2017-07-26 / Families & Friends

Getting even

By IKE ADAMS

Want to get even with all those people who have been forcing you to take bags and baskets full of summer squash and cucumbers off their hands over the last couple of weeks and will continue to do so until mid August?

Points East

If so, then get up early one morning this week and plant some yourself so you can “pay them back” in early October. And I can practically guarantee that they will be more appreciative of your gift than you were of theirs because, most likely, you’ll be the only person in your neighborhood with a good supply of fresh veggies.

I realize that almost every year around the end of July or early August, I devote a column to touting fall gardening. I also realize that the column falls mostly on deaf ears because most of my close friends and relatives have already stored their tillers and gardening tools in their sheds or garages and they won’t be using them again until April or May of 2018.

But just last week a friend called to check on me and asked what I was doing and I told him I was getting ready to take a shower because I was wet with sweat after planting a couple rows of corn and beans.

Dead silence for about 10 seconds as the caller let my news sink in.

“You said ‘planting’ sweet corn but you meant picking, didn’t you,” he asked, while trying not to laugh at what he probably thought was a Parkinson’s slip-up.

“Nope. You heard right,” I told him. “Right now’s the time to be planting corn and beans if you want them to make anything before frost,” I told him, knowing full well that his head was shaking.

I have planted Bodacious sweet corn as late as August 14 and had marvelous results, but only because we didn’t get a frost that year until mid-October. I don’t know about other varieties but Bodacious grows much faster when it’s planted this late than it does in spring planting. Spring planting will not mature for at least 75 days. A fall crop will mature in 65 to 70 days after planting because it germinates more quickly and, for whatever reason, it grows faster in August than it does in June. I’m nearly sure that heat and humidity play a role.

The two rows of corn I was telling my friend about are already up and nearly ready to hoe after only six days. I’m guessing it’s about 10 days, growth-wise, ahead of the same variety’s time frame when I planted it in May. Ditto for the Big John and Babe Campbell beans I planted with it. I actually have more confidence in both right now than I did in my spring planting. I intend to plant another row on August 1 because I’ve been doing that for over 20 years and only one time has it failed to mature before frost got it.

Admittedly, the devil is in the details when it comes to fall gardening. If, for example, you decide to run out right now and plant a row of sweet corn make sure you soak the furrow with water as soon as you finish covering the seed. Soak bean, squash, cucumber and pea seeds overnight before you plant them. And make sure the ground is soaked well as soon as you finish planting. Try to always plant just before dark and not in the morning.

I will wait until mid August to plant a row or two of Oregon Sugar Pod II snow peas. I’ve been told all my life that fall peas won’t grow in Kentucky. The aforementioned variety may not always perform as well in autumn as it does in spring, but I’ve had enough success over the last 30 years to feel like it’s worth way more than the time and effort. And it doesn’t take much effort after you finish planting because fall gardens are virtually weed-free.

Fall vegetables are far better, in my opinion, than the ones most of us are harvesting right now because they are much more crispy/crunchy and their taste is more intense. Tomatoes may be an exception to that general rule because it’s arguably impossible to beat the taste of that first homegrown Molly Helton Sunburst or Giant Syrian picked in July.

In the meantime, if the good Lord’s willing and I don’t get rained out, I expect to be planting something every day up to and including Labor Day.

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