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July 2018, Week 2, Summertime

Okiedawn OK Zone 7
5 years ago
last modified: 5 years ago

Since we've been getting a slight break in the temperatures and with some pop up thunderstorms scattered around the state pretty much every day, this seems like a good week for the sentimental summer song, Summertime, from Porgy and Bess.


With rain expected for a couple of days early this week (which can only be good, right?) and then the return of the more intense heat by the end of the week, next week's theme song for our gardens might not be such a kind, gentle, easy-going one.

The good news is that we're starting the second week of July, a time when most gardens are in full production so I hope everyone is bringing loads of produce up to the house now. And, if not now, then soon.

There's not much new in our garden. The same old stuff continues to produce---summer squash (both yellow squash and zucchini), peppers, tomatoes (mine are winding down as heat continues to impede further fruit set), southern peas and, now, okra and lima beans. Oh, and whatever peaches I'm able to harvest before the squirrels and wild birds get them (which isn't many at all). With the harvesting of the last Copra onions last week, the last cool-season crop is gone from the garden now. All I've done is sow zinnia seeds there so that those will be up and blooming sometime in July for the part of the onion bed harvested earlier and sometime in August for the part of the onion bed just harvested last week. I sowed seeds from Renee's Garden Seeds antique red zinnia mix, so it will be fun to see what we get from that seed packet.

In the flower beds, most all of the flowers look good. The hardy hibiscus (Texas star and also Luna Pink in three different areas) flowers really shine in the heat, and the zinnias remain tough as always. I removed three of the plants that were persistently wilted most all the time, but none of them had bacterial wilt. The zinnia bed looks better without them. The bat-faced cuphea and various salvias entice butterflies and other pollinators to spend more time in the garden, and the moss rose just flat out looks cheery. Some years the voles have found them and eaten all of them by now (they chew the fleshy stems for water, I do believe) but so far this summer they remain untouched. The last of the violas are fading fast in this heat, but that's not unexpected. Of course, while there's many flowers to entice the butterflies into the garden, the verbena bonariensis remains their number one favorite flower. The balsam, growing in morning sun until about noon and then receiving dappled shade thereafter, are going to seed now and I need to do some serious deadheading soon so that they'll put out another flush of blooms. The Russian sage is in bloom but only a few tiny bees seem to be visiting it. The delicate-looking blooms on the ornamental cotton plants are a joy to see and the cotton has been blooming for several weeks now. The Kong sunflowers are about to bloom. They're always so slow, and I think both the lack of rainfall and the constant feeding on their leaves by grasshoppers has really set them back as they really aren't anywhere close to being as tall as they normally are. The flowers will be gorgeous, regardless. The gomphrena "Las Vegas Mix" in the far northeast corner of the garden looks good, but I do not think it is very attractive to bees or butterflies. At least it tolerates growing in very low rainfall and still manages to look good.

Grasshoppers and crickets remain a huge plague. I found a full-sized cricket sitting on my largest fall tomato plant (it isn't very large yet but it has set one fruit, somehow, in this crazy summer heat), which really irritated me. (The cricket, not the one new tomato.) Crickets are slower than grasshoppers, so I knocked it off the tomato plant with a trowel, and then beat it to death with that trowel in the blink of an eye. I am not sorry. I am getting close to spraying the garden with the beuveria bassiana to see if it will knock back the grasshopper population, but I sure hate to do it because I fear it will harm the beneficial I keep putting it off. I might spray just the perimeter area immediately outside the garden fence and see if that helps first. After all, the grasshoppers travel through that area to reach the garden. If that's not enough, I always can spray within the fenced garden a few days later.

I've done nothing to deter SVBs and, yet, all my plants remain alive and producing. I have found squash bug nymphs and sprayed them with insecticidal soap a few times, but doubt I killed them all. Despite that, the squash plants mostly look good. Both Costata Romanesco and Cocozelle zucchini are hanging in there, although I think these 2 varieties are favorites of both the squash bugs and SVBs. I just have the attitude this summer that I'm leaving them alone and letting them grow without much effort to control the pests and all, and we'll enjoy them while we're getting them and then when the pests get them, I'll take them out and plant something else in their spot. I have been expecting the plants to start dying any week now because I've seen signs of SVBs, but so far the plants remain alive, blooming and setting fruit.

I have noticed a significant greening up (finally) of roadsides and fields since we got that 8/10s of an inch of rain a week or so ago. Everything looks so much better since the rain than it did before that rain fell. Imagine how much improvement we'd be seeing if we'd had 2 or 3" of rain. We have a 50% chance of rain one day early in the week, so hope springs eternal. While the countryside looks better, the grass fires and hay field fires continue, but not in really large numbers and mostly not at our end of the county.

The mystery winter squash growing in the compost pile is forming fruit. I have no idea what it is since so many different kinds of pumpkins and winter squash have been grown here over the years and lots of seeds end up in the compost pile after I process the fruit. The shape of the fruit is more like a pumpkin than a squash, and not the shape of Seminole. So, I'm just waiting to see what we get (assuming the plant survives everything summer throws at it). Since this plant isn't protected within a fenced area, and since deer and other wildlife cruise the compost piles looking for tasty treats, it is entirely possible the vine will be devoured before it can produce a mature squash or pumpkin anyway. Two zinnias have popped up near the squash, so the compost pile obviously is planting its own garden this summer.

Between the mulching and regular weeding on almost a daily basis for all of May and June, the weeds remain largely under control. Now that the vicious summer heat is here and the snakes are out in large numbers, I am about to stop the weeding. I have to. Once the plantings get so dense that I cannot see if snakes are beneath the plants, it is just time to stop. Hopefully the weeds will not make a big comeback once I stop weeding. If they do, I can deal with them in the late fall once the nights are so cold that snake activity falls.

That's all I have to report from here.

What's new in everyone else's landscape and gardens?


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