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How's Your Garden?

By Lois Trigg Chaplin


Tools Quickly at Hand

When working on multiday garden projects, hauling tools back inside the tool shed or garage is not my favorite thing to do while knowing that in just a few hours I’ll be using them again. Here is a handy solution for organization I saw at the vegetable garden of P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm in Roland, Arkansas. Gardeners there have a simple place to collect the tools outside of the shed where they are handy for the next job. When the work is all done or rain threatens, the tools go back into the shed for storage.

Give Basil a Pinch or Light Trim

By now, basil in our gardens is getting big and old. This is a good time to coax a final flush of new growth before the cooler nights in September slow its growth. Pinch off the flowering tips, fertilize lightly and keep the plants well-watered. They will flush out with more leaves to offer a big harvest for that last batch of pesto to enjoy this winter from the freezer. Basil is like okra; it loves the hot weather. Just give it the water it needs to grow in this wilting heat. Also avoid the temptation to prune the plant back drastically unless you are ready to make the last batch of pesto now. Stems cut back into the woody growth will not come back. Years ago, I made that innocent mistake, but only once!

Abelia – Much Loved by Pollinators

One of my pet peeves is the shortage of varied flowering shrubs in today’s landscapes. Homeowners often opt for azalea, hydrangea, roses or an evergreen look that limits color and variety. It also limits habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. One good option for folks who like evergreens is glossy abelia, named for its glossy green leaves. Although it is only semi-evergreen in North Alabama, it doesn’t stay semileafless for long. This is a tough shrub that blooms all summer, attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to its nectar-filled clusters of white, tubular flowers. The nursery trade offers multiple selections, some larger than others, so be sure to read the label to buy a plant that fits the space. Avoid constant pruning of abelia that ruins its fountainlike form. Plant the large ones such as Glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora) and Chinese abelia (Abelia chinensis) with room to stretch their arching branches.

This Moth Looks Like a Beetle

This pretty little moth might be mistaken for a beetle, especially since it is active during the day. The adult feeds on flower nectar this time of year, having emerged from a cocoon after feeding on the leaves of tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive species common throughout the Eastern U.S. The adult moths visit several flowers such as these garlic chives and are considered good pollinators. They also feed voraciously on the invasive tree, but unfortunately not faster than the trees grow. The tree was originally introduced as an ornamental because of its ability to grow in extremely poor conditions. However, it can form thickets and is known to grow along waterways, in fields and freshly cut land in full sun. When the moth larvae are present, they make characteristic webworm caterpillars, prized by some folks for fishing.

Stick with the Marigolds
Although marigolds may go through a slump in extreme heat, don’t give up on them. Keep them healthy and watered. If they are falling over or leggy, give them a light trim to encourage fullness and remove old blooms. Fertilize lightly. They will come back strong as soon as the nights begin to cool down in late summer and early fall.
Late Squash

Sow a second crop of summer squash to enjoy into fall. I think squash that matures in a little cooler weather instead of the heat of June and July also tastes sweeter. Soak seeds overnight so they sprout quickly. That will lessen the time you have to worry about keeping the seedbed moist in the heat. It’s a little trouble keeping the little seedlings watered in August, but soon they will grow deeper roots and reward you with a fresh crop of delicious squash.
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