Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: The real gardening season is about to begin

Who would have thought that the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and pea picking have something in common? Whoa, that analogy will inspire some deep thinking, but more likely some questioning of my sanity. What's the connection? Both activities mark the end of the first half of the season — garden season for gardeners, in case you're confused — and the beginning of the second half of the season.

Second half, as in baseball, is time for intense work: harvesting and pest management, but also planting. Some vegetables to plant now in anticipation that they'll be ready to harvest around the time that the big guys in the pajamas ... uh, uniforms ... will be engaged in playoffs include arugula, bush beans, beets, napa cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, endive, escarole, Asian greens, kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, peas, radish, spinach, Swiss chard, summer squash and turnips. Most herbs, such as basil, parsley and sweet marjoram, can also be planted, but I suggest planting in pots so that they may be brought indoors prior to the onset of cold temperatures. If you have leftover seeds of annual flowers, it'd be worth a try to sow some of these now. Bachelor's button and calendula would be good ones since they can take some light frost.

Get off the bench, step up to the plate, and take a swing at planting vegetables, herbs, and flowers for the second half of the gardening season.


Allow me to pitch a few gardening tasks for this week:

- Edge flower borders. By mid-season, grass and weeds often work their way into flower beds and borders, making for an unruly appearance. The easiest way to get back a neat look is by edging.

- Cut flowers for drying before they are completely mature. Remove flowers along with 6 to 12 inches of stem; strip off the leaves and wrap a rubber band around the base of a cluster of stems. Then hang the bunch upside down in a dry, low light location for 2 to 3 weeks. Celosia, globe amaranth, scabiosa, statice, baby's breath and strawflowers dry well in this way.

- After cutting flowers in the garden for fresh arrangements, immediately trim the stems while holding them under water in a bucket. Cutting stems under water prevents development of air bubbles in the stems that can interfere with water uptake. (Hmmm! If I had a swimming pool, I could really trim the stems underwater.)

- Sow seeds of biennials such as Canterbury bells, foxglove, delphinium, Siberian wallflower and lunaria. The plants require a year of growth before the flower.

- Prune rambler-type roses right after they finish flowering. Since they produce flowers on the previous year's wood, you can't prune these in spring or you'll sacrifice the flowers for that season.

- Examine the underside of leaves of andromeda, leucothoe and azalea if the plants are looking a little pale. Small tar-like droplets on the underside of leaves is evidence of infestation by lacebugs. Spray the underside of plant leaves with a summer weight superior oil to keep the pest in check.

- Look over houseplants for grooming, watering and feeding needs. It's easy to overlook indoor plants with all the outdoor gardening chores on the daily agenda.

- Don't be alarmed by warty growths on the leaves of maples. These are galls caused by egg-laying activity of certain midges and mites. The effect on trees is more cosmetic than injurious, so no controls are warranted.

- Sharpen lawn mower blades if lawns have a brown or grayish cast to them a day after mowing. Dull blades shred grass rather than cutting. That's okay for wheat, but not grass.

- Bury your vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells and garden debris right in the vacant areas of your garden. They'll quickly turn into compost and enrich garden soils.

- Pick squash or pumpkin blossoms just after they open if you plan to eat them. Yes, they are edible. Check for insects and dirt (adds too much crunch to the taste) by washing and draining, then dip the blossoms in batter and fry until golden brown.

- Continue harvesting your vegetables even if you have more than you need at the moment. Many vegetables, including squash and cucumbers, will stop producing once they are allowed to reach maturity. Consider donating these surplus vegetables to a local food pantry.


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