June in the Rogue Valley means we're midway into our growing season. Blossoms are forming and many plants are beginning to set their fruit. To make your dreams of a mouthwatering harvest come true, we've gathered a few time-tested tips from seasoned gardeners. Their recipes for success include simple, low-cost ingredients and materials. Try these in your garden and enjoy the sweet rewards soon!
Sweeten up with Epsom salts: The Master Gardener Association of Jackson County's Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley suggests spraying melon plants with a solution of one teaspoon of borax and one tablespoon of Epsom salts in one gallon of water. This makes melons up to 25 percent sweeter. Apply when vines form and again when melons are 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Be sure not to substitute any other type of salt, such as table salt, because this will kill plants and make soil unsuitable.
The Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley also suggests using a similar formula for peppers. Mix four tablespoons of borax into one gallon of water and start to spray when blossoms begin to form.
- Wake up and water: Pam Rouhier, with the Grange Co-op, advises vegetable growers to water in the early morning, never in the evening. Watering at night snuffs out daytime heat stored in the soil, which is needed to help keep ambient temperatures high enough for tomatoes and other vegetables to set fruit, says Rouhier. It also invites disease problems, she says. Morning watering ensures that your future harvest can stand up to the day's heat.
- Keep on planting greens: Andy Fisher of Sacred Earth Ecological Design reminds gardeners that most greens will bolt quickly as summer's heat reaches its peak. To enjoy scrumptious fresh salads through the fall, sow a new crop of seeds every two weeks in a shady spot or under shade cloth. This also works for cilantro.
- Oil your corn: With a small stand of corn, it's easy to try protecting corn against hungry corn borers by putting a few drops of mineral oil on the top of each ear when silks start to turn brown. Repeat a few times for best results.
- Less is more: If you have fruit trees, thin young fruit to yield a larger sized, better quality harvest. Leave one or two apples and pears per cluster. Apricots should be thinned to 5 to 6 inches apart, peaches 4 to 6 inches and plums 1 to 3 inches.
- Cover up the cold: Tomatoes won't set fruit if temperatures fall below 50 degrees. Check nightly temperatures and cover plants with row cover, plastic sheeting or trash bags if forecasts call for less than 50 degrees. Remove bags carefully in the morning so blossoms will not become dried out and fall off.
- Perfection's in the Bag: Japanese fruit growers tie clear plastic bags over maturing fruit to preserve its perfection. Try recycling plastic bags, such as those used for newspaper delivery. Put them loosely over apples to keep coddling worms out.
Paper bags are useful in a number of ways. Tie them over sunflowers when seeds are maturing. Twist ties work well and are easier to apply and remove than string. When seeds are mature and begin to fall off, shake the stalk to fill the bag. If you want to save seeds, such as those from greens that may bolt this month, tie a bag over the most vigorous and delicious plants and let the seeds fall into it. If you only have a few grape vines, the Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley recommends tying paper bags loosely over young grapes to keep birds from eating all the fruit.