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Episode 45 – Mid-summer vegetable tips, junipers as hedging, and growing castor beans

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

Vegetable gardens should be filling out now with sunny days and heat – if you’re wondering what to do to maintain your crops here at the height of summer, we offer this checklist:

  • Did you fertilize when you planted? You may want to consider supplemental feeding about now. I’m a firm believer that healthy soil equals healthy plants equals healthy you. There is a direct correlation between the nutrient content of your soil and how nutritious your vegetables are, so by fertilizing regularly and building healthy soil, you grow bigger, better, and healthier veg as well.
  • When you water,  apply it at he base of your plants, and use a watering wand or drip irrigation hose. Avoid irrigating your vegetables at sundown, since the foliage will stay wet longer and that can lead to disease, like powdery mildew, especially on cucumbers, squash, and the like. But all vegetables need lots of water as they develop, as many contain 80% or more water. 
  • Prune your tomato plants. Remove any non-producing shoots and clear out lower branches so they are not touching the ground. Keep your plants supported to maintain good air circulation and light around the entire plant. The same goes for pepper plants, especially bell peppers. 
  • Blossom end rot in your tomatoes typically starts showing up this time of year, and many people blame calcium. However, it is also attributed to a deficiency of magnesium (Mg) deficiency and/or manganese (Mn) deficiency in plants right now. Magnesium (Mg) deficiency is much more common, and the tell-tale yellow marbling between the veins of the oldest leaves indicate that this mobile nutrient is being moved by the plant from the oldest leaves to the newest growth, like transferring money between accounts. Manganese (Mn) has a similar appearance but only shows up on the newest leaves. This nutrient is immobile in the plant, and so the newest growth doesn’t receive any “transfers” from the older growth. A high pH/more alkaline soil can make manganese (Mn) deficiency more prevalent.
  • It should be about time to harvest garlic and sweet onions in climates similar to ours here in Michigan.
  • Knee-high by the fourth of July means that if your corn is up to your knees or past them, your crop is on track for a successful harvest this year. Some years the corn is almost up to your shoulders, but on difficult years it is just knee-high. Farmers used this saying in the olden days to measure the success of the corn crop. It seems silly that we still hear this saying because the corn is almost always far above your knees by Independence Day, especially with modern hybrids.

Coming soon  – thanks for your patience!  

If you’d like to add Gin Fizz juniper – or any of the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs – to your garden or landscape, you’ll find a list of local retailers here

Gardening Mail Bag - Stacey

Do you have a question for us? We’re happy to help! E-mail us or use the contact tab above.

Branching News - Rick

• When Rick realized a deer had eaten the blossoms off his about-to-bloom Miss Molly butterfly bush, he wrote this Lim-A-Rick:

Delight is in finding out, not knowing
When things get tough you keep going
So don’t ever give up
Real gardeners never grow up
They just keep right on growing

• Wildfire season has begun in many places around the world. The dangerous smoke wildfires produce can spread far and wide. It blocks sunlight, poisons the air, and damages health of people and other living things. Brooke Edmunds, a plant scientist and community horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension, said plants subjected to smoke for a short amount of time will usually “bounce back,” or recover quickly. Pollutants and small particulate matter landing on your plants can block sunlight, which is essential for photosynthesis. Reduced photosynthesis results in reduced energy. That means slower growth.

Additionally, with longer exposure, organic compounds found in smoke can interfere with a plant’s ability to take in nutrients. Any damage will not be noticeable right away. Wash your plants with a gentle spray from a hose to remove substances left by smoke. Then give them a long, slow drink of water. Also, hold off on fertilizer until the air clears and plants fully recover. Edmunds said people should not use leaf blower machines to remove ashes from plants. You do not want to risk breathing in what is blowing around.

• If your curb lacks appeal, chances are, so do you, new research suggests. A recent survey of 2,000 people who are dating and own/rent a home with an outdoor space revealed seven in 10 (73%) said the exterior of a person’s home influences their level of attraction to them. And 86% equate being able to take care of an outdoor space with a potential partner’s caring ability.

What gives homes curb appeal? A neatly trimmed yard (67%) can do the trick, as well as trimmed hedges (65%) and clean walkways/driveways (64%). Nearly nine in ten (87%) would even attempt a DIY project together on the first date, and 64% believe the success of such a project can indicate whether the relationship lasts. Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Stihl Inc., results also found being handy with a power tool (49%) and the ability to fix things around the house (48%) are far greater attractions than owning an expensive car (21%).

Mountain snow in a Utah county is turning shades of red, pink and orange due to what experts said is a phenomenon called watermelon snow. Scientists said it is a natural phenomenon caused by a blooming green algae. The snow algae produce a pigment that basically darkens their cells, and it acts as both a protection against UV, so it protects their DNA from damage because they’re in such a bright place. It also has a secondary benefit of causing their cells to absorb heat which melts the snow around them which allows them to actually access water.

• Going on vacation? Here are the top road trip snacks:
Chips – 47%
Chocolate – 47%
Cookies – 44%
Nuts/seeds – 43%
Candy – 42%
Fresh/processed fruit – 40%
Granola bars – 38%

Driven by drought, heat-loving grasshoppers are thriving in Alberta, threatening to devour crops in central and southern parts of the province. Pest species of grasshoppers are taking wing early this year — and swarming in greater numbers. Robert Badry, who operates his family’s cereal farm near Heisler, 160 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, said half an acre of his wheat crop was devoured in a matter of days.
“The ground was literally moving with them,” he said. “It was bare, you could see the soil. They just eat it to nothing.” Grasshoppers have been long been a menace to agricultural producers. Like locusts, the insects are incredibly destructive. Even a moderate infestation — 10 grasshoppers per square metre — can consume up to 60 per cent of available vegetation.
This year, the hot and dry weather that fuelled historic wildfires in Alberta has contributed to a scourge of grasshoppers now threatening to strip already stunted crops.
Experts warn the infestations increase the risk of future outbreaks and serve as a reminder of the need to better monitor the pests. Recent rains may have slowed down the grasshoppers — but only temporarily, as populations have been booming for years.

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