August, the Green Corn Moon month, is our last full month of summer and the time when harvests reward our gardening efforts. The summer’s heat and moisture have produced riotous growth with some …
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August, the Green Corn Moon month, is our last full month of summer and the time when harvests reward our gardening efforts. The summer’s heat and moisture have produced riotous growth with some squash vines growing equal to Jack’s proverbial beanstalk.
This month you finally can enjoy the results of your labors. No adequate words exist to describe the taste sensation accompanying eating crisp new sugar peas or fresh bright green beans. The slow-savoring of the first sun-ripened tomato rewards us for worrying, hovering over and nurturing our tomato plants. Is it any wonder that some folks want to designate August as National Tomato Month?
Yet, even as we savor the fruits of our labors or preserve for winter eating, we realize long shadows are lengthening. Again we lament that we don’t know where summer went, so we try to cram as much living as possible into the month.
Community calendars across the country reveal shared sentiments and feature festivals celebrating peaches, blueberries, tomatoes and apples. There also are Roasting Ears of Corn Festivals, Frog Days (don’t ask), Ranch Roundup Days, a Steam and Gas Threshing Bee and countless state fairs. Just when you’ve exhausted yourself, you can enjoy Simplify-Your-Life Week (Aug. 1-7) and National Relaxation Day on Aug. 15.
If the bounty of your harvest overwhelms you, share it with friends, with Project Angel Heart or any of the local food banks. Many in our city never taste fresh produce. Please, don’t waste ever!
Q: We inherited a small clump of pinks (Dianthus) with the house we recently bought. How do we encourage more growth?
A: It’s nice that you inherited these lovely fragrant flowers instead of patches of weeds. For some reason, pinks no longer enjoy the popularity they once had when they graced most cottage gardens.
Because they prefer alkaline soil, they do well here. They like sun, require excellent drainage and need only occasional light fertilizing. Deadhead spent blossoms to encourage season-long robust growth. If they are happy in their location, pinks will survive for many years.
Q: Everything in our landscape seems to be eaten by something this year. We’ve covered some vegetables with floating row cover, doused others with red pepper and even purchased a package of ladybugs. How do we distinguish between beneficial and destructive insects?
A: Look for a copy of Pests of the West by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado entomologist. Cranshaw probably knows more about bugs and insects that they do themselves. The book identifies insects, their feeding habits and life cycles and suggests natural and biological controls. Not only is it informative, but the book is also fascinating reading.
Q: Any suggestions for eliminating slugs? They are eating my flowers and vegetables. The beer-in-a-saucer doesn’t work because I have pets who like it.
A: I have a lazy, messy solution. Slugs are attracted to sugar, so I toss mango skins and pits and banana peels in slug territory. The little varmints congregate on the fruit, making it easy to collect and destroy them. Melon rinds also work. Crushed egg shells bordering vegetable rows deter slugs because crossing the shells is painful for them.
Since slugs burrow into compact moist soil, you need to loosen the soil around your plants to permit better air circulation and heat penetration.
Q: Some tiny, multi-colored flying insect is eating my grape vine. What is it? What do I do about it?
A: Welcome to the world of Japanese beetles. They’ve been moving across the country from east to west and arrived here about three years ago. They have no natural enemies at this time and control is difficult. Since a discussion of them is somewhat complex, I’m suggesting you turn to an excellent fact sheet from Colorado State University Extension. Fact Sheet 5.601 will answer all your questions.
A friend of mine has her boys and their friends capture the beetles in a bucket of warm soapy water. This is a good boy project that slightly lessens the beetle population.
Q: We recently lost a tree due to old age and storms and are seeking a replacement that won’t be too large. An interesting small tree or large shrub that has purple leaves and masses of something resembling mauve-colored cotton candy has caught our attention. What is it and what are its needs?
A: You’ve seen the purple-leaved smokebush (Cotinus coggygria). This large, undemanding shrub is truly spectacular from midsummer through fall and deserves recognition. Plant in a sunny well-drained location, fertilize minimally and don’t overwater. Enjoy.
Savor these waning days of summer and a bountiful harvest.
On the table at the midpoint of summer / The tomato / Offers its gift of fiery color and cool completeness. —Pablo Neruda
To the Harvest Month.
Joan Hinkemeyer is a long-time garden writer from a family of green-thumbers. She was an estate gardener in Beverly Hills, California, and had her own landscape consulting business for over twenty years.
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