Now that summer is truly here, we can meditate on our garden successes and sins as we pull the ever-present weeds. Even properly laid mulch can’t block all weeds. Some come up between plants, so they must be removed by hand. What garden sins are there to commit?
1. Fouling up seed germination by planting too deep, not keeping seed moist or by absent-mindedly applying corn gluten meal for fertilizer before planting seeds whose germination will be destroyed by the corn gluten meal. It doesn’t destroy tap-rooted plants such as carrots, experience tells me.
2. Putting plants you germinated indoors from seed out in direct sun and wind without first acclimatizing them (known as hardening off) by gradual exposure to those elements. The sun will destroy the chlorophyll, leaving you with a bleached dead seedling.
3. Snugging mulch up tightly around trunks or stalks of plants so that the fungus that causes crown rot develops, killing your plant. Leave at least an inch of space around garden plant stalks.
4. Planting a seedling or seeds adjacent to a developing weed or tree without removing it first.
5. Fertilizing on a super-hot day, putting even more stress on your plants.
6. Lavishing high-nitrogen fertilizer on a plant you want to produce fruit, such as tomatoes. That will boost foliar growth, but fail at fruit development. Use Morbloom, high in phosphorus and potassium instead.
7. Planting a sun-loving seedling or plant next to one that will grow sufficiently tall to shade your new plant.
That’s my list of seven planting sins, but there are lesser offenses available too, most of which I’ve committed myself. Those include planting frost-vulnerable plants out too early and losing them to frost, buying a plant you love in the nursery without a clue where you’ll plant it, failing to prune trees and shrubs at the correct time, failing to thin fruit to prevent limb breakage, failing to prune out watersprouts, and failing to make sure your drip or soaker hose carries water where you want it to go.
How is your garden growing? Mine has ups and downs, as usual. I think that’s the state of gardening in this part of the world. I usually see white butterflies (imported cabbage butterflies and/or pine whites) earliest in spring, when dandelions first start to bloom, but this year I saw none until June 14. I really don’t miss them, but the sudden disappearance is cause for concern. Are they our canaries in the coal mine?
Tomatoes and weeds are thriving in my garden, but squash seed is refusing to germinate. The “stick cauliflower” was sparse and insipid, not even worth harvesting. The “Romanesco” cauliflower or broccoli (species varies by vendor) that is supposedly an early hybrid was thready and disappointing. So far the only good kind of Romanesco cauliflower/broccoli I’ve harvested in recent years was in January, the “non-hybrid” variety of that brassica. Several years ago, I did grow an early version that was beautiful and delicious. That variety has apparently been lost.
My “Pixie” baby cabbage was ready a few days before the Gonzalez baby cabbage, and now all but one have been harvested. In my opinion, they don’t have as much flavor as the regular heads of cabbage, but they take up much less room. Mantilia lettuce, as usual, is delicious, but will probably bolt soon, even though this is the second go-around for this cut-and-come-again buttery lettuce.
Plant for a fall crop
July means we should be thinking about crops for fall harvest. Some may be planted now that will be harvestable before our average frost (about Oct. 10); others will withstand frosts and may even have flavor enhanced by frost. Parsnips especially taste better after a frost.
Brassicas or cole crops such as green mustard, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, kale and broccoli won’t be killed by frost, but if you want to plant some for fall harvest, sow seeds indoors. Those seeds won’t germinate reliably in warm or hot soil. Once seeds have germinated, seedlings can be moved to warmer spots in your yard, but if you’re moving them to a “sun room,” be aware that they can’t take hot temperatures, you may cook them. Better to let them grow to transplant size and hardening off (climatizing) in dappled shade.
Send garden questions to email@example.com or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.