ENTERING THE FAIR AND OTHER AUGUST GARDENING TIPS
Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Entering flowers and vegetables in the fair, lawn care, and dividing bearded iris are some of the garden activities for this month.
If you have a vegetable garden, why not consider entering some of your produce in a local fair? We often find gardeners may have better crops than they think! Enter a wide variety of vegetables and chances are you'll win at least a few ribbons and maybe make enough money to pay for next year's seeds!
You'll first want to obtain the Fair Handbook, which contains the rules. Read the directions closely, and follow them. If they ask for 10 cherry tomatoes, don't display 9 or 11 tomatoes, or a mix of cherry and other types.
Keep your entries uniform. The judges are looking for signs that you can grow a crop of that particular vegetable consistently well. If you display three tomatoes, try to select ones that are as uniform and similar in size and shape as possible. Anyone can get lucky and grow one good tomato.
Keep it clean. There's nothing worse than a healthy vegetable not cleaned up properly. Follow the Fair Handbook instructions on cleaning and preparing for display individual vegetables such as cabbage, onion, sweet corn, and potatoes. This often makes the difference between a red and blue ribbon.
Display healthy produce. Judges are looking for any signs of disease or insect damage. Select the healthiest produce you have and check it carefully for any markings caused by pest damage. The judges will be doing the same.
Pick it at the right time. Following directions in the Fair Handbook, harvest your vegetables when they are at the proper size. Extra large zucchini, cucumbers, and beans aren't tasty and won't win big prizes. The same goes for too young peas and winter squash.
Whether you enter vegetables in a local fair or not, you still have time to sow fast-maturing vegetables for a fall crop. Lettuce and other greens, beets, and radishes are good choices. To lengthen the growing season, construct a mini hoop house. Place metal hoops over garden beds and cover with fabric row covers to extend the growing season well into fall.
If your lawn has bare spots, repair them now. Dig out any weeds and loosen the soil slightly. Add a thin layer of compost and sow good quality grass seed. Covering the seed with a thin layer of straw will discourage birds from eating it. Keep the soil surface moist for the first few weeks, then water weekly into autumn to help grass plants get established.
Later in the month as the days shorten and become cooler, grass will begin more vigorous fall growth. That is a good time to fertilize. Use about 10 pounds per 1000 square feet of a fertilizer containing 10 percent nitrogen (the first number on the fertilizer bag), or an equivalent amount of other fertilizer. Just make sure you don't overfertilize. In addition to more mowing, too much fertilizer can leach (pass through the soil) into groundwater supplies.
Dig and divide large and overgrown bearded iris. Use a spade deeply under the plant, to avoid cutting many roots. Or you may use a garden fork to lift the clump. Divide off healthy portions, usually outer leaves, that you want to keep. Make sure the swollen roots at the base (rhizomes) are not mushy-a sign of iris borers living inside-in which case you should discard the affected roots. Then make sure when replanting to keep the tops of these rhizomes level with the soil surface.
Other activities for this month include sending in your order for spring bulbs early in the month, if you intend to order by mail. Cut off canes of raspberries that bore fruit. Sow beets for fall salad greens. Wait to dig potatoes until tops die back. Even if you don't enter crops in a local fair, attend one to get ideas and see how your flowers and vegetables compare.
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