Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: A time to plant, a time to sow ...

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In the minds of most rational people, spring is the time for planting and summer is for garden maintenance and for harvesting vegetable crops. Not being of sound mind, I look at summer as also a time for planting.

Many early-planted annuals are already looking a bit shabby, especially after the hot, dry spell of June. Fortunately, there are still plenty of annuals to be had at local retail nurseries and garden centers. Take a stroll around your yard and seek out the sad, the shabby, the neglected and rip 'em out and consign them to the compost pile. Just don't appear to enjoy such brutality lest observers wonder whether you are of sound mind. Once new plants are set out, your garden will regain its earlier splendor and your sane character will remain intact.

Summer is also a time for planting vegetables. With many vegetables, such as peas, spinach, lettuce and radishes, having run their course, that leaves space available for planting other crops. These would include frost-sensitive vegetables, like summer squash, cucumbers and beans. To be sure they will have enough time to mature, find the average date of first fall frost for your area and then add 14 days to that figure. The additional days take into account the slower maturation of plants in summer. Once you have completed that calculation, check the seed packet for "days to harvest" to be sure there is enough time for these vegetables to mature. Do the same for cabbage, kale, broccoli and other frost-tolerant crops. We use the same calculation for these since their growth essentially stops once the weather gets cold, even though they will not succumb to early fall frosts.

Tasks keep coming

• Pick squash and cucumbers every two days. These crops mature very quickly. Blink and your zucchini go from pencil size to baseball bat overnight.

• Plant buckwheat where peas, garlic and other early crops were harvested. Buckwheat makes a good summer cover crop, if no further planting of vegetables is to take place, because it is very effective in suppressing weeds. Another option for a summer crop is sorghum-sudangrass. Though not as effective as buckwheat in suppressing weeds, sorghum-sudangrass will contribute much more organic matter to impoverished soils.

• Clean the blades of your pruning shears at the end of each day's use. Soak a small cloth or piece of paper towel with rubbing alcohol or witch hazel and wipe the blades to remove sap and gunk (technical term for dirt). Then spray the blades with WD-40. This tad of maintenance prevents blades from sticking and helps keep them sharp.

• Stop pinching chrysanthemums. Pinching (ouch!) the plants is a common practice to keep the plants bushy, but they will soon be forming their flower buds. So, stop pinching, please.

• Check roses, elderberry, raspberries, asparagus and other plants for Japanese beetles. The beetles are out and their numbers are increasingly exponentially every day.

Hand picking can often control small infestations, but application of an insecticide may be necessary to control the beetles on fruit and vegetable crops.

• Water the soil around vegetables and annuals daily during very hot weather. Plants in patio pots, hanging baskets and window baskets may have to be watered several times a day since the soil in containers tends to dry more quickly than garden soils.


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