Keep an Eye Out for Nutrient Deficiencies
All New England gardeners are familiar with the truth of the old saying about our weather -- if you don't like it, just wait a minute! While many of our garden plants are looking lush with all the rain we've had this spring and early summer, keep an eye on plants when the weather -- inevitably -- turns hot and dry. Plants growing in saturated soils are less likely to have developed deep root systems that can scavenge well for water and nutrients when the soil finally dries out. If you notice signs of nutrient deficiencies as the weather turns hotter and drier, help plants along by applying a quickly available soluble fertilizer such as fish emulsion. A layer of mulch will help to retain soil moisture when the weather is less rainy.
Remove Burlap and Wire Baskets at Planting Time
When planting trees and shrubs with balled-and-burlapped rootballs, be sure to remove as much of the wrapping materials as possible at planting time. For large trees in wire baskets, cut away the bottom section of the basket before placing the tree in the hole. Then clip away the rest of the wire before backfilling the hole. Also cut away as much of the burlap as you can and remove any ropes or string. Leaving these materials in place can inhibit the roots from growing out into the native soil, resulting in a "pot-bound" plant in the ground. When this occurs, the plant never gets well-established or well-anchored and may develop girdling roots that can harm the plant many years later.
Watch Out for the Cucumber Beetle
Yellow and black striped or spotted cucumber beetles are serious pests of all members of the cucumber family, including squash, melons, and pumpkins. (Spotted cucumber beetles also feed on a number of other vegetables.) These pests injure plants not only by direct feeding, but by transmitting the disease bacterial wilt as well. Young plants are especially susceptible to this disease, so it's important to control these pests early on. A good strategy is to rotate the location of cucurbits in the garden and cover young plants with row covers. You'll need to remove row covers when the plants begin to bloom so bees can get in to pollinate, but by then the plants will be less vulnerable. Look for and squash the beetles' oval, orange-yellow eggs found in clusters of 25-50 on the undersides of host leaves. Yellow sticky traps can be set in the garden to snare adult beetles.
Start Kale for a Fall Harvest
Kale that ripens in the cool temperatures of fall tastes the sweetest. Start seeds beginning now up until about two months before your fall frost date. You can start seeds in pots to transplant later as seedlings or sow seeds directly in the garden. Set plants in the garden where they will be shaded by taller crops during the heat of the summer.
Stake Tomato Cages
Supporting tomato plants in cages is an easy way to keep plants off the ground. But by the end of the summer, especially if you are growing indeterminate varieties that keep getting taller throughout the season, the cages can get pretty top-heavy. And it is no small task to try to right a tumbled cage without damaging the plant. Prevent this problem by driving two stakes in the ground opposite each other along the edges of the cage. Fasten the cage securely to the stakes with wire or twine.