Lauterbach: Pinching, feeding and mystery pests

Special to the Idaho StatesmanJuly 5, 2013 

You can start preplanting now for fall, but start your cole crops indoors.

STATESMAN FILE

If you intend to have a fall garden, start seeds indoors now so you can transplant out in the middle of this month. I know this month is usually hot, August hotter and September may be even hotter, but in some years, September is chilly.

I wouldn't start lettuce or spinach just yet, but crops such as fast-maturing snap beans, broccoli, cabbage, beets, carrots, kale, Swiss chard, turnips, kohlrabi and collards can be planted in mid-July for autumn harvest. Snap beans, beets and carrots should be sown directly in the garden bed, the frost-tolerant cole crops should be started indoors. The soil is probably too warm for their germination.

If you start them now, they'll at least be germinated and about ready to transplant by the end of July.

SQUASH BUGS GO FOR THE BLOOMS

As I suspected, squash bugs don't visit squash plants until they bloom. Here it was June 23, my early Giambo summer squash (zucchini-like) bloomed first. And there were squash eggs on both plants, none on nonblooming, but similarly large squash plants. Within two days there were eggs on the nonblooming plants too, but all plants grew to near-mature size before squash bugs appeared.

The mature squash bugs winter over in crevices in fences, decks and in detritus in and beyond the garden. Winter has been over for a few months, so the question is, what have the squash bugs been doing or eating? That's a dissertation topic to assist those of us taking advantage of destructive insect life cycles for control.

STOP PINCHING CHRYSANTHEMUMS

Now that we're past July 4, you can stop pinching back chrysanthemums. They should be sufficiently bushy to yield abundant blossoms now. But use your pinching fingers on basil. My first pinching exercise on the basil yielded enough to blend with olive oil for future pesto. I think we've used all of last year's pesto on pasta.

FISH FERTILIZER, YES; MANURE, MAYBE

Use only your own lawn clippings for mulch or compost if you're certain you've never used a persistent broadleaf herbicide on your lawn. Those herbicides that will contaminate your garden soil include Lontrel, Confront, Millennium Ultra Plus, Millennium Ultra and Ultra 2, and anything containing fluroxpyr (such as Surmount or Vista). I wouldn't use clippings recently sprayed with 2,4-D either.

Any greenery subjected to composting that has been treated with any of the above herbicides will kill, warp or stunt growth of anything you try to grow in a food or ornamental bed except grass, even long after it was thoroughly composted, no parts recognizable.

Herbicide product names and contents change over time, so always read ingredients on the label before using.

Some want to use lawn clippings to feed livestock, and any treated with the above-mentioned herbicides except 2,4-D will become solid herbicides when they pass through livestock. That means you can't trust livestock manure to safely fertilize your garden soils or to increase compost activity.

Fish fertilizers should be safe, at least for now.

MYSTERY MUNCHER

Something skeletonized at least half of my Sweet Cicely plants about a week ago. I've never had the problem before. Damage is consistent with what I've read about Japanese beetles, but I'd be very surprised if they've expanded their range this far since last year. At that time, they had been found Downtown and in West Boise.

There were no leaf eaters in evidence when I discovered damage on the Sweet Cicely leaves, nor did slight stirring of the soil reveal pupas or larvae, so for now it's a mystery.

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

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