Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
July, 2003
Regional Report

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These Oregon sugar peas always bear tasty pods even when the weather is hot.

Midsummer is Here!

It's here, midsummer -- the season of heat and harvest. And finally all those plants we've nurtured since spring are coming into their own. I've been keeping mental "notes from the field" rolling around in my head all season so I thought I'd jot down a few. Perhaps we can both learn from my mistakes!

Note 1: I've tried garden peas for years without any success. We get hot so quickly every summer that they stop producing almost before they start. I finally gave in and now exclusively grow snow peas. These peas are magnificently flavored and don't give out as soon as the temperature reaches the 80's. That's one lesson I'll put down for good!

Note 2: I've learned by trial and error that watering my straw-mulched garden with an overhead sprinkler keeps the plants in a perpetual state of water stress. Straw is a great insulator that will keep the soil moist, but it tends to shed water. My plants don't get the benefit of sprinkling. I now put soaker and drip hoses down before the mulch, as soon as I sow seeds or put in transplants. That way, they are in place when it's time to mulch.

Note 3: Unless you really intend to start a market garden and sell herbs, don't plant comfrey or borage! The clear blue and purple flowers of borage and comfrey are beautiful, and I'm sure there is some herbal use for them. However, three years after digging out the original plants because they were so weedy, I'm still fighting them. Comfrey, a perennial, produces seedlings with nasty taproots that defy even my old-fashioned dandelion digger. The borage, an annual, has a little more refined root system but produces thousands of seedlings that still engulf one of my garden beds.

Note 3: Planting cucumbers late in the summer really does help ward off cucumber beetles. I planted mine around the middle of June this year, not intentionally, but just because I didn't get to it. So far I've had no beetles. I planted pole beans early in the season and the beetles ravaged them, but then populations dwindled. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that populations will remain low.

Note 4: Be sure to tease out the roots of perennials or shrubs with dense root systems, especially when they are pot bound. I planted new perennials in early summer. The plants had great roots but were quite potbound. As usual, I was in a hurry and put them in the ground without loosening the roots much. As a result, they wilt daily since water is not getting to the interior roots of the root ball. I'm now inserting a tree root feeder into the root ball and watering every other day. I know they will develop plenty of roots through the summer and will be great next year, but right now they are struggling.

Note 5: Put up your trellises as soon as you plant or early in the season before perennials start growing. There is nothing as frustrating as trying to prop up a clematis that has been lying on the ground because its trellis is missing. And, trellising peas after they are growing really does do some root damage.

There! Now that I've written down these notes, hopefully I'll remember them for next year. And I hope you can use them as well.

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