By David Nagel and Lelia Kelly
Extension Horticulture Specialists
Distributed by Lisa Stewart, Webster County Director
Sweet corn harvest is over for most of us. The stalks need to be taken care of. A few gardeners use corn stalks to support pole beans or Malabar spinach, but most just leave the stalks standing for a while.
Standing corn stalks are a waste of organic matter and a haven for deleterious insects. Green, succulent corn stalks decompose quickly when placed in a compost pile or plowed into the soil.
Old, dry, brown, weathered stalks are resistant to decay. Standing stalks can allow aphid and corn borers to increase in numbers. Managing corn borers by cutting down the stalks has been known for more than 150 years.
Be careful working in the heat. Drink plenty of water before and during gardening.
Scattered showers make it important to have a rain gauge near the garden. The entire vegetable garden uses about an inch of water a week, while tomatoes with fruit need about 2 inches per week. It may be wise to water before you leave on vacation if there hasn’t been sufficient rainfall the week be fore you go.
Yellow squash and zucchini will continue to flower and produce for many weeks, but the older leaves get brittle and tend to break during harvesting. This allows the sunlight to heat the soil around the crown. Gardeners may want to start another planting if they want fall squash harvests.
It is time for mid-summer fertilization of bermudagrass lawns. This is ideal weather for bermudagrass growth and the better the grass grows, the fewer weeds to battle. The drawback is the better the grass grows, the more frequently it needs cutting.
If your spring containers of flowers are looking rather tired now, it is time to cut them back or yank them out and start over with a new bunch. By this time some garden centers may have some bargains on bedding plants they are trying to move out. Unless you are an extremely good nurse, however, sick and puny plants are not a bargain at any price. Purchase healthy, vigorous plants, if at all possible, for the summer clearance bench. If you are feeling confident that you can resurrect those sickly ones, take a chance, you just might do it!
You should be enjoying some of the harvest from your fruit trees this month. Apples and pears will come later, but peaches and nectarines are ripe now.
If your fruit trees (apple, pear, peach, plum) refuse to bear, there must be a reason. First, how old is your tree? Most dwarf fruit trees will bear their first crop the second or third season after planting.
Standard size trees take longer: apples and pears, from three to five years.
Peaches and nectarines, about two or three years; cherries and plums, from three to five years.
Has your tree bloomed? If a tree is growing in partial shade, rich soil or has been heavily fertilized, it often develops excessive branch growth at the expense of fruit production. Excessive pruning may also be the problem. Was it subject to cold damage? If the tree was subjected to freezing temperatures during bloom, this could have damaged the blooms or developing fruit.
Is a pollinator variety present? Some fruit varieties cannot set fruit by their own pollen. Talk to a knowledgeable nurseryman or your county Extension office to find out which fruit tree varieties require pollinators. Should this be the problem, planting a pollinator tree will correct the problem. Any spraying done while your tree is in bloom could harm the bees. No bees, no pollination, no fruit!
Did it bear too heavily last season? Some varieties get into the habit of biennial bearing — big crop one-year, very little the next. Proper thinning of the fruit usually corrects this problem.