventually you realize that you’d rather wait an eternity than find that your garden has filled in and there’s no more room to plant. While I wait for my figs, bananas and native shrubs to fill in, I can grow vegetables and wildflowers in the sunny spaces between. It will be a while until my plantings of Simpson stopper and Schillings holly form a solid screen, so I can lay down mulch and plant flower gardens there to suppress all of the weeds. My point is that since many flowers and vegetables are short-lived, there’s no reason you can’t pop them into any sunny spot with moist soil – even if you don’t have room for a proper vegetable garden. Herbs can go just about anywhere too. I have thyme, oregano, lemongrass, rosemary, Mexican tarragon, basil and even mint (I harvest it for tea often enough to keep it under control) in my front yard flower bed and nobody would have any idea that they were anything other than part of a pretty landscape.





Personalize Your Site:

Enter your zip code to:

  • Find your growing zone.
  • See best products for your region.
  • Show accurate product shipping dates.
Clear my Zip Code

Gardening Tip of the Day

  • If there is poison ivy on your property, late summer is an ideal time to treat it with a herbicide. The full-grown leaves of mature plants provide lots of surface for the spray to adhere for the maximum effect. Spray poison ivy before the plants have berries; otherwise birds will carry, drop and spread the nuisance.
    Use a non-selective herbicide such as Roundup, but be aware it will kill any plant the spray may contact. Spray on a windless day and follow all the directions on the product label carefully. Allow 10 days for signs of success. Very woody poison ivy vines may need a second spraying.