mature shallots
Flopped and dried tops indicate that shallots are ready for harvest.

Gardener’s Checklist: Week of August 6, 2020

How you can turn lemon rinds into rich soil, plus other tips for early August gardening.

To do this week:

* Apply an insect repellent containing DEET or mixtures of essential oils (e.g. peppermint, citronella and lavender) if horse and deer flies are harassing while you work outdoors. Wearing a light colored, long sleeved shirt and long pants plus a hat with protective mesh is an alternative to application of repellents. Losing some weight will also help since these biting and blood-sucking flies (only the females bite) are attracted to large bodies that generate a lot of heat, i.e. cows, horses, deer, and wide-bodied humans.

* Give oregano and other herbs that are now in flower a serious haircut by cutting back at least a third of their growth. This not only removes the flowers and insect riddled foliage but promotes new growth and provides fresh, clean leaves for use in the kitchen.

* Pull up onions and shallots if the tops have turned brown. Leaving the mature bulbs in the ground may result in their rotting if soils are wet. After harvesting the bulbs, spread them out on shallow trays or on screening of some sort for curing. Curing requires exposure to warm temperatures in an airy location for about two weeks. Afterwards, store the bulbs in a cool but dry place.

* Inspect lawns to see if any areas need to be renovated. The first step in renovation is to remove the weeds. The soil should then be loosened by raking or by some light working of the soil with a spading fork. Seeding can be done from now until early October.

* Stop deadheading roses and cease the application of fertilizer to rose plants. This will slow the growth of plants and allow them to begin the process of hardening before the onset of cold weather.

* Dig up and divide daylilies, which have completed their flowering for the year. Division of daylilies every few years will help promote good flowering.

Oregano and other herbs now flowering benefit from shearing. The plants will respond with growth of new tender shoots.

It’s a wise and opportunistic gardener who can turn lemons into lemonade. It’s an even wiser gardener who can turn lemon rinds into rich soil. An experienced gardener will immediately know that I am referring to the composting of organic wastes. At this time of the season as more and more garden space becomes vacant with the harvesting of vegetable crops or the removal of spent annuals from flower beds, we have an opportunity for turning good soil into great soil. This can be done by using a composting technique called sheet composting. The first step is to dig a wide trench at least one foot deep in a vacant area of the garden. Spent plant materials from the garden and kitchen waste (vegetable matter only) are then placed into the trench and covered with soil. Between now and next spring, this plant debris will decay and contribute organic matter to the soil. The net result will be a rich, fertile soil and outstanding plant growth. This in turn will enhance your reputation as a wise gardener, albeit one with an odd passion for lemons.