Question: With summer winding down, I want to plant a few vegetables I can have during the cooler months. What will work best?
Answer: Now's the time to get some seeds and plants in the ground to give you some vegetables through the cooler months. But you'd better hurry, because the end of August is really the deadline.
There's a fairly wide range of veggies that you can seed now: arugula, lettuce, corn salad, mustard greens, spinach, carrots and turnips.
Garlic and shallots should be planted from bulbs, anytime through October.
If you are planting in a bed that was used for something else this season, be sure to spread some compost and/or fertilizer, as the first crop may have used up a lot. Also, don't replant the same crop in the same place two years in a row. Diseases and pest problems flourish in non-rotated beds.
Q: Much as I love gardening, my body has passed the young stage. Have you heard of anything to help me with the toll gardening takes on my body? I'm sure there are many others like me!
A: All gardeners sympathize with you, I'm sure, regardless of age. And though garden work is rigorous, remember it's great exercise and beats the stuffy gym any day.
Two important things to remember will help. The first is preparation. Wear appropriate clothing and use appropriately sized equipment. Look in any store that carries garden tools and you will find a range of sizes. No need to wield something that fits a larger person.
Appropriate clothing includes such things as knee pads, often known as the gardener's best friend. And to avoid unnecessary searching and bending, holster your favorite two tools: the ever-useful digger, and a sharp pair of essential pruning shears. Be sure to buy yourself a leather "holster" for your pruners - a good pair is expensive but will last for years with yearly maintenance and a leather holster.
Put in a standing order to all family members that you want good gardening gloves for all present opportunities. You want insulated gloves for winter, and lighter ones for the milder months. And don't forget the super hard-working ones for roses and other thorny plants. Working hands need the best protection available. In winter, you might try the trick of wearing a pair of disposable gloves under your normal pair. That keeps your hands warm and dry in inclement weather.
The second prevention of body problems for gardeners is a few stretches. Too few gardeners give their bodies the benefit of a few stretches before they begin their hours outdoors. Garden work affects hands and backs most especially. Avoid soreness and injury with just a few stretches.
Hands: Hold a hand in front of you, palm down. Lift each finger with the other hand, holding each lifted for 5 seconds. Repeat with the other hand.
Back: Sit on the ground, legs spread apart, then drop your torso over your legs. Let the weight of your body determine how far to stretch; this is a passive stretch. First drop over your left leg, then the center, then your right leg. Hold in each position for 15 seconds.
Gardening can be intensely gratifying, but gardeners don't need to experience it at the expense of their bodies. With a little attention before the work's begun, your body will help you to do what you love to do. Oh, and don't forget a warm bath or shower after. Not only does it feel good, but it's your reward for a job well done.
Q: We're having problems with wasps and yellow jackets. What can be done about them?
A: Wasps and yellow jackets prey on garden pests. Unless they pose a serious nuisance, you should probably leave them alone. Of course, there's always the problem about eating outside and being bedeviled by hungry wasps and yellow jackets. There are commercial products that work (well, sometimes) for such situations.
But generally, to control their numbers, clean up dropped fruit and cover trash cans with tight-fitting lids. Destroying nests hanging from trees or building can be dangerous, as wasps have barbless stingers, allowing them to sting repeatedly. Use caution, work only after dark, and wear protective clothing. Use spray of pyrethrum, rotenone, or a mix of the two.
Begin looking for the beginnings of nests early in the spring. Deal with them early and the fewer hazards there'll be for you.
ABOUT THIS COLUMN
Ask a Master Gardener will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you'd like answered in the column, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Master Gardener Kathleen Bander is a resident of Bellingham and life-long gardener. For more information on Whatcom County Master Gardeners, go to whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg