Reflections from old computer disc hanging from a pole frightens off crows intent on robbing me of a meal of steamed sweet corn.

Gardener’s Checklist: Week of July 16, 2020

Ron explains why there may be no hanky-panky in the squash patch, plus this week's advice on growing vegetables.

To do this week:

* Apply sunscreen, wear a wide brimmed hat, and drink plenty of water when working in the garden during this upcoming heat wave. Also, try to limit work to the early and late hours of the day. Use some good old common sense when working outdoors now. Heat stress can overtake us before we realize it.

* Be sure the cutting height on your lawn mower is set to at least 2 ½ inches or more. The types of grasses used in home lawns, i.e. fine fescues and Kentucky bluegrass, are not adapted to low mowing, especially in hot weather.

* Cut back the shoots of basil now to just above the lowest set of leaves, especially on plants starting to flower. Use the basil leaves to make pesto. Surplus pesto can easily be frozen, but leave out the grated parmesan if freezing since it will cause the thawed pesto to be lumpy. Incorporate the cheese after thawing frozen pesto. After cutting back basil foliage, apply a liquid fertilizer to plants to promote further growth.

* Hill up soil around the stems of leeks every few weeks. This is done for the purpose of blanching the stems. There’s no particular time to harvest leeks as they’ll continue to grow right up to the time that the ground begins to freeze. I usually wait until the stems are as thick as my thumb and then harvest the leeks as I need them.

Continue to mound soil around leeks, a process called hilling, as the plants develop.

* Be careful to avoid stinging nettles when tromping over hill and dale or when working in weedy areas. This plant has numerous hairs on its leaves and stems, which can cause a painful skin irritation to those who come in contact with the plant. If unfamiliar with the plant, go to this website for information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stinging_nettle

* Keep mulches and plant debris away from the house foundation if millipedes have been entering the house. Millipedes inhabit mulches and plant debris but don’t like very wet habitats. As such, they’ll seek refuge inside dry home basements.

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“Be patient.” That’s my advice to friends who have been complaining that their summer squash have been reluctant to produce any fruit despite many flowers on the plant. There are several possible explanations for this failure to set fruit. Perhaps the most common reason is that the plants are producing only male blossoms. For anyone not familiar with the sex life of squash, only female flowers produce fruit, and only after they have received pollen from the male blossoms, with the assistance of the local bee population. Typically, summer squash produce about 4 times more male blossoms than female blossoms, and these open about a week before the female flowers do. So, until the opening of male and female flowers is in sync, there’ll be no hanky panky in the squash patch and no wee little squash fruit.