In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Fennel blooms (a favorite of beneficial insects) sow freely and transplant easily so you can spread them around the garden.
It's hot, hot, hot. Aside from speed trips into the garden to harvest tomatoes, squash, cukes, peaches, plums, and strawberries -- and tend to emergency watering -- I prefer to stay comfortable indoors with the air conditioner and my icy drink of choice. No luxuriating in the shade outdoors, much less working in the garden, for me. Not this month. I prefer to garden in the pre-dusk hours, when the light is low and the air temperature more moderate. Fortunately, years of incorporating manure and compost has alleviated my having to truly labor. Yet some tasks do need attention, and here they are:
1. Prune vegetable plants of their leaves that have become ragged from age, disease, or insect attacks. Then water plants well. Healthy new leaves and blossoms will appear, and fruit set will begin again. This is especially effective with beans, cucumbers, and squash.
2. Feed and water bramble fruits and strawberries. The size of next summer's fruit is determined this month and next; the more fertilizer and irrigation, the bigger the berries will be next spring. Propagate bramble fruits by bending the cane tips to the soil surface and burying one or two nodes an inch or so deep.
3. Remove mature flowers and seedpods of coreopsis, cosmos, gaillardia, marigolds, and zinnias to encourage longer blooming. Collect seeds from non-hybrid flowers, and sow those that are cold-hardy, such as bachelor's buttons, dianthus, Oriental poppies, and stocks.
4. Remove faded blooms of perennials like coreopsis, Shasta daisies, delphiniums, penstemons, and yarrow. Cut them back to within 6inches of the soil, and they may bloom again in the fall. Divide clumps that are too large or when they haven't bloomed much. Sidedress the plants with bonemeal and compost, and water in.
5. Hose off red spider mites from roses, evergreens, shrubs, and ivies. They thrive in hot, dry weather. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the undersides of leaves.
6. Follow "heavy" feeders with "light" feeders and vice versa when you plan the layout of your fall and winter gardens. Heavy feeders include beets, broccoli, cabbage, celery, collards, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, okra, parsley, pumpkins, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, squash, and tomatoes. Light feeders include carrots, chard, garlic, leeks, mustard, onions, parsnips, peppers, potatoes, rutabaga, shallots, sweet potatoes, and turnips.
7. If you absolutely must transplant during this excruciatingly hot weather, do so late in the day to reduce plant stress in the heat. Shade plants from intense direct sun for a week, and sprinkle their foliage each morning. After a week, they should be well-established enough to resist wilting in the full sun.
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