Want to start up a summertime conversation? Here are a few tried and true chat ups for the dog days:
— Inquire about travel. Ask the green thumbed how their gardens grow.
— Fall back on “What’re you reading?” Or, “Seen any movies, lately?”
In case you’re wondering: a NC beach, a veggie cornucopia, Hidden Life of Trees, Incredibles 2.
Our plots have produced better than ever — radishes, lettuce, asparagus, onions, garlic, peppers, cucumbers, herb bouquets. Tomatoes, spotty stragglers, have been rain delayed.
Also, we’re being monumentally squashed.
Yellow varieties cover the kitchen counter. To compound a repeated error — over-planting of crook neck edibles — I allowed random squash seedlings, refugees from the composter, to gain a foot hold.
Lush vines of unknown pedigree, not the “true-to-type” hybrid plants, have sprawled across the sidewalk. Another’s 15-foot tendrils shaded out costly broccoli starters bought at the farmers’ market. The cruciferous have been crushed.
Beautiful to behold, but inedible stripped jungle beasts, will be good only for a Halloween decoration or Thanksgiving centerpiece. Squash bugs, though, find the leaves delicious.
Soap sprays and dichotomous earth worked for only a few weeks. Lately, I’ve resort to a dash of inorganic dust on the volunteers to keep the leaf-sucking infestation in check.
Both grandmother’s relied on lucky Sevin in their gardens. I give in when desperate, but keep it off of the plants that go on our plates.
If only deer would prune the squash as vigorously as they have flowers, fruits, and other backyard sweets. One bold doe decimated a potted geranium on the deck. Pads of the water lily’s frequently disappear overnight.
Before next growing season we’ll invest in more garden netting. Liquid organic deterrents, too. Spray solutions — brands like “Deerly Departed,” “Deer Begone,” and “D#%* You Deer” — work only so long as we receive sparse rain. When loading a sprayer, I spilled a potion that repels rabbits, deers, and the like. In the laundry room. Gagging ensued. Hilarious, in retrospect.
A lingering stench by the washer/dryer is one reason why I recently stopped at the SPCA. We’re searching for another garden security guard. Finding a replacement canine family member may take a few growing seasons.
Speaking of security and dogs, a confession about a theft.
One recent Friday, after enjoying a fermented beverage at a wharf-side bistro, in diminishing daylight I grabbed empty cardboard boxes from the loading dock of Black Dog Bikes.
Guilty. In defense, I’ve been under the influence of weeds.
I go to extreme measures to avoid weeding. Empty brown cardboard boxes, from appliances and bicycles, make ideal weed blocker. After cutting cardboard into wide strips, I place it between rows in the garden.
To top that off and hold it down I anchor it with wet straw. A neighbor-farmer sells us 20 wheat straw bales at about this time every year. What isn’t stored dry, and later used to protect figs from January freezes, I lay over the cardboard.
Bales left out in elements a couple of weeks get sticky. “Fakes” of straw come off by the handful in weighty squares. Come fall, garden clean up time, I spread the straw out evenly to protect the top soil from winter’s winds, and to tidy up the look.
By spring planting, the cardboard and much of the straw has been digested and “redistributed” by earthworms. Wriggler black gold. Before planting time, with help of a broad fork or tiller, the leftovers turn into the next enriched garden mixture.
Have I gone on too long about my garden?
I forgot to mention. You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been reading about trees — Incredible, too, especially the beeches!
Email Augusta County columnist Bruce Dorries at [email protected]