Wednesday, June 12, 2024

MY GARDEN PATH: Ready or not, summer is winding down

by ELAINE CERNY/Special to The Press
| August 21, 2022 1:00 AM

I've never seen a “shorter” summer than this one. Seems like just the other day, we were still hoping for the first 70 degree day which didn't arrive until the end of May. Of course, once that happened, we got more 90+ days than we could count.

One thing about the heat, some of our plants seemed to enjoy it. Those garden veggies, such as tomatoes and squash seemed to thrive on it.

Keeping everything watered has been a real challenge. I'd be kind of afraid to go on a trip. The green lawn would probably be brown by the time we got back. We do have a sprinkler system, but I can't say that it's very reliable as it goes on the fritz way too often.

Here are a few suggestions on how to get those green tomatoes to ripen and, once they do, keeping them fresh after you've brought them into the kitchen:

1) Cut your plants back to 5 or 6 feet by Memorial Day in the north or Fourth of July in the south. This makes the plants spend their energy ripening the fruit left on the vine instead of producing more leaves and stems.

2) Do not refrigerate. Keep harvested tomatoes at room temperature, in a single layer and out of direct sunlight to preserve the sweet flavor.

3) Store fruit with the stemside down. As this is usually the least ripe area of the tomato.

Some of the best summer bloomers include these: redhot poker, knautia, Korean bellflower, calamint, potentilla, coneflower and Autumn Minaret daylily. All of these do well in full sun and hot weather. These varieties will keep blooming when others have given up due to the heat.

Another great perennial to grow is bee balm. Folklore says its leaves can be used to soothe bee stings, (hence the common name). They are great for attracting pollinators. Butterflies love them and so do hummingbirds.

Some have a tendency to develop powdery mildew. Keeping them well watered usually prevents this problem.

Some of my favorite long blooming perennials include Black-eyed Susan, coreopsis and coneflower. I have lots of these and they bloom all summer. I try to keep them dead headed but they don't seem to be real fussy about that. Liatris is also a great summer bloomer with it's tall lavender spikes covered with fuzzy blooms. Florists love their unusual blooms as they open from the top and proceed downward. Most flowers, such as gladiolas do just the opposite.

These are things to remember when cutting those dahlias to enjoy in a vase: Sear each stem with a flame in order to keep the sap from clogging it up to the point where it can't take up any water. Poppies and daffodils need this same treatment.

Here's today's question to ponder. Does running behind count as exercise?

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Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting in 4-H. She has belonged to garden clubs in three states and is currently an active member of the River City Gardeners Club in Post Falls. Her column has appeared in The Press every other Sunday from early March until late October for the past 14 years.