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BY KATHY ADAIR

Valley Voice Contributor

 

I don’t know about you, but this dry, hot weather is playing havoc with our plants. Not just the flowers and vegetables, but also our shrubs and trees. Keeping everything watered and fed when it evaporates as soon as it hits the hot ground can be daunting, but keep at it.

 

Kerry is constantly outside moving the sprinkler. He also waters the lawn around the house to just keep a green zone as a buffer.

 

On a positive side, we are reaping the rewards of that constant nurturing. We are finally getting a good crop of corn and the squash and tomatoes have been giving us good stuff for a while now. Friends, family and neighbors are also getting some of this bounty, since there is only so much Kerry and I can eat!

 

However, we are seeing a future of being overwhelmed by the number of tomatoes that Kerry planted. Yes, he planted at least one or two of every variety we seeded up and in some cases many more. For those of you who stopped by our plant sale this last spring, you know there were a lot of varieties.

 

So, what are we going to do with all of those tomatoes? Well, this year, I am going to dry a lot of them since we love to cook with “sundried tomatoes”.

 

I’m not up to the issues and bugs that come with actual sun drying, so I plan on using my food dehydrator instead, then place a lot of them in good olive oil and some herbs. The rest we will either freeze whole or can into salsas or sauces.

 

Our pear and apple trees are also heavy with fruit this year. It looks like we will be making sauces, canning, freezing and dehydrating those, too. In other words, the end of summer and start of fall look to be busy processing. But isn’t that what growing is all about? If you are unsure about how to process your excess fruits and vegetables, the internet is a wonderful resource of great ideas.

 

If you are still struggling to get your plants and trees to produce, check to see if your soil is fertile and your pH levels are correct for your garden. Your soil should measure about 7, which is neutral. 6 is too acidic and 7.5 and above is too alkaline. If your soil is surrounded by evergreen or deciduous trees, it could be that your soil is acidic.

 

The leaves and needles from the trees make the surrounding soil acidic as they decompose and pull necessary nutrients out. In that case, you may need to add garden lime to your soil to adjust the pH level, unless you would like to grow blueberries, which love acidic soil. Or, you might consider building a raised bed and fill it with good growing soil.

 

For current vegetables, it’s okay and actually beneficial to remove excess leaves and runners that are not contributing to putting energy into the fruit. For instance, squash plants will produce many runners. Some of those runners don’t produce flowers. Those are perfect to just cut off so that the plant can instead give that energy into the squash.

 

Tomatoes also have lots of branches and leaves that can be thinned to not just help grow the fruit, but also make it easier to pick.

 

Learning a few tricks, can really help boost your garden’s output. I hope to share as many as I can, but feel free to message me with any questions. In the meantime, keep up the good work and keep watering!