Here's one example of a hazard tree that might be in your back yard: a dead branch with fungal growth on the trunk of a struggling maple tree.

Gardener’s Checklist: Week of July 9, 2020

Ron gives new tips on how to nurture your fruit and vegetable plants, plus a novel approach to getting rid of groundhogs.

To do this week:

* Look for hazard trees in your yard. With thunderstorm season upon us, these trees can easily be toppled in gusty winds. Detecting a hazard tree is not always easy, so it may be advisable to have a certified arborist survey trees for potential hazards. Nevertheless, some telltale signs of hazard trees are extensive branch dieback and the appearance of fungal growths on the tree trunk.

* Harvest zucchini and other summer squash while the fruit still have their blossoms attached. These “baby” squash have superior flavor to their older siblings. Harvesting squash while they are still small will also encourage the parent plants to keep putting forth more fruit. Squash are not big on birth control.

* Harvest shallots to use as green onions. Though I allow my main crop of shallots to fully mature, I don’t hesitate to pull up a clump while they are still green whenever I have a need for scallions in a recipe.

Shallots may be harvested before maturity and used in lieu of green onions in recipes.

* Place straw under tomato plants to keep water from splashing soil onto the leaves. Fungi causing foliar diseases on tomatoes often live on the soil surface. Early blight is perhaps the most common disease on tomatoes right now and is easily recognized by its target-like spots.

Target-like spots on tomato leaves are symptoms of early blight on tomatoes.

* Place netting over blueberry bushes to keep feathered friends, especially of the bird type, from stealing your crop of berries. Be sure netting extends all the way to the ground and is secured with heavy stones, bricks or heavy-duty steel pins. Otherwise, birds will walk under the netting to get at the fruit. The problem is that the birds then often become entangled in the netting as they try to fly away instead of walking back out under the net. Dumb birds!

Netting suspended over blueberry bushes will deter very berry hungry birds.

* Get out your arsenal of Japanese beetle weapons. The beetles, which feed on roses, linden trees, grapes, and over 300 other plants, are now out and about. Hand picking in many instances may be all you have to do if beetle numbers are not too great. Application of neem oil while the population is small may be a good option on food crops. Neem oil is an organic pesticide, but do read and follow directions on the product label, just as you would with any pesticide.

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While experience is the best teacher when it comes to gardening, one can learn a lot by reading gardening books, garden journals, and, in rare instances, gardening columns. Another source of information, and the one most fun for me, is chatting with other gardeners. As examples, here are some tidbits I picked up while discussing my favorite subject with folks I once met on a garden tour.

Use kitty litter to persuade woodchucks to abandon their home under a shed. According to the man who told me this, he tossed old (used) kitty litter under his shed and the woodchucks apparently left in disgust. Well, smelly kitty litter would make me leave home, too. So, this may be a workable solution to woodchuck problems.

I’m always advising people to remove the scapes (flower stems) from garlic plants, but another gardener told me that leaving the scapes increases the storage life of garlic bulbs. Hmmm, removing the scapes results in larger bulbs but leaving the scapes extends storage life. What to do…what to do? Well, this year it doesn’t matter since I’ve already opted for larger bulbs.