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Anne K Moore
Photographs Anne K Moore

You can maintain flowers, vegetables, and fruit by using some of the same good garden practices. Spread a thick layer of mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Check the undersides of leaves for insect pests. Keep insecticides off flowers at all times and do not apply insecticides when bees are flying. Pollinators are in short supply. Insecticides kill all insects, including beneficials. Handpick pests, when possible, and drop into soapy water. To keep disease and dormant insects from doing damage later on, do not compost diseased or insect infested plants or leaves.

Just as regular harvesting of vegetables keeps them producing, so does frequent dead-heading¹ of flowering perennials, annuals, and shrubs.

If you use dry chemical fertilizers, do not let it touch young plants or seeds. Water the garden thoroughly after you apply dry fertilizer, being careful not to splash it onto your plants.

Rake fallen debris from under fruit trees, since it may harbor disease and rodents. Many fruit trees set too much fruit. To get a good fruit crop, remove the smallest, insect-infested, or diseased fruit from the branches early, before the fruit gets too heavy.

Keep the garden well watered, including the compost pile. An even supply of water prevents blossom-end rot² on tomatoes. If rot occurs on the bottom of the fruit, spray the tomato plants with a calcium solution, available in garden departments, and keep well watered. Blueberries need water to produce next year’s flowers. Yellowed leaves on blueberries may indicate iron deficiency or pH problems. Blueberries require an acid soil, in the pH range of 4.0 to 5.2. Most vegetables and flowers grow well in the 6.0 – 6.5 pH range. Grow Irish potatoes in a pH range of 5.0 – 5.5 to prevent scab disease.

The first flowers on squash plants are all males. It is normal for them to fall off. When both male and female flowers are present, squash fruit will be set. (A female flower has a small bulbous area at its base.)
Cut back herbs to keep them compact and prevent them from bolting (flowering).

Keeping vines and plants well staked will keep them from flopping, breaking in the wind, or developing rot from ground contact.

¹Dead-heading consists of pinching off the spent flower head on the stem below the flower, not just pulling off the petals. This is done to prevent seed production, which stops blooms. If you want to have seeds, then you will sacrifice some of the flowers by letting the spent flowers stay on the plant.
²Blossom-end rot shows up as a sunken soft area, dark colored, on the bottom of the tomato.

Posted June 6, 2014

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