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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

Save your soil with a cover crop

If you are not planning a fall vegetable garden, it’s worth your while to consider a cover crop of rye or winter wheat. Your corn, beans, tomatoes, lettuce and pepper plants may not have used all of the nutrients in the soil. Even if you did not apply more fertilizer than the plants needed, even if you are an organic grower, there is organic matter in the soil that continues to decompose, releasing nutrients until the ground freezes.

Get a soil test, and I’ll write you a free prescription for what to do next

If your lawn is just so-so and you want to make it look like a professional lawn next year, now is the time to take action.

They’ll taste great come winter

Are you being flooded with tomatoes? My neighbors are willing to take their share but they can take only so many. If you enjoy canning, make catsup, salsa, tomato juice, stewed tomatoes or crushed tomatoes. I have and still have tomatoes to spare.     I fry green tomatoes by dredging them through a mixture of corn meal and Old Bay prior to frying in olive oil. Fried red tomatoes are also a favorite for some.     If you have a food drier, try drying tomato slices.

If you’ve got to use weed killer, now’s the time

Spraying weed killer is generally a bad idea. Spraying must be done with great care and careful targeting when the wind is calm. But if you need to spray to kill underbrush, late August and September is the time.     When foliage is mature, photosynthesis is in high gear and the roots are being resupplied. In other words, the sugars being produced by the leaves are now translocating back to the roots. Root resupply generally begins in mid-July and is at its peak in August and September.

They’re infesting roses and spruce

While driving I passed a planting of roses that did not appear normal. Up close I saw that the plants were heavily infested with spider mites. The foliage and stems had a rusty red color and were covered with fine webs. The variety of roses appeared to be Knockouts, which are advertised as very resistant to insects.

Tree trunk borers will get them if you don’t watch out

While I was diagnosing why trees were dying at one Deale home, a neighbor complained of the loss of a flowering cherry. The tree had flowers very heavily last year, then died this spring.     A quick examination of the dead trunk showed that tree trunk borers had killed the tree.

Many fast growing trees have short lives

Contractors are notorious for planting what horticulturists call trash trees and shrubs around new housing developments. The plants they select are fast-growing, cheap and can be guaranteed to live for at least one year after they have been planted.     The trees most commonly used are silver maple, weeping willow, mimosa, Lombardy poplar and white willow. They grow fast, provide quick shade and make the house more appealing at the time of purchase.
Now’s the time for Brussels’ sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage
 

I use fences, smells and my dog

Squirrels, rabbits, ground hogs and deer are a common problem in home vegetable gardens. I surround my garden with a four-foot-high four-inch-by-two-inch turkey fence supported by steel fence posts at 10-foot intervals. I also attach an 18-inch-wide pullet fence at the bottom with hog-nose rings. Groundhogs will not climb the turkey fence with the bottom pullet fence. They try but fall backwards because the pullet fence is loosely attached. The bottom edge is buried two to three inches deep to discourage the ground hogs from digging under.

Each species has a different trick

Crows, morning doves, pigeons and black birds love to pluck sprouting seeds of corn, snap beans and lima beans in the garden. Robins love to eat strawberries, while mocking birds and brown thrush love to eat blueberries as they ripen. Birds can also do a great deal of damage to maturing sweet corn. They will rip away the husks and silk and peck out the kernels from the tops of the ears.     How to deter them?