by Charlene Burgi
July is right around the corner with little rest for the gardener. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, and zucchini is producing at an alarming rate. Finding green beans is a daily treasure hunt as they blend so beautifully into their vines and hide behind large leaves. Despite the hunt, it is a cash crop that demands blanching and freezing.
Yes, July is a busy time in the garden. Fruit trees are loaded down with heavy crops that can potentially break the limbs that support them. Prop up these heavily laden branches with a well-placed heavy support. Thinning the fruit promises to provide bigger and juicier peaches, plums, nectarines or apples. It is a time to watch for birds that choose to sup on that sweet treat before you can get to it. Bird netting may protect your fruit crop. And what do you do with all that fruit? Do you can, freeze, make jam or throw it in the dehydrator? Do you pawn off as much fruit as you can on your neighbors? How about taking the excess to the local food bank?
It is also necessary to remove any sucker growth from trees that can rob energy from the top growth. And don’t forget about deadheading plants such as marigolds and other flowering varieties of annuals that hold onto their dead flowers. These plants may stop blooming or produce fewer flowers if you fail to remove the spent flowers.
Treat the soil with well-rotted compost material to replenish the nutrients being used by your plants as they produce all this bounty. If you do not have a compost bin, now may be the time to consider starting one. A depleted garden will provide ample debris for starting your compost. You will want to utilize both the green and brown leaves of this debris to ensure the nitrogen and carbon essential for composting.
And let’s not forget about the beneficial insects in the garden. Keep flowers around that produce nectar for attracting bees, butterflies, ladybugs as well as other “good guys.” Encourage birds by setting out birdseed, water features for hydrating and birdhouses for nesting. Invite butterflies by offering large flat flowers for them to rest upon. Be on watch for the work of slugs and snails, earwigs, cabbage worms, tomato hornworms and other destructive critters. Eradicating these insects may involve a fun evening in the garden with flashlight in hand and a coffee can filled with salt water. Can you think of a better way to spend a warm evening?
Speaking of finding insects in the garden, we found this prehistoric-like monster in the Lassen garden. Not knowing what it was, I checked with Water Conservation Specialist Supervisor Robin McKillop’s husband, an expert in the field. John identified it as a giant water bug, scientifically known as Belostomatidae. Apparently it flies; eats frogs, small fish and other aquatic insects; and carries quite a painful bite. I was grateful that I kept my distance and that it found protection by crawling away from and not flying towards me. John, thanks for the warning!
The Mystery Plant
Jack and I took a quick run up to our cabin in the mountains of Lake County last week. As we climbed the dirt road I noticed a beautiful patch of red flowers growing along the side of us. I took this picture out of the car door, but I have yet to identify it. Do any of our experts reading this know what this might be? I had never seen it growing up in that area before. The bright red flowers were a reminder we are approaching the 4th of July.
Have a great weekend and a happy 4th.