Japanese beetle on a raspberry
A Japanese beetle enjoying a meal of fresh, ripe raspberry.

GARDENER’S CHECKLIST: Week of July 22, 2021

Nature abhors a vacuum, as does the weed. Plant buckwheat to fill those voids quickly.

* Pick red raspberries daily. Right now it is a race between me and Japanese beetles to see who gets to the ripe berries first. Right now we are neck and neck despite my daily efforts at eliminating the competition by handpicking the beetles and dropping them in a jar of soapy water.

* Apply a high nitrogen fertilizer to sweet corn whose leaves are pale or yellowish. This leaf color is a good indication that the plants are starved for nitrogen, a very water soluble nutrient which readily leaches from the soil with frequent and heavy rainfall. I prefer an organic source for nitrogen, such as an animal manure-based fertilizer.

Sweet corn plants with pale leaves
Pale green leaves on sweet corn are a sign that the plants relish an application of fertilizer.

* Continue to bank soil against leeks to make the lower edible part of the leafy shoot whiter and longer. Though leeks still have a lot of growing to do, don’t be afraid to harvest some when needed.
* Harvest beans, summer squash, cucumbers, eggplant and peppers every few days, even if you don’t need the produce. Frequent harvesting will prompt the plants to continue producing more fruit. Donate your excess produce to a local food pantry.

Pepper ready to be harvested
Fruiting crops, such as pepper, need to be harvested every few days to ensure continued yield.

* Keep your flower border looking neat by routinely deadheading the spent blossoms from daylilies.

* Cut yarrow (Achillea) plants to the ground after blooming to encourage new growth
and avoid the untidy stage for this plant. The newer hybrids are less likely to become straggly than the species. With pruning shears still in hand, cut back catmint, perennial geraniums, lady’s mantle, and other plants that tend to become disheveled after flowering.

* Promptly remove grapes that appear brown or black and shriveled. These grapes are infected by a fungus that causes a disease called phomopsis.

Some grapes infected
Grapes infected with phomopsis disease should be promptly removed from the vine.

* Monitor plants for disease. With the almost daily rain and very humid weather this month, I expect that certain plant diseases will soon appear if they haven’t already. Powdery mildew may be the most common, appearing on the leaves of a wide range of plants including vine crops, phlox, beebalm, lilac, and ninebark. As the name implies, this disease is characterized by the white powdery appearance of the fungus on plant leaves. On many plants, such as lilac, powdery mildew can appear every year and have little effect other than cosmetic. On other plants, especially vegetables and herbaceous perennials, the disease can cause browning and shriveling of leaves and stems and possibly death of entire plants. There are a number of organic fungicides registered for control of powdery mildew. These may contain potassium bicarbonate, neem oil, and copper or sulfur compounds.

*

Admittedly, it’s been a looooong time, so I can be excused for not remembering much from the days I took up space in college classrooms. But then, I hardly remember putting my jeans on this morning…………ooops, guess I didn’t. Nevertheless, I do remember a statement by a former biology professor: “Nature abhors a vacuum!” By that he meant that if an organism dies or is removed from a particular site or habitat, another will quickly move in and occupy that space. No one appreciates this natural phenomenon more than a gardener. Pull up spent plants in the vegetable garden and before you can check to see if you laced your shoes, weeds appear in that space.

Buckwheat plants
Buckwheat is an excellent cover crop to fill in vacant garden space, as it retards the invasion of weeds.

A simple solution to this problem is to sow seeds of buckwheat in vacant areas of the garden. (Buckwheat is available at many garden centers or farm stores.) Scatter buckwheat seeds over garden soil and rake the soil lightly to cover the seeds. Buckwheat grows rapidly and creates a dense canopy that shades out any weed that dares invade my garden. Buckwheat matures in just 6 to 8 weeks. Many “experts” recommend turning under buckwheat before it sets seed for fear that hundreds of buckwheat plants will come up next spring. That doesn’t worry me since the plants have a shallow and limited root system, making them easy to pull up. Now excuse me while I lace up my shoes.