Evaluating garden successes and failures.

As summer passes it is a good time to count some of the successes and failures of gardening activities. One of my triumphs was getting rid of overwintering squash bugs early in the season, so that I did not have to deal with their offspring for the entire summer. Hence, we, and our neighbors, have enjoyed lots of zucchini and yellow crooknecks this year. I did this by flushing the plants with a hose and picking off the adults when they climbed up the stems and leaves. After 5 such episodes, I apparently got the last one. I also rubbed their eggs off the leaves before they hatched. This is the third time that I have had this good fortune and believe me it is not easy to beat this profusely reproducing foe.

Another garden success was planting All-American Selections 2014 award-winning, Chef’s Choice Orange tomato. This is an F1 hybrid created by crossing heirloom, Amana Orange, with another

Gold Medal, bi-color on the left and Chef's Choice on the right. Not red tomatoes, but both are good.

heirloom to create an even better one. It is a large orange slicer that is a tasty, meaty, earlier and higher yielding tomato than Amana Orange on a very vigorous 6 ft. plant with good shade protection. I recommend this tomato for next year’s tomato patch.

I also tried Black Zebra, a new cross of Green Zebra and a Black tomato. It is an open pollinated variety that is only 3-4 oz in size, but sweet with a rich tomato taste. My taste buds don’t work well, but my wife is a supertaster and declares this one a winner, but it was low in yield. Many gardeners complained about the lateness of tomato’s ripening this year and I too had that problem and have no explanation. It wasn’t for lack of warm weather.

My effort with Dahlias this year was a mixed bag. I had better luck propagating them from tubers than I did last year. Alan Fisher, Membership Chairman of the American Dahlia Society, informed me that if I got 80 percent success on tuber growing that would be good. I didn’t keep score, but I think I threw away about 40 percent of my tubers because they were either not sprouting or rotted after planting.

I had better luck storing them this year in my cellar where it was cool and damp enough that they did not shrivel. The previous year I stored them in moist sawdust and it did not work out well, likely because too much moisture caused rotting. In March, I packed the sprouting ones in potting soil in flats in the greenhouse along with new tubers I purchased and had fairly good success. At least I had enough successes to plant about 160 dahlias to satisfy my addiction for growing these beauties and I gave lots of good tubers to friends.

Dahlia bouquets abound this summer

Dahlias supposedly don’t do well in hot climates, but mine have been doing well despite the heat. Mites are a problem turning foliage bronze color in hot weather. Mites don’t thrive with moisture and can be diminished by spraying the plant foliage once daily with cold water during the warmest weather.

Starting brassicas (cole crop) seeds like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli is always a July 4 activity for me. Fall seems far away, but it is important to get these plants well grown for early fall and winter harvests. I violated my garden rule “pay attention” and got busy with other things about the time my July 4 planted seedlings were a week old. I missed watering them for one day and the high summer heat fried every one of them.  I should have put them in the shade. I had to plant them over and much later than I would have liked, but I have the gardener’s optimism that with good care they will succeed in providing a crop.

Garden reminders: For fall rose blooms, keep deadheading roses, because new blooms will be on new growth. It is always good to cut off a long stem with the old bloom and cut to an outside leaf node to keep the bush open.  Prepare soil for onions, garlic and cole crops, by working in compost or manure. August to early September is time to plant lettuce and other greens—mustard, kale, spinach, chard, collards as well as beets, turnips and carrots. Year round gardening in our climate is a blessing for those who love to garden.

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website:  http://sjmastergardeners.ucanr.edu/CONTACT_US/


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