As monsoon rains bring respite from the heat and the parched ground soaks up much needed moisture, it's time to think about summer maintenance. All plants are revived by rainfall, harvesting moisture from leaves and needles as well as from the soil. Everything is greener, dust is removed from plants, and nitrogen in the rainwater feeds the capillaries of the leaves and roots.
Changes in precipitation and temperature bring other changes in the garden. Drip systems must be adjusted or turned off, as Mother Nature has taken on the watering chores. Weeds should be removed as soon as they are big enough to pull to prevent seeding and re-growth next year. Garden plants must be inspected nearly every day to watch for signs of white fly and powdery mildew.
Pauline Rodriquez roams her large meandering garden armed with a bottle of homemade spray intended to discourage pests without damaging the environment.
She is concerned about the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides, and wonders why there is such a scarcity of bumble bees and butterflies this year. Wandering the pathways of this verdant landscape, the visitor discovers evidence of conservation and concern for the environment at every turn.
Trellises and arbors are constructed of tree trimmings, and opalescent unused compact discs twist and sparkle in the breeze to keep birds away from fruit. A wide variety of cast-offs, such as a golf bag, a bicycle basket and a child's play wheelbarrow are parked in the garden and pressed into use as planters. In order to conserve water, Mrs. Rodriquez has begun removing favorite plants from the ground and planting them in pots. The pots are then grouped in large plastic boxes, such as those used for under-bed storage. Plants are watered from the top but are able to reabsorb the water, which runs through the pot into the large drip pan. These oversized saucers also catch rainwater for absorption later.
Plants that are still growing in the ground are heavily mulched to hold in moisture. Mulch is made from well-rotted horse manure and garden sweepings.
For regular organic feedings, Rodriquez makes "tea" from alfalfa steeped in water. To rid the garden of unwanted ants, she says boric acid does the trick. To get rid of whitefly, hang strips of florescent yellow poster-board coated with Vaseline. And what to do about that powdery mildew? Try 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in about a quart of water. Add a teaspoon of dish detergent, shake and spray.
The gentle care taken for all life forms in this garden pays off in seedlings and rooted cuttings of everything from herbs to roses to small trees that Pauline features in her annual plant sale, sometime in April. Roses are her favorite plants because of their fragrance and wide variety of bloom types. Even though they take the most work, to her they offer the greatest reward, and dozens are growing in pots just waiting for next April.
This month in Rim country gardens, it is time to:
Plant the fall garden by setting out cabbage and celery plants, and seeds for beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chard, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, spinach, turnips and rutabagas.
Feed trees and shrubs with an all-purpose tree and shrub fertilizer, or side-dress by digging in rotted compost around the drip-line.
Maintain flowers dead-heading annual flowers to coax another month or so of bloom, cut back summer blooming perennials to the basal rosette as they finish blooming. Lavender, yarrow, cockscomb, amaranth, goldenrod, roses and grass seed heads can be dried for bouquets. Hang bunches up side down in a dark, well-ventilated spot. Then thoroughly dry and store wrapped in newspaper in a covered box until needed.