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Cummings and Goings in Agriculture

Final Local Horse Show This Saturday

By Steve Cummings

Summer arrived early this year and it seems as if it’s here to stay.  Fortunately the nights have been cool.  Almost all of the crops have been planted and now we can hope for timely rains and that this past winter did help reduce the insect population.

The final horse show prior to the district 4-H horse Show is this Saturday, June 12, starting at 2 p.m. and the running events will not start before 8 p.m. Come out and support our 4-H’ers as they prepare for the district 4-H horse show.

Earlier this week, I went and rented a new Post Office Box. This made retirement seem more of a reality.

Horticulture Tips

June 21 is the summer solstice and the official start of summer. Most of us have been experiencing typical summer weather already with afternoon temperatures in the nineties and always a chance of a rain shower. These conditions are ideal for many of the fungi that like to eat our plants in the garden. Be vigilant and apply control measures whenever you see leaf spots and lesions appear. One labor intensive method of slowing the spread of a fungal problem is to prune the damaged leaves and remove them from the garden. This method works well for folks who container garden and have a few plants to tend.

Hot and humid weather will reveal weaknesses in our landscape and garden plants. Shrubs and trees that wilt in the afternoon even with plenty of available moisture in the soil may be suffering from an unnoticed injury. The teen and single digit temperatures we experienced last winter may have damaged the xylem system of well established woody plants. If you notice one side of a bush or one branch of a tree wilting while the rest of the plant looks fine, check the bark on the main trunk for splits or cracks. The damaged bark is an indication of cold injury. If the wilting is not severe, a light pruning to remove no more than one third of the leaves may allow the plant to recover.

The best time to work in the garden for the gardener’s comfort is in the morning hours before the temperatures get too high. This is also when the plants are normally wet with dew. Be cautious about spreading diseases by moving the water from an infected plant to others.

Irish potato growers may read that they should let the plants die before digging the potatoes. This method works where soil temperatures are not as warm as ours. Even heat-adapted Red LaSoda potatoes will deteriorate if left in the ground too long when soil temperatures get too high. Dig potatoes when they get big enough.

Don’t follow potatoes in the garden with eggplant, tomatoes, or peppers. These are all in the same family and share many soil borne problems.

Bell pepper growers need to remember well fertilized plants make big peppers. Okra growers need to remember well fertilized plants just make big plants, not more okra. Bean growers know that too much fertilizer means no beans.

Dianthus, zinnia, marigold and other annuals will continue blooming if you remove the faded flowers. This task, called dead heading, is one of the least favorite of gardeners, but will pay generous rewards.  Add the pruned blooms to the compost pile.

Tree fruit growers should be mindful of June beetles, commonly called junebugs, which will eat their developing apples, peaches, and pears. A common form of entertainment in less hectic times was to tie a thread to a junebug’s leg and watch it fly in circles. These brightly colored beetles are the adults of the white grubs that grow in the lawn.

Timely mowing at the right height is the most important lawn input. Grasses are growing rapidly now and allowing them to get too tall between mowing causes several problems.  Upright growth causes the grass plant to slow lateral growth. This causes a more open lawn which allows weed seed to land on soil.  Tall grass makes larger, more abundant clippings. Allowing the clippings to remain on the lawn shade the uncut lawn. The larger clippings are also slower to decompose. Bermuda grass will “self shade” if allowed to grow too tall and the grass will develop a brown, almost leafless zone between the soil surface and the green leafed top. This zone becomes a haven for pest organisms. Mow often enough that the height is reduced by no more than one third at a mowing and that the lawn is still green behind the mower.

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