GARDENING - August gardening is all about looking good in the heat

GARDENING - August gardening is all about looking good in the heat

A garden that looks good in June is easy. Show me one that looks great in August and there's a good chance it's a vegetable garden. Like the one at 142 Abbott Run Valley Road, Cumberland. The rows are tidy and nearly weed-free with heavy blossomed ripening crops.

It's the Historic Metcalf-Franklin Farm, town-owned and farmed by volunteers. You may have heard about the organic farming that goes on there, growing food for the state's food bank and pantries in northern Rhode Island. They harvest on Mondays and Thursdays 5:30 p.m. to dusk. My husband, Gary, and I helped last week. You won't believe the amount of produce the small army of pickers hauled out of the rows in a few hours. I crawled around picking eggplant, while Gary plucked summer squash.

New this year is the Allotment Garden where individuals rent space and grow food for themselves. It's up behind the chicken coop, which also houses a big, sweet bunny. Four families, including mine, signed up to rent some of the 20-odd spaces. We Robisons rented two plots and are about to have more tomatoes than I'll ever be able to manage. We'll donate our extras to the farm stand where you can buy them on the honor system. In our allotment we planted cosmos and allysum amongst the Swiss chard, tomatoes, peppers and peas because they attract the bees and butterflies in droves. Since part of the rental package includes automatic irrigation (yes, I know, that's an amazing treat to not have to water), all the plants look fabulous. At my home garden the plants get watered mostly when it falls from the sky. Occasionally I remember that I have a rain barrel and I splash some about.

For the August display, I choose plants that thrive in hot temps and dry soil. Often these plants have leaves that are silvery blue or grayish green, fuzzy, or are thick skinned and puffy - all natural adaptations for flourishing in harsh conditions.

For information about renting space in the Allotment Garden at Franklin Farm next year, email me at

See you in September.

Karin Robison is the owner of Well Tended Gardens, of Cumberland, a firm which provides garden maintenance, coaching for do-it-yourselfers and garden design. You can learn more about her services at , or phone (401) 742-4266.

August-tolerant plants

* Russian sage (Perovskia)

* Lamb's ears (Stachys)

* Dianthus

* Lavender * Blue spruce (Picea pungens)

* Dianthus

* Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)

* Sedums of all kinds

* Also looking good in my August garden are balloon flower (Platycodon), Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus), later blooming daylilies (hemerocallis), and coral bells (Heuchera).

Garden Lingo Breakdown

I try not to speak (or write) in garden jargon but I'm told that I do. One reader of last month's column asked me what it meant to 'set seed'. This means that the plant is done making its flowers and has moved on to the next stage of its life cycle - creating seeds in order to perpetuate the species. Was it jargon-y to say 'perpetuate the species'? Change that to 'make more plants next year.'

Purple coneflower (Echinacea) and Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) stand up to the heat in front of the chicken coop at Franklin Farm.