Time to trim your eyebrows

The excessively hot and dry summer weather has continued this past week and it appears it will go on this way for the foreseeable future.

I did get a few inches of rain, which was enough to fill my rain barrels, but the soil is still very dry, even in the woods. We need a steady, slow, soaking rain of at least two inches to get back to almost close to normal.

Remember that the easiest time to hand weed is immediately after a rain, but be sure to apply moisture conserving mulch such as straw or woodchips as soon as you get the weeds out. Crabgrass is rapidly germinating now in this hot weather and can become reestablished in only a few days.

This weed produces side “tillers” within a few days of emerging, making the job even tougher. Left on its own to grow, crabgrass can form a monoculture that occupies the whole garden bed in just a week or two.

As our gardens expand to full development, the need for moisture is even greater now than it was just a few weeks ago. I suspect we will be seeing lots of “blossom end rot” on our tomato plants. This expanding black spot on the bottom of ripening fruit is often mistaken for a fungal disease, but it is caused by a water imbalance in the plants that usually fixes itself later on in the season as the root system expands.

Some text books and garden websites will tell you to add calcium to cure blossom end rot, but that is rarely needed if your soil pH is above 6.0. Calcium applied as foliar sprays is equally useless.

I consider most foliar fertilizer sprays as pretty useless in general, except in some very specific instances to correct iron deficiency.

If your blueberry or rhododendron leaves are yellow with green veins, this indicates an iron deficiency that can be temporarily “fixed” by spraying with chelated iron. The long-term solution is to lower the soil pH by added sulphur in the form of iron or aluminum sulphate, but be careful with these chemicals as it is easy to overdose. Using ammonium sulfate as fertilizer on these plants is another way to address the problem, which is called “iron chlorosis.”

I was reminded why I quit growing zucchini, as I watched one single plant take over almost an entire 4 foot by 10 foot bed. Despite its major occupation of valuable garden space, this monster plant has yet to produce a single zucchini.

I know that in a week or so, I will be searching for people to give the surplus fruit to as female blossoms appear and get pollinated. Zucchini produce mostly male flowers for a couple of weeks before they produce the female flowers that develop into fruit if they get pollinated. Sometimes a single plant will fail to yield at all, but two plants might produce a bushel full!

I need to find my recipe for zucchini bread. Fresh zucchini can be grated and frozen for future bread making. You can also make zucchini fritters, pickles, pie and lots of other good stuff with this versatile vegetable that is technically a fruit. A smart gardener knows the difference between a vegetable and a fruit, and a wise chef knows better than to add tomatoes to fruit salad!

If you pinch the first flowers off your pepper plants right now, as they appear, you will be rewarded later on this season with twice or three times as many peppers as you would have harvested. Peppers take a long time to really become established and productive, but they tend to flower early and that may keep them stunted if fruit is allowed to develop. Be sure to wear gloves when harvesting hot peppers such as habaneros, since these fruit can seriously burn your eyes should you happen to wipe sweat off your brow and accidentally touch your eyes.

I suffer from “Andy Rooney” eyebrows more and more as I get older. My face keeps growing hair on my eyebrows, ears and nose that used to grow on top of my head. If not trimmed regularly, my eyebrows could provide nests for small birds. These fur balls hold onto anything that floats by or gets rubbed on them, storing leaves, toxic substances, lint, and soil to name a few things! I was cutting up beets last week and I noticed that one eyebrow was a distinct red color as result.

It might be a good idea to stock up on canning jars and accessories right now, before the fall harvest season really begins. The huge increase in home gardening this year, as a result of COVID, created shortages of things other than toilet paper this spring and I expect similar shortages of supplies this coming fall.

Reach Bob Beyfuss at rlb14@cornell.edu.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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