Written by: Dr. Lelia Kelly and Dr. David Nagel – Horticulture Specialists
Most everyone that has a vegetable garden is enjoying fresh tomatoes right now. Those of us who love fresh salsa, picante sauce and other Tex/Mex dishes that are flavored with cilantro are lamenting the fact that our garden cilantro has long since bolted and gone to seed.
Both temperature and day length influence flowering and seed setting with the longest vegetative period occurring when the plant is growing in the cooler temperatures and shorter days of spring and fall. It is always aggravating to have someone tell you what you should have done, but I am going to go ahead and say it—you should have harvesting the aromatic foliage of this very popular plant when it was growing vigorously this spring and frozen it in zip lock bags for use now in your Tex/Mex dishes. It doesn’t hold its flavor well when dried, so freezing is the best method.
All is not lost, as you can sow a fall crop of cilantro to have with your fall tomato crop. All you have to do is count back about 70 days from your typical first frost date, and sow cilantro seed on that date. For example, for north Mississippi our first frost is typically around Halloween, so I would sow my seed on August 23rd. You folks in south Mississippi might have to adjust this forward a week or so because your growing season is longer, seeding your cilantro around August 30th or Sept 6th.
Johnny’s Select Seeds indicate that cilantro will germinate in about 7-10 days and be ready for harvesting of leaves in 50-55 days. Only harvest about a third of the foliage at a time. Seed begin to form in 90-105 days from seeding, at which point the foliage becomes a little “off” tasting and the life cycle of the plant will be ending. For a fall crop the plant may succumb to freezing temperatures before the seed are formed. Sow seed about ½ inches deep in well-drained soil.
Decisions have to be made to remove plants from the garden. This time of year it is summer squash and Southern pea plants which still are producing a little but are taking up a lot of room. Start new plants for later fresh supply or if your freezer or pantry isn’t stocked. Old squash plants can serve as a source of disease spores and is a particular problem if you are also trying to grow pumpkins.
Now is the time to start broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and other cole crops for fall gardening. These plants should be moved to the garden in mid-September. A new broccoli variety to try is Castle Dome which has a shorter growing season than many varieties and makes a smooth head with small beads. Gardeners with very sandy soils may get a response to added boron fertilizer when growing cole crops. It only takes a teaspoon per hundred feet of row and too much can kill plants.
Folks who just want a few cucumbers to make Fire and Ice salad during the hot days of September should locate seed of Patio Snacker cucumber. This variety was designed to be grown in containers and the plant seldom grows more than two feet. Cucumbers are full sized.
August is when the lawn should look its best. Any area not growing well should be investigated. This time of year is when it is easy to see that the tree has grown enough to prevent sunlight from reaching the grass at least half of the day. Rains have slowed down enough that you can see if soil compaction is preventing root growth. Many thin, weak areas are treated with a fungicide when it is physical restrictions that are causing the grass to grow poorly.
If this is the month you choose to go on vacation you can conserve moisture in your smaller houseplants by covering them loosely with a plastic bag. Water will not evaporate as quickly from the leaves and soil. Be sure to move the plants away from areas where they will be in direct sun. Otherwise you may come home to cooked houseplants as the plastic traps heat inside.
Spaghetti squash is one of the winter squashes that can be stored for long periods. The flesh separates into long strands resembling spaghetti pasta after cooking. There are many recipes for using this vegetable as a substitute for pasta as it is lower in calories than its wheat based counterpart.
Growers in south Mississippi still have time for the long season varieties like vegetable spaghetti or Goldetti while gardeners close to Tennessee may want to plant Hasta la Pasta or Orangetti. The squash have very hard rinds when ready for harvest.
Cucumber and other cucurbit growers need to remember that bees have to work the flowers for pollen transfer to occur. Gardeners in the parts of Mississippi that have not been rained upon in the last few weeks may have to entice bees to the garden by providing a source of water near the vine crops. It can be as small as a glass or shallow pan.
Determinate tomato varieties may be reaching the end of their production cycle. Many varieties will stop flowering after the fifth or sixth cluster .
Plant new plants if you want to keep having tomatoes.
Mark your calendars for two field days for home gardeners. The North Mississippi AREC at Verona will have its fall garden tour Sept. 28 and will feature pumpkin varieties, tomato fertilizer trials and ornamental crops.
The Fall Flower and Garden Fest will be Oct. 18 and 19 at the Truck Crops Experiment Station near Crystal Springs. The crops for these field days are currently being grown.