2018-07-04 / Gardening Tips

Timely Tips

By: Bob Beyfuss

Most of our region got a very much needed, rainy weekend, June 23 and 24. At my house in Conesville, the 2 day total was almost 3 inches! I returned from Florida expecting to see that my lawn and garden had grown out of control, but the lack of rain the previous two weeks prevented that from happening. I was pleased to see how well the beets and Brussels sprouts have taken off, but the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and carrots are still languishing. I planted wax beans and potatoes before I left and they are up and growing well. This recent rain coupled with some summer like temperatures expected later this week, should finally get the tomatoes and cucumbers growing. The soil temperature in my raised beds is still in the low 70’s and the cool nights at higher elevations also slow down growth significantly. Gardeners who insist on rushing the season by planting too early put their plants at much higher risk from insects and diseases, then if they just waited a few weeks.

There are already scattered reports from central NY of a late blight outbreak on tomatoes and potatoes. This devastating disease may completely prevent any harvest whatsoever of two of our favorite vegetables. As is the case with most diseases, late blight has to be prevented and cannot be “cured” once established. It is not an easy disease to manage under any circumstances. Some common tomato diseases, such as early blight and Septoria leaf spot can be tolerated, with some loss of yield, but late blight is devastating. If you are noticing lots of brown leaves and grey colored lesions on the stalks, check out Cornell’s diagnostic page by searching for “late blight of tomato”. I plan to spray my tomato and potato plants proactively with a copper based fungicide today and I will follow that up with a different material next week. It is often a good tactic to alternate different fungicides to avoid pathogen resistance to any given product.

Make sure that you thin peaches, nectarines and plums by the end of this month to avoid stressing and possibly even killing the trees by allowing them to overbear. Apples and pears usually do not require this step. Peaches should be thinned to 8 inches apart on any branch. My local chipmunk population is out of control once again and the furry little creeps are already eating the immature peaches as well as tunneling under the trees. I must confess that I have grown to dislike chipmunks intensely, despite their inherent “cuteness”. Owls and hawks as well as coyotes prey on them. I plan to put up a couple of owl boxes this summer in the woods near my house.

Strawberry beds rarely remain productive for more than 2 or 3 years, but they can be renovated by mowing off all the foliage after harvest and tilling both sides of the row, narrowing it to a foot wide. Space the new runners that emerge about 6 inches apart and fertilize the bed in August. Raspberries may remain productive for years by thinning canes to no more than 3 or 4 per linear foot of row right now. Blueberries are kept productive by removing three or four of the bearing stems after harvest and only allowing three or four new stems to grow. Blueberries bear the most fruit on three year old canes, so the bush should be pruned accordingly. Currants and Gooseberries are managed similarly.

“Deadheading” which is the practice of removing spent flower blossoms, is not necessary for most spring flowering shrubs, but rhododendrons usually respond well to this practice. There is still time to drastically prune forsythia and other spring flowering shrubs to encourage new growth. As is the case with lilacs, remove the oldest stems at ground level. Do not prune summer flowering shrubs such as Rose of Sharon now, or you risk pruning off this season’s flower buds.

Another bonus from the rain is that it may trigger a flush of chanterelle mushrooms by this weekend if we get some really warm

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