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Gardening with Jack: July Gardens

If all has gone well your vegetable growing areas are covered with clear plastic to solarise the soil, your potted herbs are in the shade for protection against the summer sun, and the main jobs left in July are mowing the grass, maintenance weeding, and picking mangoes.

During an inspection of your garden you may come across trees or shrubs that have blackened leaves and look unsightly. If the black powdery residue can be rubbed off with your thumb the plants have been affected by sooty mould, not a disease in itself but a symptom. The black on the leaves is caused by burrowing insects that suck sap from the plant and excrete a liquid called honeydew. The honeydew sticks to lower leaves and becomes infected by spores in the air and form sooty mould, a kind of mildew. If the mould is thick the leaves will be deprived of sunlight and die.

The cure for sooty mould is to spray the affected area with a dormant oil solution that – after a couple of treatments – will kill the scale and other insects that are causing the problem. Unfortunately, summer is not the time to spray your foliage with oil because the summer sun will fry treated leaves. Dormant oil should be used in cool dry conditions during the winter months, not summer.

Standby treatment in summer is best done using a soap solution. Make the mixture somewhat stronger than normal, perhaps one part liquid soap (not dishwashing liquid) to four parts water. Spray the stems of branches and leaves and repeat after a week. Three or four applications may be necessary. You must also remember to visit the affected plants in January or February to apply dormant oil.

We will be planting our first seeds for the new vegetable growing season in August. That makes July the time to make plans and buy seeds. Get on the internet and look through catalogues produced by seed companies such as Johnny’s, Burpee, Ferry Morse and such. If you are like me you will be tempted to purchase many more varieties than you will ever be able to grow.

Vegetables tend to be categorised into groups. Tomatoes, peppers and potatoes are all related and will appear on most lists. Cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi and kale are a group called crucifers. Lettuces and greens automatically go together because of their similar use. Squashes, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins are collectively called cucurbits. Onions, scallions, chives, garlic and shallots form another important vegetable group. Herbs like thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary and tarragon tend to be classified together even though unrelated. Then there are the vegetables that do not comfortably fall into the main groups such as corn, turnips, rutabagas and fennel.

All the seeds you need can be bought from Pinewood Nursery, of course. There are literally thousands of vegetable varieties so if you do your seed shopping early the helpful staff at Pinewood Nursery will be able to order exactly what you need in time for your early plantings. Standard Hardware also has a carousel of non-GMO seeds that has some interesting selections and is worth a look.

There is one tomato we should all be growing because it is tasty, highly productive over a long season, and is nematode resistant. It is called Celebrity, a hybrid that is very dependable and I am sure will become a staple in your garden for years once you have tried it.

Every year I like to grow something I have not tried before. Why not do the same? Perhaps you like salsas and Mexican food. In that case, grow some tomatillos. Robert Louis Stevenson said travelling in hope is often better than arriving. July is travelling in hope month for gardeners!

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