Ask the Permie Pro

By Dick Pierce 

Dear Permie Pro,
Q: We’ve planted, tended and nearly harvested our entire spring garden. We’re planning to finish harvesting, then mulch heavily and water only occasionally—to let our garden, and ourselves, relax this summer. What else can we do during this dormant time besides avoid the sun and drink margaritas?

Not a Fan of the Heat

A:  Dear Not,
It sounds like you’ve done everything right for your particular gardening style—you planted early, harvested in the cooler weather and treated your garden right with moisture under mulch for the summer.

Here’s a summer tip some aren’t aware of: if you still have tomato plants hanging around, instead of pulling them up, cut them back to about one third of their size. Mulch them well, water occasionally and let them go semi-dormant. In early September, you’ll be rewarded with a surprisingly vibrant second crop from your now-rested, rejuvenated plants!

Summer is a great time to tend and turn your compost pile, too; compost heats up and processes better in warmer weather. Hopefully, you have a lot of nitrogen-rich “greens” available to add to the pile—peels, leaves and trimmings from fresh fruits and veggies. You may also have dead leaves and other carbon-rich “browns” around from spring cleanup. If you lack one or both, shredded office paper or newspaper makes a great brown, and a bag of cottonseed meal or a bale of alfalfa hay will last you all summer as an excellent green. 

Consider setting up a gutter and rain barrel water-harvesting system during this time. Simply drill a hole through a plastic barrel with a three-sixteenth spade bit and tightly screw in a one half-inch hose bib (outdoor faucet). You can fill your watering can in the barrel, or buy a sprinkler hose to attach to the faucet—at such a low pressure, this works just like a soaker hose does on city water.

Put your beds to bed for the summer, take advantage of the bounty at our farmers markets and enjoy those margaritas in the shade. We’ll see you, and your garden, in late August/early September.