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Summer Gardening Tips- Growing Well Newsletter

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Welcome to vacation season!! Otherwise known as summer…this is the time of year when farmers and gardeners buckle down and almost everyone else gets some time off! Personally, vacation has always been January when the world stops for just a bit…sometimes…

Now back to our regularly scheduled weather and the weather challenges that continue… Funny how planting a garden, raising a goat, trying to get hay in all sharpen one’s awareness of weather events… So many people go from a climate-controlled house to a climate-controlled car to a climate-controlled work area. It takes actually growing a plant or animal (and maintaining its health and vigor!) that really brings the reality of weather in to sharp focus. Why am I mentioning this? Because, of the questions that are flowing in to the store, all (or almost all) deal with stress and pressure on plants or animals (or FROM animals in some cases!!).

In fact – we know that there are all kinds of problems surging so our first summer workshop is next Saturday 7/8 and is Troubleshooting the Garden, 1-2:30pm. Bring your questions (and any leaves or insects – well contained!) and we’ll see what we can do. But, for this newsletter, we’ll get specific for just one problem that’s bugging a lot of people…

So, here’s a quick look at powdery mildew – that classic white furry looking fungus that shows up on all kinds of plants. Generally, powdery mildew needs warm days and nights (60-80 degrees) with lots of humidity, but not active rain (or irrigation). You’ll notice that we’re hitting those conditions about now… You’ll see mildew on many of the squashes and cucumbers, phlox, bee balms and on and on. The spores are spread by the wind and will germinate when the conditions are right and the plants have been stressed… Here’s where it gets interesting though… You know that some of your plants are vulnerable and you know that the classic “dog days” bring on the condition. So, you (as the intrepid gardener you are!) can step in ahead of time and manage your plants to greatly eliminate the disease.

And how do you step in you ask??? Here at the store, we’re using a mix of PZ1000, molasses with liquid humates, fish and kelp and alternating that with Micro 5000 with the rest of the mix. The goal is to get the inoculant on the leaves BEFORE (the “good” microbes outcompete the “bad” microbes on the leaf surface) the conditions get severe and then reapply every 10 days or so as weather conditions demand. You can check out how well this approach is working by checking out how the plants are looking – the cool thing is that plants can’t lie!!!

PZ 1000 and Micro-5000 are both foliar microbe inoculants from Tainio Biologicals and I’ve used them for years. Check here for more information. You can also use sulfur products, neem products, Revitalize - a very specific bacteria that out competes fungi on the leaf surface and stimulates the plant’s immune system. All of these are available at the store. And you don’t have to buy something special – you can use milk!!! Regular, store-bought milk – a cup of milk to a half gallon of water – and use that as a spray. It’s been found to be as effective as the chemical fungicides (which you notice I didn’t mention?! although we have them as well) used in commercial applications. And the milk is already in your refrigerator!! We’re running a workshop on 7/22, Working with Foliar Sprays, 1-2:30pm if you’d like more information. Foliar sprays are a game changer in a changing weather world! Make them you’re ally 😊

Welcome to a new section of the newsletter - What’s blooming now!

There is SO much more to a garden or yard than that initial burst of gardening energy people find in themselves around Memorial Day… SO VERY much more! One of the best perks to ordering the plants for the store is the ability to bring in plants for people to look at that are new and different (although the classics are also here!). Having said that though - it might be good to provide some pointers! From here on out - until we reach the fall mum program, each newsletter will have highlights of what’s in bloom during the summer. We’ll cover both the nursery stock (trees and shrubs) and the perennials (those critical flower and food plants that please everyone who shares the garden).

Let’s start with the trees and shrubs part of the collection:

First up: the Late Blooming Azaleas. These have nothing to do with the classic spring azaleas. These lose their leaves in the fall (much hardier), bloom later, have quieter colors and are FRAGRANT beyond belief! They’re almost out of bloom now – heaviest in bloom in mid-June and completely covered by native pollinators. They also make a surprisingly decent cut flower and the fragrance can last for almost a week inside. Here’s a link to the Lemon Drop Azalea (Azalea viscosum ‘Lemon Drop’) – but we have others as well…

Next – some little-known shrubs – the St. John’s Wort group (Hypericum sp..) – and one of my personal favorites! If you want to see every pollinator species in your vicinity, then plant a St. John’s wort. The VERY cool yellow puff ball flowers are covered with a dancing mix of species all fighting for the huge levels of pollen and nectar that the plants produce. Here’s a description of one we’re carrying, Click Here - but we have a couple of other varieties as well. You really should at least check out the blooms the next time you stop by…

And now for the perennials… there are so many in bloom at the moment that it’s very hard to choose which one to highlight! You really need to come in to the store to enjoy the tapestry and to see what could work for you but I’ll mention two here. First up is the Black Cohosh - just now coming in to bloom. Tall white spires that are so attractive to the local insects that you’ll see an amazing array when you check your garden. And then there’s Chantilly Lace Goat’s Beard - a very drought and shade tolerant plant that is both tough as nails and ethereal in appearance.

One last thought on the plant world, compost vs fertilizer. The two products are different and plant health uses them differently. We’ve had plenty of water in the last week. The compost you might have used to get your plants started is not enough to keep them growing into strong healthy plants! Compost is only as good as its “feedstock” – the materials that make it up. Do you know what’s in your compost? It’s almost critically time for some fertilizer, either as a quick drench (what I do after a major rain event) or as a scratched in granular. We’re planting the garden on the street edge at the store – and using a granular mix to get them started followed by liquid drenches as needed. Stop in and ask and we’ll walk you through it.

This is the same approach we should all take with people and animals as well. We make sure we buy the products that have all the vitamins and minerals that keep our dogs, cats, chickens, horses, pigs, and bunnies healthy. It’s one of the reasons that The Good Earth decided to become a direct dealer for Poulin Grain…their quality control is superb and their grasp on the deteriorating quality of livestock feeds (in particular the hays – they do FREE forage testing and have a huge data base of the hay quality in the region – and have used that to tailor their products for best health results) is the best that I know of. Minerals in the food supply (that drive yours and every other animal’s enzyme systems) are no longer readily available in the soil systems on many farms. Poulin has come up with ways to stabilize critical micro-minerals like chromium and selenium and keep those minerals available to animal systems.

This is true for pet foods as well. We’re introducing a new Rawz cat kibble because it’s high quality, grain free food for those cats who don’t like canned food (and there are quite a few!!) . Come in to the store on Saturday, 7/8, 9-noon, and get a free sample or three to take home to your cats.

And a quick note about Chick Starter and Chick Grower – for everyone who’s got young hens growing out to egg laying adult hood… Please change your feed to the Chick Grower/Finisher once your chicks have reached 6-8 weeks or you run out of the Chick Starter. It’s much better for the long-term health of the teenage hens to be on that middle feed. Once they start laying (5+months) then change to a layer feed like Egg Production Plus (best poultry feed I know and good for laying ducks as well as chickens!).

Well – that’s about it for the week of July 4th – so much happening everywhere! We hope your start to the summer is going well and look forward to seeing you at the store.

Enjoy the summer!

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