Gardening Basics: August presents a lot of opportunities to save seeds from annuals. For both food and ornamental plants, leave the seeds on the plant until they are ripe, signaled by a darkening or browning process in most plants. When these start to burst open, they are usually ripe. Collect, then dry seeds further in the sun on a sheet of white paper. Store them in a sealed container in a cool place. Seeds from hybrids will not reproduce themselves reliably, so open-pollinated plants are the best bets for beginners.
August presents a lot of opportunities to save seeds from annuals. For both food and ornamental plants, leave the seeds on the plant until they are ripe, signaled by a darkening or browning process in most plants. When these start to burst open, they are usually ripe. Collect, then dry seeds further in the sun on a sheet of white paper. Store them in a sealed container in a cool place. Seeds from hybrids will not reproduce themselves reliably, so open-pollinated plants are the best bets for beginners.
To keep vegetable plants producing, harvest as soon as food ripens. Tired of too much of the same thing? Store, preserve, share or take the extra to local food banks. Check with the Oregon State University Master Food Preservers for canning-recipe questions at 541-776-7371. To maximize food production, use fertilizers based on the type of plant. Root vegetables, such as beets, and flowering veggies, such as peppers and tomatoes, do better with a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Green, leafy plants appreciate more nitrogen. One tip is to use a flowering-plant fertilizer regularly and add extra nitrogen every two weeks with fish emulsion. Fall vegetables to plant from seed this month include leafy greens, beets, peas, radishes and turnips. Use starts for broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, leeks and cauliflower. Shade cloth can protect young plants and leafy greens from August heat.
Pick the flowers on your annuals for display inside. The loss will encourage your plants to produce more flowers. Deadheading does the same thing, without the bouquets. Fertilize roses before their next bloom cycle. Most annuals will benefit from a side dressing of low-nitrogen fertilizer. Scratch into the soil with a cultivator and water it in. Mulch the surface of pots to minimize water loss. Take note of perennial container plants that need repotting and look out for sales at garden centers. To repot, wait until plants go dormant (November through February). Then remove plant and root ball and trim roots with sharp pruners, scissors or knife. Add new potting soil and return to pot, making sure you don't have air pockets. To boost moisture retention, add vermiculite, perlite or a synthetic water-absorbent product to the mix. Evergreen plants should receive a top pruning that matches root loss. Don't remove more than one-third of the plants roots or tops. To prevent powdery mildew, try spraying plants with water weekly. To control or help eliminate the fungus, use a weekly spray of one tablespoon of baking soda in a gallon of water with one teaspoon of soap and one teaspoon of vegetable oil. Water plants well two days before spraying. Don't spray in hot sunshine and test on an inconspicuous part of the plant.
If temperatures are normal for our region, lawns need about 2 inches of water per week. Adjust according to the temperature, especially if there are extended periods of 100-degree weather. Cut grass 21/2 inches high and avoid fertilizing in hot weather. It can damage lawns. Even when you are watering the lawn, trees and shrubs need a deep watering at least once a month. Put a soaker hose at the drip line for half a day or overnight. Replacing grass with mulch is healthier for trees.
North Mountain Park, 620 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland, has many programs for home gardeners and nature lovers. For information about these and other programs check the website http://ashlandparks.recware.com or call the Nature Center at 541-488-6606.
Learn about the gardens at North Mountain Park with a tour of their herb, butterfly, amphibian-reptile, native-plant and heirloom gardens. The free tours run 9:30-10:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 11, and Saturday, Aug. 28, for ages 10 and up. Learn to make your own blackberry wine 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, at the Nature Center. You'll need to bring 3 pounds of blackberries and a 2-gallon bucket with a lid. Cheers!
Siskiyou Field Institute offers two August programs that combine art and nature:
Plein-air landscape painting, Aug. 20-22, a weekend workshop on painting in natural light for all levels of ability. "Can Poetry Save the Earth?" Saturday, Aug. 28, allows participants to read poetry while seeking a similar ecosystem in their own minds. Preregistration necessary.
SFI classes are held in the Deer Creek Center, 1241 Illinois River Road, Selma. Call 541-597-8530 or go to www.thesfi.org.
A free class on composting at home is being offered from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Aug. 21, at Ashland Recycling Center on Water Street.