There were times while working in the garden last week when I felt I had somehow been plunked into a toaster. I'm sure I was not the only one who toasted in the heat. That's not surprising because our bodies are still acclimating to these conditions, especially after enduring the chilly conditions in early to mid-June. As such, it is important to take some precautions when working outdoors now and for the rest of the summer in order to avoid heat-related illnesses.
To start with, drink plenty of water when gardening in the heat. Also, take frequent breaks or stop gardening during the hottest time of the day. If gardening in the sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and apply sunscreen. I often soak a bandana in water and wrap it around my neck when working. This has a very good cooling effect and it beats soaking my head, something my friends often tell me to do.
Because we get so involved in our work, it's easy for heat stress to overtake us before we are aware of it. So, it's important to recognize the symptoms of heat stress and the more serious condition of heat stroke. Get information on heat-related illnesses at your doctor's office or from this web site: www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/
This week's tasks
Heat or no heat, the fun of gardening must go on:
• Sow seeds of summer squash. There are two advantages to this seemingly late planting. When plants from the first planting of squash begin to decline, usually due to powdery mildew or infestation by squash vine borer, the second planting will be yielding new fruit for harvest.
• Try this method to control squash vine borer; the adults (moths) are now active. Paint a bowl, pan, or pail with yellow paint, inside and out, and fill with water. Place several of these near your squash planting. The adult squash vine borer will fly to the container and be trapped as they fall into the water. As an additional control of the borer, make weekly applications of an organic insecticide such as neem oil, kaolin clay, pyrethrins, or spinosad to the stems and underside of leaves through July. Another option is to tuck straw around the squash plants. This makes it more difficult for the adult moth to lay her eggs on the plant stems.
• Refresh your bird bath every day or two. It's not because birds are fussy about their bath water. Rather, it's to prevent mosquitoes from occupying the bath water. As an alternative, place a mosquito dunk in the water. A mosquito dunk looks like a small donut and contains a strain of bacteria which kills mosquito larva, but does not harm birds or other critters.
• Apply a fungicide containing baking soda to the leaves of plants that are just beginning to show signs of powdery mildew. Dogwoods, lilacs, ninebark, phlox and rose are a few of the plants that are prone to powdery mildew.
• Pull up lettuce, spinach and radish plants that have bolted. Plant bush beans in their place or plant a summer cover crop such as buckwheat. Buckwheat is a great cover crop for retarding the development of weeds
• Harvest the central heads on broccoli but leave the plants intact. They will continue to yield small, but equally tasty, heads off side branches.
• Apply a deer repellent to hostas. Despite the abundance of other food sources, deer look at hostas as deer candy.
• Wait several days after the fruit turn blue before harvesting blueberries. They develop their full flavor about five to seven days after the color change.