The last seeds of summer

The fairs are here which means that the end of summer is right around the corner. I am hoping that many of you who may have things to share for the open class exhibits at the fair are able to participate. I often find new flowers that I think I should add to my garden or some new vegetable that I should try.

This also means that it is time to start thinking about planting those last seeds of the summer as well. Green beans, peas, lettuce and so forth can be planted now so that you will have time before frost (yes, I said frost) to harvest them. This is also the time, about mid-August, that it is time to start splitting up some of the plants that you may have in the garden. Iris plants are a traditional example of perennials that are normally dug up and split at this time of the year. If you have extra plants in your garden that need to be split and have nowhere to go with them, we will gladly take them for the garden at the fairgrounds after the Lyon County Fair is over. We are particularly looking for grasses and lilies.

Gardening in the fall means that I also hope many of you are able to harvest produce from your gardens. There are some who are having a good time gardening this year and those of us who are struggling with the weather yet. Remember to keep checking out the farmers markets that we have in our areas for extra produce to help round out what you may be missing due to weather problems with your own garden.

Gardeners also have to remember that food safety start with harvesting in the garden. I am sure that many of you have heard stories about national recalls with some produce over the past couple of years. This is a problem that is not only one for larger producers but for gardeners and their backyard gardens as well. Ann Sawyer who is with the U of M Extension On-Farm Food Safety, talks about the five basic tips to keep food safety at the forefront of your vegetable and fruit garden this year.

The first is to remember to harvest using clean hands and only harvest when you are healthy too. You can bring a soapy water pail to the garden to keep hands clean and if you have a cold, it is best to wait until it passes before harvesting so you don’t pass things along to others. The second rule is to watch for animals. If you are on a farm like me, I am always attended to the garden by a troop of cats. We make sure that they don’t use the garden as a litter box. If there is an area that is close to where an animal has used the garden as a litter box, do not harvest those vegetables and remove the feces as soon as possible.

The third step is to make sure that the equipment that you are using is clean. You certainly don’t want to use that basket that the kitty was using for nap time as a basket to carry produce — at least until you can thoroughly scrub it clean. The fourth step is to make sure that the water that you are using to wash produce in the garden is clean too. Refrain from using water that is in that old cattle pond or water that has been sitting in a bucket in the garden from the last rain. The fifth step is don’t lay freshly picked produce back on the ground. You never know who was last sitting in the spot or what animal was doing what in that spot. It is important to lay freshly picked produce into clean containers. As soon as produce is picked, and you know for sure that it is clean, move it to the refrigerator to help keep any pathogens from growing on the food. This information can be found at the following link https://blog-yard-garden-news.extension.umn.edu/2019/07/five-tips-for-safe-harvest.html

Come visit the Master Gardener booth over the fair at the Lyon County Environmental table to learn more about becoming a Master Gardener. We can really use people from the community to step up for this wonderful volunteer program. We have Master Gardeners who are starting to retire from the program such as Marian Laleman of Minneota who has now retired after 20 years of serving the communities of Lyon County! Thank you, Marian, for your dedication to the Master Gardener program! For more information about gardening or the Master Gardener program, email me at s.dejaeghere@me.com

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