Summer in the Garden
Summer is here and with it the green growth the sprouts from our gardens. Spring gave us a plethora of challenges from variable temperatures and one of the wettest Mays on record. Let’s briefly talk about what you can do in your garden to produce a bountiful harvest through the growing season. I’ll share my thoughts on activities to keep you ahead of pests and diseases as well as managing nutrients and what you can plant right now.
Let’s face it, you’ve worked hard to get your garden growing. Perhaps you started them from seeds, tilled compost in your garden beds and planted all your beauties in anticipation of plump juicy tomatoes, zesty radishes, bountiful beans or whatever your heart and taste buds desire. The last thing any of us want is to walk out one day and discover that our plants we’ve nurtured are half-eaten, decrepit, or otherwise in dire need. Your best defense is to be vigilant and present each day - walk out and inspect your plants. Check the color of the leaves, do they appear full of vigor? Are there signs of pests on the leaves: aphids? Cucumber beetles? Cabbage worms? Downy or powdery mildew? Are the plants just plain missing - could a groundhog be to blame? Is doesn’t take long for any critter large or small to devour your precious plants, so take a gentle stroll through your garden.
I like to look at the undersides of leaves for signs of eggs and the ground for slug streaks. Chances are you’ve got uninvited guests. Some of the organic materials we use to counter insect pests include diatomaceous earth, neem oil, and wood ash. You can use a natural soap like Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap for homemade natural insecticidal soap. If you buy any product - be it a biocide or fertilizer always, always, always read and follow the instructions. Failure to do so will injure or kill your plants, your pets, or even you. It doesn’t matter if it is organic or straight from Monsanto’s labs - each can and will do harm. Practice safety and teach your children and grandchildren to do the same.
I’ve found that keeping the larger critters at bay usually requires multiple initiatives - what works for one pest may be ignored by another. Fencing is obvious, but bars of soap (Irish Spring and Castile) are effective deterrents too. Drill a hole on each and hang them every 15-20 feet around your garden. If am going to apply anything, I want to make sure that it does some good too - I like to use dry blood (blood meal) as a deterrent - it’s very rich in nitrogen which benefits your plants. The only drawback is it should be reapplied after heavy rains. I also use Milorganite by stuffing it into little cloth sacs and tying those around our fruit trees and about every 20 feet around the perimeter of the garden. Milorganite is exceptionally long lasting (one use for the whole growing year) when used in this manner. It too is nutrient rich and fertilizes your plants.
There are many products on the market, but your again your best defense comes from actively observing your garden. Just like weeding, if you give them an inch, pests - like weeds - will take a mile. By the time you find them it may be too late. Nobody’s perfect, so you may want to consider succession planting and over seeding every few weeks just in case. I keep some plants in reserve in the greenhouse if I should fall victim to some unfortunate predator.
If you still have space in your garden, plant some fun pumpkin and winter squash varieties - There are hundreds of varieties. Try something different - that you wouldn’t ordinarily find at markets or stores. You might also try growing okra - it flowers like its cousin the hibiscus and creates the unique lady fingers. And if your garden is full, why not try growing some unique herbs in containers. I’m enjoying growing many medicinal herbs now.
I leave you with words from my French mother-in-law, Véronique, who says “Your food is your medicine.” Enjoy your summer. Feed your body, mind and soul in the garden.