Ever since I came to Mississippi I have enjoyed yellow meat watermelon from Smith County on my July birthday. This year they were in short supply, but delicious as always. Thankfully, there were a very few at the Farmer’s Market and since we’re vendors, my sweet husband got there before they were gone. I don’t grow melons anymore, but I know that without irrigation, they are nearly impossible. There’s still time to plant a small melon like ‘Sugar Baby’ to harvest this fall, IF you add a reservoir to the hill such as a gallon jug or big can. Poke holes around its base, not in the bottom, nestle it into the soil next to the newly planted seeds and keep it full of water and fertilizer all the time.
Squash and tomatoes came next, from a grower in Hinds County and my own backyard. A delicious platter of hand rolled sushi arrived, followed by a huge bouquet of zinnias and sunflowers grown in Rankin County. There’s plenty of time for zinnias and sunflowers to grow, if you’ll provide a soaker hose to keep the water coming when the rains don’t. Go for the classic mixes for fall flowers which, for some reason, seem to be easier to get sprouted in the heat. Work up the area in a row or a bed, add compost and water if either is needed. Plant seeds half an inch apart and a quarter inch deep. Cover the seeds and water well. Keep damp until the seeds sprout. If needed, put a board on top of the seed bed to retain moisture and lift it up each day until they sprout, then remove it.
The New Orleans contingent rolled in with 2 loaves of French bread as long as my arm. We ate most of one loaf standing around in the kitchen catching up with each other’s latest news. Most everyone who should call, did call and I’m so glad they did. I got a new garden gnome and abalone earrings, a rosy headscarf and 2 manly chores got done around the house. The day was all about me, usually a situation I try to avoid, but on 7/9/11, the oddest day on the calendar, my 60th day on the planet, I enjoyed the attention. Like Eeyore says, “Thanks for noticing.” Rain came late in the day on my birthday, the perfect ending to a perfect day.
This week: it’s time to start planting the fall garden of vegetables and herbs.
· Small plants are available now for the spring crops that can be planted now, more will be along soon and there are seeds you can plant now, too. Start with tomato and basil plants. Any variety will do, but look for those with names like ‘Solar Set’ and ‘Heat Wave’ that indicate they like heat.
· Squash and cucumbers can be seeded or transplanted now, and there’s time for another row of southern peas like crowders and lady peas. I have better luck with the lady peas and others at this time of the year, probably because I try to plant in spring before the soil is warm. No problem with that in July!
· Okra and peppers of all sorts can get growing this month with plenty of time for harvest before frost.
· Save room for broccoli and its relatives, onions and garlic, mustards and all sorts of greens and lettuces – I’ll get those seeds going now for transplant next month.
· Work up the spinach bed now and add a little lime to keep it sweet for September planting.