To do this week
* Pick strawberries daily. Strawberries are ripening fast. Freeze the excess harvest after washing the fruit and discarding any with soft spots or mold. Spread berries on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. When frozen, toss the berries into a freezer bag.
* Keep an eye, or two, on the pea patch. Pick only the pods that are plump and firm. The best time to pick peas is early morning when their sugar content is highest. Don’t let picked peas sit around more than a day since they rapidly lose their sweet flavor.
* Harvest parsley as needed, but use only the outer leaves. I use scissors to cut off these fully developed leaves and let the central, younger leaves continue their development. Parsley is a good breath freshener; it’s a good idea to stuff a pocket or two with a bunch of parsley when going out on the town tonight……ooops, well, maybe not tonight nor in the near future.
* Leave the spent foliage of daffodils alone even though they have flopped and are turning yellow. Once they have dried up, they will easily pull away from attachment to their subterranean bulbs. My mother used to tie the fading foliage into a knot to get it out of the way so that she could plant annuals to hide the yellowing daffodil leaves.
* Fertilize roses. Roses are somewhat gluttonous; they like to be fed often. The two easiest ways to feed roses is to work a slow-release fertilizer into the soil around the plants, or apply a water-soluble fertilizer to the plants every few weeks. Also, apply a mulch of grass clippings around rose plants. As clippings decompose, they contribute nutrients to the plant.
* Deadhead roses, irises, peonies, alliums, and other plants whose flowers are spent. This not only makes the garden look neater but may also encourage additional flowering, except on those plants genetically programmed to bloom only once.
Recently, my daughter bought a weed killer product whose primary ingredient is vinegar, not what one would typically expect in an herbicide. The product reminded me of the initial testing of vinegar as a weed killer performed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland. They were able to kill two-week-old seedlings of such common weeds as lambs quarters, giant foxtail, velvetleaf, smooth pigweed, and Canada thistle by spraying the plants with 5 and 10 percent concentrations of vinegar. Household vinegar has a concentration of about 5 percent. Older plants of these weeds were killed with higher concentrations of vinegar. The product my daughter bought contains 30 percent vinegar.
In a more recent study, researchers at Penn State University compared the weed-killing efficacy of vinegar and clove oil. They found that both provided fair to good control of smooth pigweed, common lamb’s quarters, velvetleaf, and ragweed seedlings. The clove oil was as good as or better than vinegar in these studies. Interestingly, my wife has been using vinegar for years as a disinfectant when cleaning windows, counter tops, and bathrooms, so much so that I often feel as if I’m trapped in a bottle of vinaigrette salad dressing.