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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of August 8, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

It’s a wise and opportunistic gardener who can turn lemons into lemonade. It’s an even wiser gardener who can turn lemon rinds into rich soil. An experienced gardener will immediately know I am referring to the composting of organic wastes. At this time of the season as more and more garden space becomes vacant with the harvesting of vegetable crops or the removal of spent annuals from flower beds, we have an opportunity for turning good soil into great soil. This can be done by using a composting technique called trench composting. The first step is to dig a wide trench at least one foot deep in a vacant area of the garden. Spent plant materials from the garden and kitchen waste (vegetable matter only) are then placed into the trench and covered with soil. Between now and next spring, this plant debris will decay and contribute organic matter to the soil. The net result will be a rich, fertile soil and outstanding plant growth. This in turn will enhance your reputation as a wise gardener, albeit one with an odd passion for lemons.

Speaking of passion:

  • Give oregano and other herbs that are now in flower a serious haircut by cutting back at least a third of their growth. This not only removes the flowers and insect riddled foliage but promotes new growth and provides fresh, clean leaves for use in the kitchen.
  • Weed gardens a day or so after a rain.  The ground is softer when moist and pulling up weeds requires less effort than hoisting weeds out of dry, hard soil.
  • Pull up onions and shallots when at least half of tops have turned brown.  Leaving mature bulbs in the ground may result in their rotting if soils are wet.  After harvesting, spread them bulbs out on shallow trays or on screening of some sort for curing.  Curing requires exposure to warm temperatures in a dark, airy location for about two weeks.  Afterwards, store the bulbs in a cool but dry place.
  • Look for bean plants that have been sanctified, that is, made holey by Mexican bean beetles that have been feeding on the leaves and fruit.  Hand-pick the beetles, squash the eggs and larvae, or apply spinosad, neem, or pyrethrum to bean plants.
  • Inspect lawns to see if any areas need to be renovated.  The first step in renovation is to remove the weeds.  The soil should then be loosened by raking or by some light working of the soil with a spading fork.  Seeding can be done from now until early October.
  • Stop deadheading roses and cease the application of fertilizer to rose plants.  This will slow the growth of plants and allow them to begin the process of hardening before the onset of cold weather.
  • Dig up and divide daylilies that have completed their flowering for the year.  Division of daylilies every few years will help promote good flowering.

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