by Joan Hinkemeyer
July is a growth month. Our plants
grow, weeds grow and bugs grow.
Unfortunately, Julyís long hot days and nights
so conducive to growth spurts in the natural
world donít really translate into energy spurts in mere mortals who seek
some measure of control in their gardenscapes. Success and peace of
mind lie in knowing when
to wage battles and when to negotiate peace.
The first rule is NEVER to use a pesticide,
herbicide or any other chemical unless itís absolutely necessary Ė i.e.,
to save a mature tree attacked by insects. I donít care how many ads praise the
safety of weed killers. They are chemical poisons and the companies
manufacturing them want to make money from lazy perfectionistic homeowners.
Iím amused and annoyed watching overweight
folks bemoaning their weight who reach for the weed killer at the first hint of
a green vagrant daring to emerge in their unnaturally green, chemically-induced
Pulling weeds is a superb therapy, both
physical and mental. You burn calories, can channel your frustrations into each
pulled weed and then have the satisfaction of seeing a cleared space in your
landscape for chosen plants. This even saves on gym membership fees.
If you are truly physically unable to pull
weeds, smother large areas with thick layers of newspapers and plastic. Boiling
water kills everything it hits and I use it regularly now that my back and
knees have rebelled.
Then when you want to rest from your labors,
read Richard Mabeyís lively and informative book, Weeds:
In Defense of Natureís Most Unloved Plants. Youíll enjoy it and have a new
understanding of why weeds are so invincible.
Q. Please settle an argument between my
mother and me. She makes me weed in the garden every week, but I canít see why
we canít just let everything grow. I think this is child abuse against an
A. Child abuse? Well, I am afraid you wonít
like my answer very much. If you had to weed all day, every day from early
morning until sunset in blazing heat, as some children do, then I would truly
consider it to be abuse. Weeding for a short period each week is a good outdoor
activity that will make you strong and healthy, and it will help you grow.
(Measure yourself now and when school starts.)
Weeds are garden bullies that steal all the
nutrients in the soil so that real food starves. So, pull those bullies and
save the flowers and vegetables. Donít forget to enjoy the butterflies and
earthworms that live in healthy soil and prove youíre doing a good job. While
youíre weeding, maybe you can think of a new way to keep weeds out of the
garden. Then YOU will be famous!
Q. We are rather new homeowners who
bought a foreclosed house. Until we can address the trashy yard and to save
water, weíve spread loads of mulch, including around the trees. Recently
relatives visiting from the Midwest said the mulch would harm the trees by
causing bark to rot, but we see mulch in all the parks here.
A. Nothing rots in Colorado, not even my
compost if I neglect it. In our arid climate, mulch helps retain badly needed
moisture. It also protects against extreme soil variations that can be harmful
to young trees especially.
Q. I love fresh lettuce from my garden,
but it always bolts too soon. Any tips for extending its eating season?
A. Iím constantly experimenting with this. I
start the season as early as possible in spring by planting some mesclun mix in containers set in warm sunny areas. Then I
stagger plantings every few weeks and move from very sunny garden patches to
cooler shady ones. Floating row cover protects tender plants from hot sun and
drying winds. This year I tried sowing some lettuce near my emerging Jupiterís
beard. The mature foliage shaded the lettuce, to my delight. Continue to
experiment, but let some go to seed. Youíll be surprised at all the very early
lettuce emerging willy-nilly around your landscape. You might also want to
start a fall crop of lettuce in a shady area at the end of this month.
Q. My raspberries have some kind of odd
swelling on the cane. There was some last year but it has increased this year.
The canes also donít look too great.
A. Without having seen them, Iím guessing (I
do a lot of that) that cane borer is affecting your raspberries. Cut the
affected cane 6-8 inches below the swelling and destroy the cane. Donít compost
it. Be certain to sterilize your tools so that you donít spread the disease.
When you have harvested your berries, severely prune the bushes of all old
canes to provide more space for air circulation.
Although it may seem strange to speak of
cool weather veggies in this hot month, we must be aware of passing time and
the already lengthening shadows. At monthís end, plant a new crop of peas,
lettuce, spinach and arugula. Plant these where they will be shaded from summer
sun, cover with row cover and baby them. Their freshness will reward you in two
months and long after the first early frosts. If you lack sheltered spots,
plant in containers that you can move.
Since we hot sweaty gardeners often have a
love/hate relationship with summer, we can identify with Russell Baker: ďAh
summer! What power you have to make us suffer and like it.Ē
heat, growth and early harvest.