Friday July 20, 2012

So much to do, so little time ...

n Go on beetle patrol. Colorado potato beetle, Mexican bean beetle, and cucumber beetle are convening in the vegetable garden and it is not for the purpose of improving international relations. All of these beetles can be hand-picked, but if their numbers are high, apply an organic spray, such as neem or pyrethrum.

n Harvest carrots as needed by thinning, that is, pulling a carrot that may be crowding another rather than pulling up a big bunch at one time. Carrots will keep better in the garden than in the fridge. As garden space becomes available, sow carrot seeds for fall harvest. Carrots exposed to cool fall weather will be sweeter than those harvested during the summer months.

n Harvest early cabbage as soon as the heads are firm, but don’t wait too long. The heads of early varieties tend to split in hot weather, especially after heavy showers, due to rapid uptake of water. To prevent splitting of mature heads, grab hold of the plant and give it a sharp twist to break some of the roots. This technique is useful for those planning to become secret agents.

n Sidedress vegetable crops whose leaves are looking a bit pale -- an indication of nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient in the production of chlorophyll in plant leaves and is the nutrient that vegetable crops utilize in greatest quantities. A combination of fish emulsion and liquid seaweed is a quick fix organic fertilizer to correct this nutrient deficiency.


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n Pick raspberries every other day, since they are ripening rapidly. No raspberries in your garden? Then pick wild black raspberries (better known to most of us as blackcaps). This native raspberry can be commonly found in thickets along roadways or in less traveled corners of our back yards.

n Deadhead flowering plants regularly. Deadheading or removing spent flowers is the best way to extend the blooming period of annual and perennial flowers. For example, Shasta daisies which are now in spectacular bloom, will continue to flower into early fall if the flowers are removed as soon as the petals begin to droop.

n Check house plants to see if they need to be repotted. Summer weather not only favors rapid growth of outdoors garden plants, but also our house plants. Most house plants are of tropical origin and our hot, humid summers are their kind of weather. You can almost hear them chuckling while we swelter.

n Use a scuffle hoe or other tool in the vegetable garden to lightly loosen soil that has formed a crust. Breaking up crusty soil allows for better penetration of rain or irrigation water. Deep cultivation is not advisable during this drought period and may damage roots of some crops.

n Collect soil samples from lawns and garden and take these to the Berkshire Mall Farmers Market on Saturday, where the Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners will be soil testing and answering gardening questions from 9-12. Directions for collecting soil samples for testing may be found on the WMassMaster Gar den ers. org web site. There is a suggested donation of $1 for soil testing.

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As summer heat persists, give some thought to personal protection when working outdoors, and I don’t mean upping the dosage of underarm deodorant. In fact, deodorants are not good to apply to your body since wasps and hornets are attracted to scented bodies. Other precautions to take when working outdoors include wearing light-colored clothing; it’s cooler and allows you to spot pests such as deer ticks that would like to make a meal of your blood. Do apply repellents containing DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus to deter ticks and mosquitoes. Also, wear sun block, drink water and take frequent breaks on these sunny, hot days. I take that last precaution most seriously. Excuse me while I nap. There’s always time for that.