2015-07-15 / Gardening Tips / Columns

Gardening Tips: July 15, 2015

My Rain Barrel Floweth Over
by Bob Beyfuss

During the month of June we received between six to 10 inches of rain in our region. The total was more to the north in the Adirondacks and less south of Albany, but still more than enough to end the drought.

Remember to avoid tilling the soil when it is wet since this can cause serious texture problems when it dries out. You can mow the lawn when the grass is wet, but it will mat up much easier and the clippings may need to be removed. Grass clippings can be used as mulch in the vegetable garden and they actually release some nitrogen as they decompose. If the clippings are left on the lawn they can contribute up to one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet over the growing season. This is equivalent to applying 10 pounds of a 10-6-4 fertilizer.

How to Kill Cucumber Beetles

Lots of vegetable garden pests are showing up as the season progresses. The wet weather favors slugs but discourages flea beetles. Striped cucumber beetles have appeared on cucumbers and squash. These small yellow and black striped insects may not appear to be harming the plants but their larvae feed on roots and they also transmit a disease called bacterial wilt. If your cucumber plants seem to just shrivel up and die in mid season, this is the most likely cause. You may need to drench the soil at the base of the plants with an insecticide. Read the insecticide label to make sure that the specific pest you are trying to kill is listed on the label.

Squash vine borers lay their eggs at soil level and their larvae tunnel into the crowns of the squash plants, causing them to collapse. Hilling up soil on the crown (don’t cover the flowers) may prevent them from this. Some people are already overrun with summer squash and do not mind having their plants die. (You can only give away so many squash!) Others are seeing lots of flowers, but very few fruit forming. This is generally because squash plants make both male and female flowers and sometimes the female flowers don’t get pollinated. You can pollinate them manually using an artist paintbrush to transfer the yellow pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. The female flowers have little fruit on the bottom of the flower, which will rot before they grow more than a few inches long if not pollinated. The male flowers do not have the tiny fruit on the bottom but they have stalk like structures (stamens) with sacs on top that bear the pollen. Squash flowers may also be eaten. The most popular way to prepare them is to dip them in batter and fry.

Adult asparagus beetles are also quite small but their larvae (caterpillar stage) may eat much of the asparagus foliage. These beetles are either orange with black spots or black with white spots. They are only about onequarter to one-half-inch long with relatively long antennae. The larvae are grey with darker colored heads. Hand picking the adult beetles can keep them in check while you are still harvesting spears. Well-established asparagus beds can usually be harvested until around the 4th of July before allowing them to grow up into fern.

Cabbage worms are already doing major damage to all sorts of brassicas including my Brussel’s sprouts! These worms are the larvae of the white moth that you may see flitting around your garden. They are exactly the same color as the plants so they may be hard to spot at first, but their dark colored frass (caterpillar poop) is usually noticeable as are the holes in the leaves they chew. Covering the plants with floating row covers can exclude the moths and prevent further egg laying but you need to get rid of the worms beneath the cover first.

Still Plenty of Time to Plant

Soil temperatures are warm enough to plant any warm-season crops and there is still time to plant short season varieties of sweet corn. Any sweet corn variety that matures in 85 days or less will produce a crop. Actually there is still plenty of time to start a whole new garden if you can find transplants or still have some seed. Beans, summer squash, beets, and even pumpkins can still be seeded now. You may want to even wait a few weeks before starting cool weather crops, like spinach or lettuce. My early spinach has already bolted and gone to seed. Lettuce seeds may not germinate if the soil temperature is too high either. You can cool and shade the newly planted lettuce seed by laying a board over the row. Of course you must lift and remove the board every day until you see the seeds sprout.

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