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Watering our Vegetables, Herbs, Flowers and especially Container Plants, is our chief job with this early and persistent heatwave. Soaking deeply is a necessity now, no overhead sprinkling, no half-measures will do! Against the general rule of thumb, it is also advisable to water in the morning AND evening, keeping in mind that it is the soil we want to get wet, not the leaves and flowers. If a plant is dessicated, however, a spritzing of leaves is restorative and needed.
Mulch is also such a help at this time, since it helps retain the water we put down, and keeps the soil cooler and slows evaporation .
Doing a visual inspection of the Garden in the morning is essential to knowing whether or not your watering is effective and sufficient. Look for plants that are not recovered from yesterday’s wilt – these will tell you that they have not been given enough to recouperate, and will need watching. By morning everything should be back up to snuff, no curled, papery looking leaves, no wilted stems.
Leaving the hose to run at the base of plants, trees, shrubs is the best way to assure that they receive a deep watering. It requires us to get out earlier than we may like, but it will be worth it once the heat passes, and you will have gotten your Garden through it and come out the other side with all your tomatoes intact! Tomatoes and other fruiting veggies will often abort fruit when stressed. Keeping them happy, i.e watered, will head off their survival tactic of dropping.
Watch, too, for the fungus and wilts that inevitably begin harrowing us this time of year. Squash, cucumbers, and others, start to look yellowish and pallid. The affected leaves should be removed IMMEDIATELY, and a Garden-safe Fungicide should be sprayed on the leaves and soil under the plants. Spraying all has to be done before around eight o’clock in the morning to avoid damaging the leaves with sunlight.
Flea-beetles are probably lacing the leaves of your Eggplants. Again, remove the most severely affected leaves, and spray with any food-safe killer – Safer soap, Volck oil solution, Sevin. You will need to watch and anticipate re-spraying in a couple of weeks to kill the adorable hatchlings!
Garden culture suggests we spend a little time removing the bottom leaves off our Tomatoes and Peppers, and all other plants that trail to the ground. Those trailing leaves are a ladder by which fungus and bugs get up into the now elongating plants and do their damage. Removing all the leaves up to the one-foot point also allows better air-flow, which also helps reduce fungal and insect issues.
Let us do a proper Rain Dance, and hope that this stretch of high temperatures ends soon. Till then, Water, my friends, Water without ceasing!
Hey, fellow Garden- gnomes, the weather prediction for this week is for it to get into the 100′s! Don’t let it get ahead of us and our vegatative investments! Resolve to rise early to get your deep watering done BEFORE the heatwave crashes. Watering now, early and often, will help the garden withstand the rise in temperature. The glory of our summer is that, with enough water, it is exactly the conditions inside a greenhouse. If there is a paucity of it, it is like a humid desert. Let’s make it on the greenhouse side.
After the heat breaks, remember to fertilize again. The plants in containers will have nearly exhausted their last feeding unless it was done in the last two weeks, and even then, I would give them a weak solution just for the heck of it.
If your Mediterranean Herbs are in full bloom, let them finish before you harvest. The best time to harvest Thyme, Marjoram, Oregano, etc, is just as the flower heads begin to open. That is when they are most packed with the essential oils that give them their Virtue. After they bloom, cut them back fairly severely, dry or otherwise prepare them for use. The aforementioned herbs, along with Basil, and Parseley, can be stored in the freezer for a year or more in a Ziploc bag with enough Olive oil to cover them. When they are removed for use in soups, sauces and stews, they are nearly as fresh as the day they were picked.
Drying is the next best way to preserve herbal abundance. Laying down paper towel, out of the sun, rinse and shake out the herbs, held in bunches. Separating the stems and making sure there is airspace between all, leave them to dry. The time required can vary depending on how dry your home is, but it usually takes a week, maybe more. When they are crispy-dry, I strip the leaves and small stems from the larger stems and branches over a cookie sheet, and tip the remains over to the end to place in clean, re-used herb containers or jelly jars. Don’t forget to mark them: type of herb and year.
As the Basil harvest begins to overwhelm you, get out the food processor and my favorite Pesto recipe and get blending! It is a tad time-consuming, but it is one of the most thoughtful, healthful, and eagerly received gifts at the Holidays. And when you don’t feel like working too hard for a meal, getting out the little tubs of Goodness is an easy, delicious addendum to any meal, or to add to a Lasana, or spoon a dollop on the last tomatoes of the season, with some Mozzerella cheese and a little salt ground on top for a taste of Caprese.
If you would like to share recipes for preserving or for making, please feel free to add them here. Sharing is caring, and yummy!
Living Romantically is easy with a few quick tips: the old calssic of taking flowers in and secnting the room with them. For Gardenias, try to take them in the morning, just those that are beginning to open, and float them in a shallow bowl. One bowl in each room, if you have such abundance. Three to five blooms in each receptacle puts out alot of FlowerPower! Aromatherapy 101!
As I work about in the garden, I notice little things that we should address. There are weeds! Noooo! Gross as they are, now is the time to start with one of the The Three “P’s” in organic gardening – Prevention. Bear in mind that weeds are prolific seed-scatterers! Like the little Oxalis. You know, the ones with the four-leafed-clover-like leaves and yellow flowers. Each of those little seed pods has hundreds of seeds waiting to expolde into your pristine beds! Don’t let it happen! Pull them, roots and all, and toss them right into the compost. Likewise, all the little grasses, Pine tree seedlings, etc. The effort expended now will save you greater expenditures of energy when it is 95 degrees and high humidity! Once the area is mostly cleared, it is highly advisable to put some sort of mulch down in the open areas around the vegetables, fruit and herbs. Leaves, bark, even a thin layer of grass clippings – weed-seed free, of course – are all great to lay atop the soil to preserve moisture, keep the seedling weeds at bay, and to eventually break down into additonal soil.
Strawberries are coming into their peak, and we should be diligent about harvesting every day, so as not to waste the abundance of Nature, and as a way to prevent adding to the slug and snail population! They often find our little red joys before we do, or they get to them while they are green. Little, mucous-y pigs! It helps to get to the fruit before they do, and if they have already feasted, remove the chewed berry and toss it into the compost! Removal keeps the scent from wafting around to the others in the area and drawing them to the beds. It is also helpful to put out your finished citrus halves, left upside down. The slimy little creepers head under them as a hut from the sun and in the morning you can go get the rinds and…recycle them. Stomp, scrape, whatever, but dispose of them any way that seems therapeutic to you! You can also try ringing the berry plants with clean, crunched-up eggshells as a protective deterrent. It doesn’t stop them all, but it helps.
Keep pinching Tomato suckers. Pick off worms and caterpillars from the Dill, the Tomatoes, the Parseley, et al. If you notice little white flying things coming from your Basil or other larger -leafed plants, get yourself a spray bottle of Insecticidal Soap and spritz the undersides of the leaves. In 14 days, hit them again and you will kill the hatchlings and gain a modicum of control over them for the time being.
Remember, it is a great idea to find open spots in the Garden to seed a few Radishes, Arugula and other quick crops. Radishes are ready in about 21 days, plenty of time to get them up and out before the larger veggies take over. Radishes can be seeded all through the season, every week or two. Just do not get too exhuberant! Only put out what you think you will eat in a week or two!
Vining Vegetables and Fruit can be managed by pinching. I know it is a hard concept, and a harder thing to make yourself do, but it has a truly practical outcome: larger, more consistent fruit. Fewer but better is the idea here. So, once a cucumber has set three to four small fruits, pinch the vine off after the last one, about an inch past the fruit. Likewise, this is the method for Winter Squash, Grapes and Melons. Not so for Peas or String Beans! They need their vines to continue producing.
Planning, Prevention and Perseverance are the Virtues we need to be good Stewards of the Garden, and bring a slice of Heaven to Earth.
Contact me directly if you think I might be of service to you in your Heaven!
Well, one does not have to be prescient to have predicted that the warmer weather was soon to be here, but it showed up on the heels of my last post! Highs in the nineties, and windy! Oh well, we had great run, didn’t we? I hope you did get out there and enjoy the expanded version of Spring here in North Carolina. I sure did! As a Gardener it is my privilege to have my main office outdoors, where I daily see, feel and smell the wonders of nature, and, as noted previously, I have been really enjoying all the fine weather, gorgeous flowers and sweet secents wafting through each day. Now it is time to say goodbye to the softer Season, and get ready for the warm Season. We need to be more disciplined and mindful of watering, get our mulches down, pick bouquets before the rainstorms knock off the petals, and pluck as many berries as we can before we lose them to ants, slugs and bunnies! Cages or other structures need to be set up around our tomatoes. Climbing veggies need tying up as they stretch and grow. As the weather warms, we also need to be aware of the new crops of little bugs that set up shop and proceed to diminish the beauty of our young Gardens: Spider mites, slugs and snails, caterpillars. Let’s use the least toxic methods first – Insecticidal soaps for the Spider mites (remember to spray the undersides of the leaves, where they live), small saucers of cheap beer for the slimy ones, or half-grapefruit rinds left out for them to gather beneath, that you casually dump into the compost. The furry predators of our Pumpkin patch can be kept at bay with dog hair, stinky sprays or, my new favorite, Plantskyyd natural repellent! It is made of natural porducts, does not have a lingering scent, and only needs to be applied four times a year!
Water your Garden deeply, my friends. Eat well of that which you grow, and sleep peacefully knowing that you are bringing a small piece of Heaven to earth!