8/2/13: In the garden this week

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The pictures show two low-growing prairie plants: wild petunia (Ruellia humilis) and nodding pink onion  (Allium cernuum), both in bloom in my garden right now. These tough-but-lovely plants both top out at about 18″ tall and bloom in late summer. They’re great for filling in the front of a border, and they provide wonderful contrast to all those late-summer yellow flowers.

After a dreadful mid-July heat wave, we are enjoying moderate temperatures and normal (not torrential) rainfall., a period, however brief, when It’s not too hot to work in the garden.

Think about the following lawn and garden care chores this week:

– keep the grass long (3″ or more) to reduce mowing times. Mow with a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the lawn, where they will serve as natural fertilizer. There is no need to fertilize or water. Rainfall totals for the summer are running around normal, and it rained steadily on Thursday.

– as perennials finish blooming, leave the dead flowers on the plants. Collect seeds as they ripen throughout the season; let most remain to feed the birds next winter. For most perennials, I will not remove any growth until early next spring.

— the ground is nice and damp, making it easy to weed, so get rid of the summer’s growth of weeds wile they are still small enough to pull out easily. It’s great exercise!

– continue to plant beans, kale, chard, and other members of the brassica clan if you have room; harvest squash and beans before they get large and tough. Pull up bean plants when they stop producing.

– continue to stake tomato plants firmly as they grow and remove all suckers. Now that plants are producing fruit, cut back on watering to prevent cracking.

– monitor the garden carefully for pests and diseases; high rainfall in June and high humidity in July are leading to fungal diseases, although most are not severe enough to threaten a plant’s health (more on that in a future post). Remove and discard infected leaves on vegetable plants, and water only in the early in the day to prevent the spread of fungus.

— identify pests before taking action: most insects are harmless or even beneficial, and many harmful ones can be easily removed by hand-picking

– take advantage of the relatively cool weather to do garden chores: carry out remedial or cosmetic pruning as needed, check the compost pile to see if the compost is ready to use.

And finally, starting thinking about fall crops, such as greens, It will be time to sow seeds in a couple more weeks.

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