Rain, Blessed Rain

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tomatoes. Most varieties can bloom when the temperatures are below 70 degrees at night. Fertilize them now and wrangle any plants that fell over or escaped their cages. Use soft cloth to tie tomatoes.
Cucumbers and squash. Pick fruit before it rains to prevent swelling and bland fruit. If you forgot, pick promptly after the rain before the roots can pump them up too much.
Herbs. Trim off any damaged leaves, but wait until the sun shines again to dry out the plants before harvesting to avoid boring tastes.
Plant pumpkins. Use that wet soil to good advantage and plant pumpkins this month. Mark off a space 6 ft. x 6 ft. and pull the soil up in the center to elevate it about 3 inches above the rest. Just to the side of the ‘hill’, plant a reservoir. Poke holes in a big can or gallon jug in a circle around the container, near the bottom but not in it. Plant 3 seeds in the hill, thin to 1or 2 when they come up and keep the reservoir full of water and fertilizer all summer to pick pumpkins in October.
Lawn repair. Sometimes there’s a space that just will not grow turf, even though it is in sun, gets water, etc. Often the problem is slopes that drain too well orcompaction that happens on footpaths and along the edges of driveways. Use a stiff-tined garden rake to work up the area, apply a blanket of composted manure (half inch to an inch deep) and rake it in. Keep the area watered well and look for new growth in a few weeks.
Gardenias. If they are lovely, prune very lightly after the first flush of flowers. Clip off a couple of inches behind each flower to stimulate new growth and keep the shrub rounded. At the other extreme, if the plants haven’t grown any new leaves or flowers in a couple of years, cut the shrub back by half its overall size and fertilize it once more to see if it can recover. There’s plenty of time to plant a new one if you decide this one’s a goner.
Roses. If black spot presents, remove the affected leaves and spray the plants with Neem to slow it down if not stop it altogether. If black spot has already gone too far and the leaves have fallen off the rose, rake them all up and do not compost them. Cut each stem back by one third, fertilize the roses and spray new growth with Neem if the wet weather continues.
Spring Perennials. While the conventional wisdom says to divide perennials in the season opposite their bloom, but that’s not a rule I follow very often. By digging and dividing daylilies, iris, phlox and other spring bloomers in summer following a big rain, they have all summer to get growing and the job gets done. Too often, waiting until fall is folly since the weather goes from blazing dry heat to near freezing and wet overnight and the perennials stay where they are for another year.
Keep on Growin’!
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