Thursday, July 25, 2013

What to do in July

I found this useful "list of things to do in July" on a gardening website, called "Kitchen Gardeners International" (at list of things to do in July? At once I set to work on my own list of what to do with July:
1. Complain about the humidity. 2. Hope the heat and humidity doesn't shrivel up your plants beyond redemption. 3. Hope your baseball team doesn't nosedive, crash and burn with two whole months of agony remaining in the season. 4. Make plans to go to the beach that you loved as a child and know that you almost certainly will not carry these plans out. File this notion under "you can't go home again." It's not even home any more. You're not even you. 5. Discuss the air conditioning option with your spouse. 6. Discuss Scotland.
Anyway, here we go with the useful website's list of "garden tasks" to do in July.
Number one: Mulch. As in "gather grass clippings, leaves, straw, seaweed..." Now where did I put those 22 brown paper bags filled with dried leaves? I could use some now. Oh yeah, on the curb for the alternate-week spring "yard waste" pickup. Maybe yard waste pickup will bring me some back if I ask nicely. No? On to grass clippings. Oh yeah, we don't grow grass any more. Weed clippings then? See number two above: too hot and humid even to grow weeds. Hurry up weeds, I need you to make mulch. Mulch is so good for... stopping weeds from growing.
Two: Water. "Water accounts for 90 percent of the weight for most fruits and vegetables." That must explain why my fruits and vegetables failed to put on any noticeable poundage when, last week, we had eight straight rainless days of 90 degrees or above. But wait, I watered all the time, and some of my veggie plants still look anorexic. The idea that plants, especially annual vegetable plants that make all their growth in one short New England season need watering is something I really do get. But I'm still hung up on the arithmetic. What percentage of fruit and vegetable weight is attributable to sun? I might have said all of it.
Three: Write Stuff Down. "The only difference between science and screwing around is writing it down." Sorry, but thousands of words later I'm still screwing around.
Four: Sowing. The advice here is "to remove plants that have stopped producing and sow new ones" -- seeds, they mean -- "in their place for a late summer harvest."
And in fact most gardeners do have plants that have stopped producing by this time of year. And some of us (that's my hand in the air) have not in fact removed those old pea plant vines that are merely taking up space on the support structure out of a sentimental reluctance to cut our ties with the optimism of spring. Hope springs eternal. Midsummer report cards generally tell a so-so story. As for sowing seeds in July, why does that never, ever work?
Five: Harvesting. "Keep up with production." This is good advice. I'm always trying to coax a little something extra out of those fruits on the vine. Does anybody else recognize these thin seismic cracks that form along the top of your tomatoes?
Six: Cooking. For instance, "garlic scape pesto." I'll take their word for it that it's possible to turn garlic stems into pesto, but what I've really got a ton of right now is mint. Anybody have an idea what to do with a bushel of mint? Mojitos? OK, party at our house.
Seven: Donate extra food to food pantries. We have done this some years. Unfortunately, unless the rain and sun and some slow-to-produce plants come through more consistently than they have so far, this is not going to be one of those years.
Some communities, I've been told, have begun organizing garden co-ops that comb their neighborhood for undeveloped plots that could be put into garden production, with a harvest shared by all who need it. That's a "to do" list I could get behind.