Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: Take time to enjoy the beauty of your garden

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Most of us grow annual and perennial flowers for their ornamental qualities. On the other hand, we grow vegetables for their edible parts. However, as I stroll through the vegetable garden each morning, I've become increasingly aware of the ornamental features of many of the vegetables. For example, there are the brightly colored stems of rainbow chard, the blue-gray leaves of kale, the deep purple fruits of eggplant, and the shiny orange skin of pumpkins.

However, I am particularly fascinated by the beauty of the blossoms that many vegetables produce. There are the large, bold yellow blossoms of summer and winter squash, the delicate but often deeply colored flowers of different varieties of beans, the pale blue or lavender flowers of eggplant, the deep pink funnel-like blooms of sweet potatoes, and the slightly frayed and large white blossoms of bottle gourds. The best time to view the flowers is in the early morning since some blossoms fold or fade during the sunny and hot parts of the day.

The above are just a few examples of the color and splendor one can find in the vegetable garden, or is it the veggie flower garden. So, pause and enjoy these beauties when tending to your vegetables.

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Here are some gardening tasks to tend to this week:

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• Make plans now and gather materials needed if looking to renovate an existing lawn or establish a new lawn. Planting grass seed is best done any time from the last week of August through the first two weeks of September. This will allow the new grass to establish itself before the onset of winter. Materials needed for seeding include limestone if soil pH is less than 6.5, fertilizer, preferably a lawn-starter type or one with approximately equal parts nitrogen and phosphorous, and, of course, grass seed. Usually, a package of grass seed will indicate the light conditions for which it is best suited. Generally, a blend of Kentucky bluegrass varieties is recommended for sunny areas; a mix of 50 percent red, hard or chewings fescue and 50 percent Kentucky bluegrass for partial shade; and 100 percent of a fescue type for shaded areas.

• Pull up vegetable plants that are wilting badly despite adequate soil moisture. Usually, the wilting symptom indicates a soil-borne disease, stem borer, e.g. squash vine borer, or a disease transmitted by an insect, as is the case with bacterial wilt of cucumber. With soil-borne diseases, the best thing to do is to get rid of affected plants in order to protect other plants. In addition, make a note in your garden notebook to look for disease-resistant varieties next year. Also, plan to use crop rotation to keep that plant family out of the same garden area for at least three years.

• Wait about two weeks after onion tops, i.e. leaves, have flopped before harvesting. When the tops are brown and dry, the onions may be harvested. The leaves may be left intact if planning to hang bunches of the onions in a garden shed, garage or other shady and airy location for curing. Otherwise, cut off the tops, leaving an inch of stem on each bulb. These bulbs may then be placed in crates or baskets for curing over a period of three or four weeks. Finally, after curing, store onions in a dark and very cool location. With proper harvesting, curing, and storage, onions should keep well into next spring and early summer.

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• Snip off the mature seed heads of dill. The seeds are brown when mature. Put the severed seed heads in a paper bag and place the bag in a dry, warm spot for about a week. At that time remove the seeds from the bag. Since some of the seeds will remain attached to the seed head, it will be necessary to crush the head to release the seeds. To sort seeds from the debris, winnow them outdoors on a breezy day. Store the dried and winnowed seeds in a glass jar. I always leave a few dill plants with mature seed heads in the garden so that they may reseed themselves. Unfortunately, I usually leave too many plants in the garden, as witnessed by the vast number of seedlings appearing the following growing season. I now know why dill is often called "dill weed."

• Prune out summer bearing raspberry canes now that the harvest is completed. Remove the spent canes — the ones with brown or grayish stems — by cutting them back to ground level. Then, prune out any new canes that are skinny or weak. The remaining canes may be thinned now, leaving a spacing of 6 inches between the canes, or you can leave this task until late winter or early next spring. Finally, dig up any suckers that have popped up outside the defined row of raspberry plants. These suckers may be used to start another row of raspberries.

•  Apply repellents to hostas and other plants munched on by deer, rabbits and woodchucks. As summer rolls on and much natural vegetation mature and becomes hardened, these critters will turn their dining preference to the more succulent plants in our gardens. Though we are using both liquid and powdered type repellents, it seems, at least in my opinion, that the powders are more effective deterrents.


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