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Break out the hose and watch your garden grow

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Summer is official here and that means the real fun is about to begin.
Cabbage, potatoes, and squash should be gracing dinner tables everywhere, and beans, corn, cucumbers and tomatoes aren’t far behind.
While I love my winter casseroles, summer food is my favorite.
Keeping vegetables fresh takes some doing. Most everything but tomatoes will store in the refrigerator. I keep beans in a paper bag in the crisper drawer. Everything else gets the dirt knocked off and thrown in by themselves. Wait to thoroughly clean your vegetables until you’re ready to cook and eat them.
All this good food signals the time to start seeds for the fall garden. Fall crops are a little easier to grow than spring, although they’re the same crops. All the flying pests have had their gluttonous feast and are not near the problem that they are in the spring.
You can start broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage and a ton of different types of greens as seeds in the garden or in pots on theporch. When September rolls around, hopefully after you’ve preserved all the summer crops, you can start harvesting from your fall garden.
Maintaining the flower garden becomes more work this time of year. Azalea, rhododendrons and oak leaf hydrangeas need a little fertilizer for acid-loving plants about now. The mums need to be pinched back, again.
Everything in bloom now will benefit from some general fertilizer, with a big middle number. They bloom better with additional phosphorous.
Spring bloomers that have had their leaves yellow and die back, can now be dug and divided. Add some bone meal to the hole when you replant them.
Mowing is a constant event and lack of rain may again be an issue this year. Keep your grass at about 2 to 3 inches to help keep moisture in the soil. That way you can focus your watering time on the garden.
It’s these drought periods that later present as cracks in tomatoes, so water an inch a week if we don’t get the rain. Mulching the garden with newspapers and straw will keep moisture in the ground and reduce your weeding time to a minimum.
Remember to water the soil, not the plant.
This is also the time when problems seem to present themselves in the garden. Cucumber, squash and melon plants look great one day and wilted and dead the next. It’s that dreaded cucumber beetle.
Take a close look at your plants. The beetle is black and yellow stripped and the only control is to keep them off.
Baby powder sprinkled on the plant helps keep them off, as does spraying with smelly onion and garlic water. If you have plants that were hit, pull out the dead plants and put in a new one.
Now, get out there and enjoy a little vitamin D from the sunshine. Lay the hose in the garden and pull up a lawn chair. Watch the garden grow. I guarantee you’ll come up with ideas to do it better next year while you water. If your memory is anything like mine, you better have a pen and paper handy. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.