Nurturing your garden

Once you finally get to the summer weather in July, the planting is complete and you can concentrate on helping your veggies grow. It is important to continue to keep ahead of the weeds. If you planted too much, which is easy to do for both new and experienced gardeners, you may find weeding difficult. If so, consider making a decision to let part of the garden go, keep the rest, and look at it as a learning experience. Remember your objective: not to create too much work, have fun, replenish your cup, and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Strawberries generally ripen mid-July and raspberries two weeks later, so keep that in mind as you plan your month. I think they are delicious and if you agree, these can be easily grown in your garden in the perennial section next to the rhubarb, asparagus, and perennial herbs. Put them in your planting plans for next May if you haven’t already planted them and for this year visit one of PEI’s U-Pick farms to get your fresh berries, although June’s frosts did damage many berry fields.

If you planted early, beets and swiss chard should now be ready to harvest. If you planted beans, potatoes, and peas in mid May, then they are also usually ready in late July. Keep an eye on these to pick them at the time when they are tender and delicious. Yummy.

There is always an element of risk in growing any crop, home gardening is no different. That is why it’s important to have several plantings. If something doesn’t grow, see if you can learn from what happened and then try it again. Another way of getting around pests (other than weeds) is to plant crops that generally don’t suffer from pest issues. Peas, beans, beets, cucumbers, swiss chard, pumpkins, and squash are several options that are easy to grow.

In July watch out for the many insects that like to eat veggies just as much as you do. Often, it seems like insects can consume the entire row overnight, but there are usually some early signs if you look carefully. One of the first things I do is quickly look at the leaves and see if I notice any small holes or other evidence of a pest. Do the leaves look normal or is there some discolouration and evidence of a disease? If you are new to gardening, there are many experienced gardeners around to lend their expertise. I expect many of your neighbours have some experience. Stroll over and have a chat with someone. Many people just love to talk about their gardens and are willing to transfer their knowledge and tips. You might also find a new friend in that fellow gardener.

Remember that some pests may look like a problem, but actually don’t do significant harm so don’t warrant control measures. There are also many beneficial insects in our environment. These are often small and most people do not notice them, however once you start looking closely, you may see a few. If you see something you are not sure of, take a quick photo and see if you can learn what it is. A photo is also helpful if you are talking with another gardener. Most of the pests we see have been around for many years. If you are trying to control one, it is important to understand exactly what you are dealing with. You can learn some of the biology of the pest and see the best methods to control it.

On a nice note, most herbs do not require significant pest control and really add some zing to your meals. There’s nothing like the wonderful aroma of basil or sage. Herbs are very easy to use. If you are not sure what you like or what the various herbs taste like, try mincing up a small amount, mix with butter and then putting it on a cracker. Better yet, do this with a friend and compare notes. Then you can decide what you want to consider growing.
One last thing: consider a late seeding of peas, beans, and cucumbers in July if you have room. You would be surprised how nice it is to have fresh tender veggies ripening in late September just as they would in August.

Well, I think I will head out to check my garden for pests and see if I can find some of those delicious strawberries. Happy gardening.

About Christopher Dunbar

Christopher lives in western PEI along with his spouse and 4 kids, on a property that was once owned by his great grandparents. He grew up in a large farming family and has deep island roots. This rural background and exposure to outdoor living has given him a keen interest in our maritime culture and the many plant types that grow here. He furthered his interest in growing things by obtaining a master’s degree in in plant biology. Not surprisingly, all of his 25-year career has been involved in agriculture and food. He spends some of his spare time growing berries, flowers, vegetables and tree fruits of all kinds in his gardens. He and his family really enjoy the unique lifestyle that PEI has to offer.
Writing creatively about adventures in rural living is also one of his passions. Feel free to contact him if you want to share any of your interests.

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