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Long Weekend of Gardening

07/02/04 12:00AM By Henry Homeyer
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(Host) Commentator Henry Homeyer is planning to spend most of the Fourth of July holiday - where else - in the garden.


(Homeyer) I'm looking forward to the long Fourth of July weekend. We'll have friends over for a barbecue, and we might see some fireworks. But most of all, I look forward to having some extra time to work on the list. If you're a gardener, you know what I mean. The list is the list of those gardening chores that need to be done, and there's never enough time in the work week.

My first chore is to cut down the purple loosestrife that's growing near our stream. Loosestrife is that gorgeous tall purple flower that's taking over the wetlands everywhere. I've learned that pulling it out is not the solution. Scraps of root resprout, and buried seeds germinate. It's best to just cut it down and keep it from blooming and making more seeds.

Next, I'll work on the blueberries. They have shallow, fibrous roots that don't compete well with weeds, and we have weeds. I'll pull the weeds, then give them some bagged organic fertilizer made for acid-loving plants. Two cups spread around each bush will do. I should've done it right after they bloomed, but haven't found the time. Lastly, I'll put 3-4 inches of chipped branches or bark mulch around the bushes to keep down the weeds.

Oriental poppies- those bold orange flowers Georgia O'keefe painted so well- have all bloomed, so it's time to cut off the stalks and leaves. By doing this, I may get them to rebloom in the fall. If they think their seeds haven't done their job, often they'll bloom a second time.

This is also the time of year to be scouting for potato beetles, before they get numerous. They're yellow critters with black stripes that can defoliate potato plants in a jiffy. I haven't seen any yet, but I haven't had time to look under their leaves for the tell-tale orange eggs or their plump orange larvae with black heads and legs. If I see any, I'll pop them into a jar of soapy water. We rarely have many, perhaps because we plant our potatoes in June after the beetles have already gone to visit our neighbors who plant earlier.

And speaking of bugs, I'll mix up some fermented salmon fertilizer and spray it on roses and any other decorative plant that's being eaten by insects. It's not just a fertilizer, its odor changes how bugs percieve the plants. After a couple of days I can't detect an odor, but they can. Garlic sprays work much the same way. It's not wise to use either on things like peppers and squash while they're blooming, as they need insects for pollination, but they're okay on tomatoes and eggplants that are wind pollinated.

The list goes on and on, but I'll try to set up our hammock in the shade of two old apple trees anyway. Don't know if I'll get a chance to use it, but I like knowing it's ready for me.

This is the gardening guy, Henry Homeyer, in Cornish Flat, New Hampshire.

Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist.
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