Archive for June, 2010

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July Garden Tasks

June 30, 2010

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Please note:  What I write in this space are lessons learned through trial and error, research, and from other gardeners and professionals. I garden in zone 9, but share garden experiences that I believe are relevant to most zones within a reasonable time frame and planting conditions.

July

MaintenanceCheck your drip lines, overhead sprinklers, and timers to ensure proper operation during hot spells. Adjust water release to meet your plants’ thirsty needs.

 For good air circulation and to prevent surface stains under potted plants, keep pots elevated. Two 2×2’s trimmed to fit the length across the bottom of the pot is all you need.

 Replenish birdbath water daily to keep your birds happy and eliminate mosquito breeding.

Shade your greenhouse if needed, and keep well ventilated.

Check trellises, arbors, stacks, and ties. Secure as needed.

Around the garden:  Water deep so plant, tree, and lawn roots will grow deeper where moisture is less likely to evaporate quickly. (Shallow watering evaporates rapidly from the top inch of soil.) Deep roots anchor the plant better. If watering with overhead sprinklers, water in the morning so the wet foliage doesn’t burn. Morning watering also helps to eliminate chances of fungus and disease.

If you live where the weather has turned hot and dry, don’t fertilize your plants. Doing so will cause them to produce new growth and in turn create additional stress during drought periods.

In the vegetable garden:  July is the month to start enjoying your harvest. Be ready to preserve or share the overflow. Check old canning jars for chips. Replenish needed supplies. Dig out your favorite preserving recipes, and then make out a shopping list. Prior to preserving, organize your canning items so that everything is in one area. Use an overhead kitchen cupboard. If you don’t have the room, use large storage tubs that can be stored in the garage or a laundry room. Essential items should include: 

  • Water-bath canner and manual
  • Pressure canner and manual
  • Preserving recipes and preserving books
  • Freezer bags, paper, and labels
  • Mason jars, lids and bands; jar labels and gift tags
  • Lid lifter; jar lifter; jar wrench; kitchen tongs; canning funnel; and ladle

 

Keep handpicking tomato hornworms. Control earwigs, snails, and slugs.

 Where veggies have finished, plant a cover crop or fall vegetables. Some fall vegetables to direct sow are salad crops, basil, radish, bush beans, and turnips.  For a late corn crop, plant early July. Harvest onions when the leaves turn yellow and flop over. Cut back blackberry canes that have finished fruiting. Tie new canes to a support system.

In the landscape:  Spray or hand-pull weeds. Ants and aphids go hand-in-hand, especially during warm months. As explained last month, controlling ants will help eliminate aphids. If you must treat your plants with pesticides do it in the evening after the bees have left the scene.

Potted plants usually need water once, if not twice, daily. Water until it runs out of the drainage holes. 

Divide bearded iris. Separate the new sections and cut off old tubers that aren’t producing. Trim leaves then replant, placing leaf in the direction you want them to grow. Discard all diseased parts.

Prune summer-blooming shrubs as soon as they finish flowering. Deadhead annuals. Spent annuals should be cut back half of their height, and fertilized for a second bloom period. Pinch mums back one more time. For large flowers remove side buds as they appear. Apply this method to Dahlias.

Feed rhododendrons, camellias, and azaleas after they finished flowering. Deadhead, and use a rhododendron fertilizer.

For next year’s bloom, direct sow seeds of Hollyhocks, English daisies, Foxgloves, Violas, Canterbury bells, and Sweet William.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Budding Garden Thoughts

June 27, 2010

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“Harvest hope.

Love someone

you don’t like . . 

give a bouquet.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Rain in June

June 25, 2010

It rained last night. Rare June weather in the valley. What a shock, after I woke to a driveway filled with puddles. I didn’t hear the downpour during the night which is unusual as well. The chickens, Miss Boo Boo (pet turkey), Charlie and Chocolate (horses), are going to love the mild weather today. Ralphie will be more comfortable in his thick coat. The forecast reads 101 degrees on Sunday (Now that’s normal where I live.), so I think I’ll work in the perennial garden much of the day.

A good Friday!

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Protect your Dog from Harmful Fruits & Veggies

June 24, 2010

One of my readers has kindly informed me of an article that states, “DO NOT FEED DOGS potato peels.” She also says there are a lot of “veggies and fruits” that dogs should not eat, and therefore, shouldn’t place them in their mouths when playing.”

I quickly did a little research. Below is a site that list toxic foods, including fruits and veggies, to dogs.  PLEASE take the time to read this link as it could save your pet’s life.

http://gomestic.com/pets/be-a-good-dog-owner-fruits-and-veggies-that-are-bad-for-your-dog/

I will also be posting the link under Helpful Resources for future use, should you need to refer back to it.

Ralphie won’t be playing with any more potatoes or any of the other items on this list which does include tomatoes. As a new dog owner, I sure wish the veterinarian had included this in my “new puppy” packet. Thank you, Betty.

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Gardening with Pets

June 24, 2010

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Ralphie loves to be outdoors with me, in the perennial garden or near the barn by the vegetable bed. This morning we spent time in both areas. I trimmed the lavender plant, potato vines, the dusty miller hedge, and then deadheaded zinnias while Ralphie explored, and barked at the cat.

In the veggie garden, I plucked out a few weeds and pulled up the last of the potatoes. As I carried the potatoes in a crate to the house, Ralphie kept jumping up to see what was inside the wooden box. I lowered the crate and let him look. Ralphie was as excited as I was with the crop, and grabbed one with his teeth. Together, we brought our harvest into the house. I took mine to the kitchen. Ralphie played with his in bed. I’ve never fed Ralphie table food. When we’re in the vegetable garden, I’ll make an exception. Although I doubt he will eat a potato.

Ralphie is only a year old, so this is his first experience with a vegetable garden. It will be fun to see how Ralphie handles a tomato. For sure, I won’t let him bring one inside the house. I’m not into cleaning up tomato juice. Sharing fresh produce can sometimes get a little messy, especially with a canine companion.

Ralphie and I garden well together. I labor; Ralphie plays, gets a fresh treat from the garden to eat or to amuse himself with, and then takes a nap. It’s all great, especially when you’re with a special companion. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

PS:  After posting this story, I was informed that potato skins are harmful to dogs. For a list of other fruits and veggies that are bad for dogs please read the following link:  

http://gomestic.com/pets/be-a-good-dog-owner-fruits-and-veggies-that-are-bad-for-your-dog/

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Trouble in the Garden

June 23, 2010

Gosh-darn-it! Loopers (Trichoplusia ni) ate most of my Mesculun lettuce crop. The Mesculm was beautiful, and almost ready to harvest. Darn insects! 

Loopers are green caterpillars with several white stripes down their backs. When they crawl, Loopers arch their backs creating the appearance of a loop. My bug book didn’t explain how large Loopers grow. The ones munching on my Mesculun were only an inch, and smaller. Hard to believe these tiny insects could eat so much in an evening. One day I had a wonderful crop of leafy greens and then the next morning, skeletons and partly chewed lettuce. All infested with fecal pellets.

Unlike the red-skinned potatoes harvested a couple of weeks ago, there was no joy in pulling up the lettuce. No ceremonial gratitude for a blessed crop. Instead, I tossed the entire crop and as many Loopers as I could gather from the soil, into the incinerator. I will have to watch my other plants closely now. Loopers like a variety of cultivated plants.

I want to bag up all the soil in my raised bed, take it to the landfill, and start over. But that would be impossible, a ridiculous step to take. Instead, I’ll wade through the mourning period and plant lettuce again, perhaps in the fall. Horticulture isn’t all happiness and success. It’s also life and death, rewards and disappointments, a learning arena of seasonal challenges. Farmers face this every day on a larger scale. If they’re not fighting insects or disease, they’re facing unfavorable weather. Unlike the farmer, my loss is minimal.

For now, I’ll depend on the local farmers’ market for fresh lettuce.

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Budding Garden Thoughts

June 22, 2010

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“Growing veggies,

dealing with pests

 and nature

teaches patience.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Four O’Clock

June 21, 2010

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Modesto, CA | If you mention four o’clock to Bob and Betty Cole, they’re not likely to look at their watches. Instead, Bob and Betty will probably open their front door and lead you into a quaint front yard where four-o’clock perennials have grown for one-hundred years.

Bob, 74, has spent most of his life in the 1865 house where his grandparents raised him on two acres. As a young boy, Bob and other children living nearby played where high-traffic streets now run along the Cole’s property. “As kids, we used to herd the chickens around the yard through all the four o’clocks,” Bob said, relaxing in his recliner. “We’d get in trouble. We thought we were cowboys. I’m sure we knocked over a few four o’clocks.”

In addition to chickens, Bob’s grandparents cultivated the property for dietary nourishment. There was a large vegetable garden and trees (orange, grapefruit, fig, apricot, pomegranate, plum, walnut, and olive) planted in the 1800’s. Some of the trees are still thriving, still yielding seasonal produce.

When Bob married Betty, he moved with his bride across town where they had two sons. Several years later (after Bob’s grandparents died) Bob moved back in his grandparents’ house with Betty and their sons, the youngest an infant and the oldest ten. “They say you can never go back home,” Bob commented then laughed. “I never really left.”

By then, the area was no longer country territory. Subdivisions had developed around the two-acre lot. Eventually, on much of the land south of the house, Bob constructed apartments which he still owns and manages. The Coles added a guesthouse and swimming pool beyond the original tank house (now used for garden tools) where snowflakes and paperwhites flower, and a hedge of creeping fig grows on a privacy fence. Staying within the period, the Coles extended the main house by approximately 1,000-square-feet. Although considered small, Bob and Betty’s home is as big and beautiful as the memories it holds.

Betty, who archives the family history with precision and deep appreciation, also tends the four o’clocks and surrounding garden areas. At first, after the Coles moved into the house, Betty wanted to do her “own thing” where the four o’clocks grow. However, Betty said the plants fought back telling her to, “Leave us alone! We belong here.” Today, the four o’clocks remain rooted in history behind a white picket fence. Every summer tiny yellow, red, and white flowers bloom as if it was their first season.

Eventually, Betty found the west side of the yard receptive to her garden desires. There, Betty can plant whatever she wants. Some of these include daffodils, centranthus, feverfew, bluebells, alyssum, and lavender. Betty say’s her garden starts to bloom in December, first with violets followed by paperwhites (also 100 years old), then snowflakes. By Christmas, flag irises (another original plant on the property) are in bloom.

Betty says she could spend eight hours a day gardening. Is it any wonder, with so much ancestral history coming up from the earth? The rewards are vast. Whether gardening or sitting on the front porch, the Coles easily recall loved ones at the whiff of an old-fashioned plant or at the seasonal return of one-hundred-year-old four o’clock perennials. Copyright  © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

Four O’clock Data:

Deciduous

Reproduces by seed

Tuberous root system

Blooms throughout summer.

Reaches three to four feet tall.

Commonly grown as an annual.

A favorite of black bumblebees, and in European gardens.

Flowers open late afternoon and close early the following morning.

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County Fair

June 18, 2010

Yesterday, I went to the county fair to see if I had won any ribbons for amateur photography. This is my third year competing. (Fair ribbons make me feel like a kid again.) The mushroom photo, below, that I cherished like a proud Mama, took first! My remaining photos followed with a second and honorable mentions. Two friends (Georgia Owens and Kathi Morrison) placed as well. They are pros who create beautiful, inspiring art, and go home with top awards every year.

Winning is fun. Confidence swells and you think that perhaps you can do better next time. To be ready for fair entry deadlines, I need to start preparing mid-May, when spring gardening is still at its fullest. Torn between gardening and writing, I get overwhelmed with the amount of work and energy both require. Extra activities, like fair entries, are squeezed somewhere between. I fall behind on household chores, and begin to question, “Why am I doing all this?” This year I wasn’t going to compete. Then, at the last minute, a change of heart set in.

I’m glad it did. The entries of other participates fascinate me. There are so many talented individuals, rightful winners, whose crafts deliver inspiration to others. Heck, even your own winnings validate your time and effort. Best of all, you feel like a school kid again. As least I do. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Budding Garden Thoughts

June 16, 2010

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“Step out of the box.

Extend the palate

outside your front door.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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