Gardening Heats Up During Summer

GOOD GARDENING

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The Elk had a party

It took the stag nearly three years to find our haystack. Recently we started buying alfalfa hay for the goats on days when the vegetation is too wet for them to eat the native brush. The stag elk came every night as darkness fell and each morning at dawn for more than a week to enjoy our goats' alfalfa. The elk didn't seem interested in the Bermuda grass hay. The elk brought others until there were seven -- the tall stag and his family. They dined for hours, eating all the alfalfa. They're gone now. Maybe they've moved on to a neighbor's haystack.

photo

Once you have one hen (or sempervivums) it will produce many chicks.

By the way, so many people have asked me about the goats since their photo appeared last month -- their names are Ponda and Rosa.

Things to do in your garden

Keep cutting off dead flowers all through the flowering season. This will encourage the plants to produce more flowers. Also make sure the mulch is still in place. Winds can shift it around and birds and wild animals dig in it. Add more mulch as the season progresses. Make sure the mulch is damp when it goes on or the new layer of mulch will draw any moisture out of the older mulch reducing the amount of moisture available to the plants. Remember what your previous garden writer, Barb Bourscheidt, used to say?"Mulch, mulch, mulch!"

When it's hot

Like you, most plants appreciate a little shade in the heat of summer. We usually have such wonderful clear air up here in the Rim country. Even a piece of 50 percent shade cloth placed on top of softer fruits like tomatoes and peppers can save them from sunburn.

When the temperature outside is higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit some plants don't grow.

Prune shrubs

The best time for tidying up your flowering shrubs is when they finish flowering each year. It may be that only deadheading is needed but, if the shrub is getting too big, cut back more extensively.

In the case of a deciduous hedge, which gets heavy from lots of top growth, but bare stems lower down, cut back about one in three main stems near the bottom each year and pull out these stems. This will thin out the hedge and allow more air and light to reach the lower growths, encouraging them to offshoot and fill the thinner spots.

Then trim back the upper branches of the remaining stems and smaller growths. A word of caution -- this does not work on the evergreen cupressus (cyprus) family and other evergreen hedges.

Grandma grew hens and chicks (sempervivums)

They can be found in many colors, both tiny resembling spiders' webs and large grey with red-tipped leaves. Sempervivums are ideal for the Rim country. They are hardy and like sunshine although a little broken sunshine or slight shade helps them look healthier. If you have, or can make, a rock garden in your yard it is worth having a selection of sempervivums. They are happy on a mountain side and require little water. Good drainage is essential or they will rot quickly. Wait until they have dried out before watering again. They are happy in open ground or in planters. The flower stems grow out of the larger rosettes much like the century plants (agaves). The usually pink flowers open at the top of the stems and once they have wilted, the rosette they grew from will die, leaving space to fill up with the new crop of young rosettes.

Their natural habitats are in and around Europe, many coming from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas, and some of the Greek islands, where they may be found growing on accumulated dirt and vegetation on the roofs of houses.

Their Latin name is sempervivum -- "Semper" meaning always and "vivo" meaning live, together the name means live forever. And this is what they do. Once you have one -- hens and chicks, they will multiply producing many chicks every year.

Hardy hybrid fuchsias

Maybe you have always had to give your fuchsias some protection in winter. In England mine always had to be in a greenhouse, except in summer when they were great outside in baskets.

Now there are some hardy hybrids available here. Recently I purchased a variegated one called fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis "Aurea." There are several varieties available in local nurseries. One is fuchsia genii which were shown at the local Rim Area Gardeners' meeting. These hardy fuchsias need a shady spot in your garden and a reasonable amount of water and fertilizer in order to perform well. These will grow into small shrubs in a few years but can be cut back. A heavy winter mulch is recommended.

And let us all help the firemen who are endeavoring to keep us and our properties safe from fire. Keep removing dead vegetation, annuals which have dried up, fallen pine cones and needles and rotted wood from your yard and, maybe, even check up on your neighbors' yards and help them if they are physically unable. We are all in this fire season together.

Questions to cactusnews@earthlink.net

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