By Brent Gray
This time of year, unless we have had adequate rain, the big chore in the garden is keeping things watered. One of the easiest ways to conserve water in the garden is by mulching. Keep a 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch around shrubs, flower, and vegetables. Pine straw, bark chips, and shredded hardwood bark are effective choices. As a general rule, one bale of pine straw will cover about 50 to 80 square feet of bare area, depending on how deep you apply it. For replenishing areas covered with straw, one bale will cover about 150 square feet. One cubic yard (27 cubic feet) of bark mini-nuggets will cover about 80 square feet.
During these hot days, flowers and foliage in cool colors can make outdoor living areas seem cooler. Consider using pastel-colored impatiens, begonias, petunias, Madagascar periwinkle (vinca), and hibiscus along with silvery foliage of artemisias or dusty miller in pots, hanging baskets or flowerbeds to “cool down” your deck or terrace. Varying shades of greens, blues, purples and lavenders combined with whites can trick you into thinking you’re cooler when its 90 in the shade!
A black, sooty coating on the leaves of azaleas, gardenias, and crapemyrtles is a fungus that grows on the sticky secretions (called honeydew) of aphids. To control the sooty mold, you’ll need to use an insecticide, such as malathion, to kill the aphids. Once the aphids are under control the sooty mess will disappear over time.
Emerging pumpkins are vulnerable to flea beetles. Check your leaves for small, perfectly round holes. Apply an insecticide if more than one third of the leaves are damaged.
Large fruited tomatoes should set fruit during the current cool snap. Make sure the plants are not deficient in water or nutrients so the newly developing fruit have a good start.
Peppermint Stick Swiss chard has been very heat tolerant this summer. This new cultivar has pink in the petioles near the stem but has white veins in the green leaves. This green is very nutritious and is alternative to collards for production in high temperatures.
Blueberries are ripening much later than usual this year due to the cool Spring. Watch them closely since they will ripen rapidly in the warmer than usual temperature.
Pay attention to the weather forecast and pick them before a significant rainfall. The ripe berries tend to fall or split when subjected to our Mississippi thunderstorms.
Horticulture Tips for July 23, 2014
Lelia Kelly, David Nagel