The Sauk County Gardener— Help Your Garden Feed You

Jeannie Manis, Sauk County Master Gardeners Association (SCMGA) President

A vegetable garden doesn’t just feed your body. It also feeds your soul.” — Doug Green

This past week I was checking out our basswood tree that finally started blooming, trying to see what bees and other pollinators were visiting it. As I moved the branches around, a whole kaleidoscope of moths just flew out of the tree. Although it was actually quite pretty to see, I knew my broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale were in harm’s way. I spoke with a fellow gardener, John, and he said he had more white moths than he’d seen before as well. Unfortunately, the dreaded cabbage moths are thick this year. Start checking your plants closely so you can hand-pick the eggs and worms. You can also use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis var Kurstaki or Aisawai) as it is can be a highly effective organic way to control cabbage worms. This needs to be sprayed every 1 to 2 weeks or after it rains to help control the cabbage worm and other cole crop pests. If you decide to use an insecticide – organic or otherwise – read the label closely to ensure it can control the pest you are trying to get rid of and only apply the correct amount.

In the vegetable garden, my squashes are sprawling out nicely and some are already flowering. I am keeping my eye out for the squash vine borer. They are about a half inch long, have an orange abdomen with black dots, have green wings, and they make a buzzing noise when they fly. You can see if you have any by putting out a yellow-colored container filled with water. The squash vine borers are attracted to yellow so they will fly into the container and get trapped in the water. There are a several ways to control them. You can slit open the stems and remove the larvae and replant the stem. Another way is to plant a second planting of summer squash in early July, so they mature after the adult borers are finished laying eggs. If you have any plants that were destroyed by squash vine borer, remove and destroy the plants promptly.

After July 1st, apply a side dressing of 5-10-5 or superphosphate between your onion rows to promote bulbing. Phosphate is also good for other root crops such as beets, carrots, potatoes, leeks, garlic and kohlrabi but remember to only side dress at this time. With the strange weather of hot and cold streaks so far, it has been causing some people onion plants to bolt or flower. Once an onion has bolted, there is nothing you can do. There is no benefit to removing the flower stem. Do not worry though; the onion will still be edible, but smaller. Use these onions first as it will be very difficult to store them effectively. Keep an eye on your onions, garlic, and potatoes and be prepared to harvest them when their tops start to shrivel. Replant lettuces and spinach for a fall crop. This time though plant them a little deeper than you did in the spring and mulch lightly. Also plant beets, kale, bunching onions and cucumbers for a fall harvest. Because seeds need moist soil to germinate, try and plant right before it rains if rain is in the forecast. Many of the seeds I planted last week right before the rain have sprouted nicely. You’ll have to keep the soil moist but it’s nice when nature lends a helping hand. If you have had tomato fungus in the past or it’s very warm (82-86 F) and humid (rainy, heavy dew or 90+% humidity), start regularly applying a fungicide that contains copper or chlorothalonil before the symptoms appear.

In the flower garden, cut off the seed pods from your peonies. Pinch back your mums on last time and lightly fertilize if desired. If you happen to have hollyhocks, check them for rust. Remove any infected have leaves to help control the rust. As you now finish up any plantings, take time to weed and add additional mulch as needed. Continue watering if we receive less than an inch of water per week. Water deeply and less frequently instead of watering daily and only lightly. Finally, apply more mulch if needed to help maintain soil moisture. If you planted any trees, water them weekly if needed and mulch as well. When mowing, keep your grass at least 2” high and watered to prevent early summer dormancy. If your red and black raspberries are done, it is time to remove canes. Thin red raspberry canes to 3-4 canes per foot in a row or 9-10 canes to a hill. Thin blackberry canes to about 10 per hill. Assess your strawberry bed and renovate as needed. My strawberry bed is fairly new and only produced enough berries for my grandson to eat them right out of the garden. When I took him outside to play, he headed straight for the strawberry bed looking for berries. Although I didn’t have enough strawberries to make jam, my daughter gifted me with a bucket of mulberries so I made mulberry jelly for the first time – it was delicious! I found the recipe on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website – Visit this site for safe, delicious recipes for food preservation.

The Sauk County Fair is July 13 – July 18 and the Sauk County Master Gardeners Association will be doing several presentations on the FAME stage in the commercial building. I hope you stop by to watch our demonstrations and learn about the Sauk County Master Gardeners Association.

This week’s article is written by Jeannie Manis, a Wisconsin Certified Sauk County Master Gardener Volunteer. If you have any gardening questions, please contact the Extension Sauk County by emailing or calling the University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension Sauk County office at 608-355-3250.