Margaret Lauterbach: Suave summer garden tips

SPECIAL TO THE IDAHO STATESMANJune 27, 2013 

You can expand your growing space with tent-like structures. I have a frame of 2-by-inch lumber, sized 2 by 4 feet, hinged to another of that size, both with chicken wire stapled to them. The hinge permits easy flat storage, and the chicken wire is support for vines such as melon, squash or cucumber vines.

We set it up like an inverted V, the edges stopped from doing "the splits" by stones or sticks pushed into the soil. When we set it up, we install black plastic in the opening under the vee to bar weeds.

A few years ago, when I lifted that black plastic weed block, there was a glistening mass of white slug eggs, perhaps a half a cupful. I scooped them up and put them directly into the trash.

If you time it just right with lettuce seedlings ready for transplant, you could grow lettuce under the vee instead of wasting that growing space, but if you don't time it right, you get weeds and wimpy lettuce.

In the effort to get more growing space, some folks are using a half-crib (side and end), the slats giving support to vines. That's an easy solution, but cucumber and squash vines will need to be guided atop each slat as they grow. Thrift stores may have old cribs, no longer considered safe for infants.

TIME FOR GARLIC

If you're growing rocambole garlic, the scapes or flower stalks may be uncoiling now. They're most tender before they uncoil all the way, so pull them out, run them through the blender with olive oil, lemon juice and grated Parmesan cheese, to make some super pesto, great for a dip or over pasta. Chopped walnuts add texture and taste.

Recipes are online. Search garlic scape pesto recipes.

GET EVERY SINGLE POD, PEOPLE

If you're growing peas, harvest sugar peas before the peas bulge pods, but harvest sugar snaps and shelling peas once the peas have filled out the pods.

Pick pea and bean bush plants and vines clean, even if you have to pick every other day to get them at their peak. If you miss a pea or bean pod, even a damaged pod with a mature pea or bean inside, the plant or vine it's attached to may die, having fulfilled its purpose of reproducing itself.

To pick a row clean, pick in one direction, then turn around and pick in the opposite direction, for you're apt to find pods you missed.

THE ART OF REPLANTING

To get the most out of your garden, plan to replace crops quickly after you've harvested. I usually pull out the spent plant, cover the area with compost, then replant. I wouldn't try to replace peas with peas, but if you want a second crop, try growing them later for fall harvest. Peas are prime targets for destructive insects in summer.

You could replace beans with beans, though, if they're a short season variety. lettuce is one of the crops that is usually replaced by other lettuces.

Most references advise starting lettuce at seven-to-10-day intervals, but I find that's too quick, especially if you're growing cut-and-come-again leaf lettuce. An interval of about three or four weeks is better for that type of lettuce, for a household of two who consume a large tossed salad at least once each day.

LIKE A MAGPIE ON HOT PEPPERS

We have a large number of magpies in our area, but they've done no damage in my garden. A friend in Eagle told me the magpies are stealing her peppers. That's unusual, but not even habaneros would deter them: Birds feel no pain from capsaicin, the "heat" in hot chiles.

Send garden questions to melauter@earthlink.net or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.

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