Gardening is the new front porch in urban America- share yours!
By Susan Taylor
Here’s good news for everyone. Ninety-five percent of all the insects you find in your garden are beneficial! Before you use or purchase any chemical (read toxic) solutions, you can first check online at the UCDavis Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. Take a photo of your suspicious little bug and check it at the IPM website to be sure what your insect is and what, if anything, to do about it. Often times you can put some water and a drop or two of dish soap into a plastic spray bottle and that will do the trick (aphids come to mind). Remember to spray UNDER the leaves as well as the tops. I find this website very reassuring because I can’t remember everything, but I can remember where to look for information.
It is early June here in San Diego and you can still plant all your summer vegetables. If you had enough zucchini already just pinch off the blossoms to slow production down. Now would also be a good time to plant pumpkins in case you want to enter the great pumpkin contest around Halloween. If you want to have large pumpkins, do only grow one or two on each vine and thus all the plant energy can got into a couple large ones.
There are many seed varieties to choose from, little boutique pumpkins to the varieties of ginormous ones that are too heavy to carry. Remember to elevate your pumpkins off the ground, in a sling, on a wooden board, along a fence — you get the idea. I recommend a similar practice with watermelons. This year I am experimenting with a couple of tiny, personal size varieties of watermelons – I’m running trials for the sweetest.
Tomatoes remain productive as long as they are staked well. Cherry tomatoes may still produce until Thanksgiving for your bounteous table. Beans too, the more you pick the more green beans you will have. Should you have too many beans, just parboil them for about two minutes, drain well and freeze for later. During the summer I like fresh green beans with pesto and pasta served hot or warm, yum!
If you have stone fruit trees you a lucky gardener and likely picking ripe apricots and early peaches right now. If you have leaf curl and I do, it won’t effect the fruit this year. But when you prune during the deciduous months, there is an oil based product you can use to rid the tree of leaf curl. I seem to get a lot of curl on peach trees and some plums so I spray every two or three years-it’s okay to do this!
A word about garden tidiness. It is a good thing to keep your garden beds, roses, succulent plantings and so on cleaned up and looking smart. Prune or pluck dead branches, spent blossoms, old fruit and too many zukes often. Plants do better without debris in and among the garden. The air and sunshine access help plants be healthier. Gardeners consider weeds to be anything that is growing where it is not welcome — check it!
If you grow citrus and are not sure if it is ripe, gently twist the fruit to see if it comes off. If it doesn’t, it isn’t ripe and don’t yank them off! If you have the space and the inclination you can compost your clippings, but be sure to throw away any diseased plant material from your garden.
And, let’s consider worm castings and vermiculture once more. If you didn’t use worm compost when you planted, now would be a good time to side dress your veggie boxes. I’ve said it before — these castings are like magic food for what you grow. If you have healthy soil you will have healthy produce and flowers. While producing your own compost can take time there are many ways to get what you need. Many local cities now allow a few chickens on your oasis. I have several that arrived before the new laws. Their droppings take about a year to compost before you can use them; fresh out of the coop will burn your plants. I recently bought composted chicken manure that worked quite nicely. I don’t recommend steer manure, however.
And finally, in the midst of glorious summer, share your bounty. My tomatoes are lagging but the neighbor girls just brought me a few of theirs! Visiting over the fence or on the sidewalk with extra produce or flowers is a wonderful way to stay connected to your neighbors. Gardening is the new front porch in urban America – share yours! Community, human connection, fresh food make for great conversation so go for it!
Coming up, dripping water. Stay tuned.