Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Garden Tips for the Hot August Days

In our part of the world, August is the hottest (and sometimes driest) month of the year. Your garden is doing fine one day and the next day it looks terrible!  There is no need to give up! Here are a few tips to help your garden thrive in August.
  • Most gardens need a boost to make it through the hot weather.  You can give your garden a boost by spraying it with seaweed extract. Seaweed extract is supposed to be available in garden centers but I have a hard time finding it.  If you are like me, and can't find seaweed extract, try kelp powder.  It works just as well.  Kelp powder is generally available in health food stores. I have no problem finding it. You don't need a lot and the bottle lasts a long time.  Use 1 TBS in 1 gallon of water.  Spray the plants in the early morning or late at night.  Make sure the plants are well watered before you spray.  If your tomatoes stop producing because of the heat, this will fix it.  If you have any spray left over, spray it on your foundation plants and problem areas in your lawn.
  • Squash can present a problem this time of year.  The squash vine borer, squash bugs, stink bugs and aphids can all kill the squash plants you've been growing all summer.  If you didn't place aluminum foil down when you planted the squash, you can still coax a few more vegetables out of the plant by dusting the entire plant with diatomaceous earth. (Diatomaceous earth is not toxic and is safe for your family as long as they don't breathe the dust. Be sure to follow the safety precautions on the package.) Pay special attention to the growing tips of the plant and each individual squash.  Your goal here is to dust it like you would flour a cake pan.  Repeat if it rains.
  • Is something eating your green beans?  Diatomaceous earth will stop that as well.  Mexican bean beetles love green beans.  If not controlled, they can kill the plants. Dust each plant with diatomaceous earth and get a few more beans from them!
  • Have you noticed large worms on your tomatoes? They are tomato horn worms and they eat a lot of leaves!  They can also eat holes in your tomatoes.  It really isn't necessary to spray them.  When you find one, cut the leaf off of the plant (the leaf the worm is sitting on) and place Mr. Worm (along with the leaf) somewhere in the lawn where the birds will see it.  Birds love tomato horn worms! Do the birds a favor and leave them a snack. One other way to keep the worms off of the tomato plants is to plant tobacco. The worms prefer tobacco to tomatoes.  Just don't plant the tobacco and tomatoes together.  Although they are related, tomatoes can catch a virus from the tobacco plant and die.
  • Another tomato problem this time of year is blossom end rot.  Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency.  The extremes of dry soil and then very moist soil inhibits the plant from accessing the calcium it needs.  To fight blossom end rot, crush some Tums (any brand antacid tables work fine) and sprinkle around the tomato plant. 3 to 4 tablets per plant works - and it works immediately.  To prevent blossom end rot from returning, try mulching the plants well. That will help keep the moisture level in the soil steady and the plants can access the calcium.
  • Most of our country is in a drought so many readers might not have this next problem, powdery mildew.  However, if you do have powdery mildew on any of your plants, you will need to deal with it or they can die.  Powdery mildew is common on squash, roses, strawberries, green beans and others garden favorites.  I have even seen it on annual flowers.  No need to get a fungicide.  You can kill the powdery mildew with powdered milk and baking soda.  Use 1 cup powdered milk to 1/2  - 1 gallon of water. Then add 3 TBS of baking soda.  Shake well and spray.  The milk will coat the mildew and stop the spores from spreading.
If you have a specific garden question or problem,  leave a comment.  I would be happy to help!

Happy Gardening!

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