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Jessica’s Garden: Prolonging the Harvest

It’s hard to believe that we are already well into the month of August. Before we know it, leaves will be changing colors.  While some fruits and vegetables in the Summer garden (like squash and potatoes) may be dwindling, others like peppers and tomatoes are likely still thriving. This all signals toward preparing a Fall garden. As veggies expire from a Summer garden, their spots can be filled with many cooler weather crops to extend your harvest season.


This week I worked on starting my first few Fall seeds.  Many root vegetables including carrots, beets, turnips, and rutabaga tolerate a late Summer planting for a Fall harvest. It is the same case with vegetables in the cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts family. These crops do not tolerate the Summer heat, but will thrive in a Fall garden. Depending on the variety, even some beans are perfect for a Fall sowing. While I still have many seeds to sow before my August 15th goal, I got a healthy start on getting ahead this week.  In my raised garden, I planted carrots, golden and chiogga beets, radishes, rutabaga and kohlrabi. I started seeds for bok choy, endive, lettuce and cabbage in small pots intended for transplanting. By the end of the week, I hope to have found time to get the rest started. The transplants are destined for the spots where the deteriorating squash and potatoes currently reside.

There are also ways to keep your current garden performing. Keeping up with harvesting fruits and vegetables can help prolong the length of time a plant will produce. Also, detecting diseases in the early stages and controlling them as soon as possible will help.  A great organic resource I discovered this season is neem oil.  It does not have the environmental impacts that other applications have. It treats many common garden ailments. Two tablespoons of neem oil mixed with 1 gallon of water and a splash of unscented Castile soap, applied weekly with a clean spray tank, will help control diseases such as yellow spot and powdery mildew, as well as pests such as aphids.

[Editor’s Note: always apply pesticides, even organic ones, according to the instructions on the label attached to the pesticide container.]



As herbs show signs of, or are in the early stages of, flowering, frequent harvesting will keep them producing and maintain their flavors. Certain herbs, such as basil, will lose their pleasant flavor once left to flower. A few times per season, I like to cut my basil plants down to about 8″ tall, pruning just above a leaf node, to promote new growth and remove older growth.  Last month, I made a large batch of Basil Pesto for the freezer. This week, the basil was steeped in hot water to extract the flavors and oils for Basil Jelly. Basil Jelly is an excellent way to preserve an abundant harvest. It’s a bit minty and sweet; delicious paired with cream cheese and crackers for an easy appetizer or mixed with a jar of chili sauce in a crockpot with cocktail meatballs.  I picked up this recipe many years ago and it hasn’t let me down yet.


Basil Jelly

4 Cups Water
2 Cups Firmly Packed Basil; Chopped Well
1 1/2 Packages Powdered Fruit Pectin
5 Cups White Sugar

Prepare hot water bath for sterilizing jars, lids, bands and utensils.

Bring water and basil to boil.  Immediately remove from heat and let steep 10 minutes.  Strain out basil and discard solids.  Return 3 2/3 Cups of liquid to large saucepan. Stir in pectin. Return to boil.  Add sugar.

Return to boil again and boil mixture hard for 1 minute; stirring constantly.  Skim any foam.

Ladle into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Screw on lids and bands. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes for (1/2) pints. Yield 6 jars.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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