The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

The first full day of the summer of 2018 – Summer is now officially with us for the next three months. We can expect some hot, as well as humid days as we move on toward July and the arrival of Dog Days. All the warm weather vegetable crops will thrive as they continue to progress toward harvest. We can expect the advent of thunderstorms to cool down the garden plot and pave the way for the summer‘s first tomatoes.

Fireflies lit up the Northampton County sawdust pile – At the tall sawdust mountain in front of grandma’s house in Northampton County, it was a fun place to be on a warm summer twilight evening. The sawdust was warm on bare feet, and the winding Roanoke River could be seen as well as the bridge to Gaston where grandma lived. At dusk, almost every boy and girl in the neighborhood would be at the sawdust pile with a quart mason jar for the sport of catching fireflies or lightening bugs as they were known in eastern North Carolina. The kids were safe because on most front porches, parents and grandparents kept a wary eye on the sawdust pile. Before it got completely dark, the boys would “impress” the girls by climbing maple and poplar trees and then jump down on the sawdust pile and then roll down to the bottom of the pile. We would pay the price before bedtime when grandma dropped us in a tub of cold water and gave me and my brothers a cake of dime store soap. She was not going to let us mess up her clean sheets with sawdust! The fireflies were so many that you could take a step and catch one and it didn’t take long to light up a jar. Grandma would allow us to keep them in a jar in the bedroom when we went to bed with two promises: one was we had to keep the lid on the jar, and two was we had to let the fireflies go in the morning. We were in Gaston several years ago to check on the old sawdust pile. Remnants of it were still there, but grandmas old house was gone, but fresh every summer when fireflies flit around is the memories of fun at the sawdust pile in Northampton County.

Still time to start a packet of late, late tomato plants from seed – July is almost here and we are expecting the first tomato of the summer, but also we should be thinking about the last tomatoes of the season by starting a packet or two of tomato seed such as Homestead or Rutgers or Early Girl for transplanting to the garden plot in mid-July for a harvest in late September and early October. Many can be harvested before frost and ripened inside the house for cold weather tomato enjoyment. Tomato seed can be started in two medium flower pots filled with seed-starting medium. Fill the pots, allowing enough medium to cover the seed. Fill a pot for each packet of seed you sow. Mix water with the medium in a small pail or bucket. Fill the pots to with half an inch from the top. Scatter a packet of seed on the moist soil and cover with remaining soil. Label the pot and pat down soil with your fingers. Repeat process and plant other tomato seeds. In less than two weeks, they should develop two true leaves and will be ready to transplant to individual small pots. Label the different varieties. They should be ready to transplant to the garden in about 18 to 20 days.

Keeping hummingbird feeders refilled – Now that the honeysuckle season is winding down, the hummingbirds will be returning to the feeders in full force. To avoid waste, fill feeders half full every three or four days. If they consume all of it, add more the next time you fill it up. Keep plenty in the feeds but not more than will be there after four days.

The arrival of morning dews – With the arrival of summer, comes the dews on a summer morning. Wait until the sun dries the morning dew before mowing the lawn because dew is sticky and will adhere the grass clippings to the blade and housing and make grass harder to mow and will throw the wet clippings all over the lawn.

The colorful butterflies of summer – The yellow and black swallowtail butterflies as well as monarchs are showing up in the zinnia bed. It seems to be a great year for them. Some are visiting the impatiens on the porch and deck making summer flowers even more colorful.

A container of red geraniums – The days of summer are now here and the red, white or pink geraniums thrive on warm summer days and will produce many blooms when you keep pinching off spent blooms and stems. You can start off a container this weekend and it will produce pretty blooms all the way until frost. A container of geraniums can be wintered over in the house in a sunny room.

Beetles and insects on tender eggplant leaves – The tender leaves of egg plants are very inviting to insects and Japanese beetles. Use a windex window spray bottle filled with liquid sevin to finely spray lightly on the tender leaves without getting spray on the soil. A fine mist will stick to leaves and not drip off making this an effective way to control insects.

Planting a second crop of cucumbers – As we reach deeper into the month on June, a planting of a second crop of cokes is not a bad idea. They certainly have the time to produce late fruits. You may need to water them often, but the treat of cucumbers in August will make it worthwhile. You can choose from Marketmore 76, Poinsett 76, Long Green, Straight Eight and Boston Pickler. Add peat moss around seed when planting to retain moisture on hot summer nights.

Ray Baird