2006-08-10 / Editorial

The Island Garden

By Roger Marshall

Well, last week was a surprise. I was at a marine show in Las Vegas for the week, where temperatures hovered around 110 degrees. When I got back, my new neighbor's tree-trimming service had cut down two oak trees bordering my property, one on my neighbors and one on my property. They didn't ask. They simply hacked away, and then had the audacity to go up a tree 15 feet inside my property and cut off branches because they were dead. To me, this is supreme arrogance on the part of the out-of-town tree service. In my dealings with the local tree people, they have always been polite and easy to work with, especially Brian Dutra, who does all my brush chipping. I'd recommend the locals to anyone.

Anyway, garden work needs to be done. This is the time of year when new growth starts to show, and it is a good time to propagate shrubs for next season. You can take greenwood cuttings from many shrubs, including but not limited to hydrangea, euonymus, daphne, dogwoods, cotoneaster (pronounced cottony-aster), broom, magnolia, bittersweet, clematis, forsythia, privet, and fuschias. All you need do is snip the top 2 inches or so off the green part of the stem. Break or cut off the leaves leaving the top two or three, dip the stem in rooting hormone, and plant it in a pot of sandy potting soil. Keep the planted stem in partial shade, mist daily or twice daily, and wait for results. You should see roots starting in four to six weeks. After that, it's simply a matter of growing the plant and potting it as you would any other plant. When the plant is in a 6to 8-inch pot (about two years) transplant it into your garden.

In the vegetable garden

Your tomatoes should be almost ready. With all the rain we've had, they may still be a little green, but they'll turn red soon. Then you'll be able to enjoy the taste of home-grown tomatoes. And, if you have planted a lot of bushes, so will your neighbors and anyone that comes to your door! Early potatoes are almost ready to be harvested, as is garlic and corn. When picking potatoes, save a few for potato salads. I grow fingerlings specifically for a salad with tomato, olives, capers, and basil. Douse it with olive oil and a little vinegar and you have a different, but very tasty potato salad.

Check where your pumpkin and squash vines are going. They can easily be trodden on when they spread out of the growing beds. In the greenhouse, I trained them upwards, so that I now have pumpkins growing on a shelf eight feet above my head. I hope that wasn't a giant pumpkin vine!

If you are working on getting additional crops from your garden before fall, start brassicas - cabbage, broccoli, and other greens - now to be transplanted into the beds where you have already harvested crops. With luck, you'll be able to get a second crop out of your garden before frost sets in. If you have a cold frame, you will be able to enjoy fresh vegetables for most of the winter by starting many seeds right now and putting them in the cold frame before mid-September. The art of having winter vegetables is to grow them large enough before winter sets in.

Shrubs

Prune shrubs carefully. As mentioned above, you can propagate a lot of shrubs at this time of

year, but some shrubs, notably rhododendron, have set their flower buds for next year, and if you prune off the flower buds you won't get flowers next season. If you have a privet hedge, now is the time to prune it, and again in the fall. The more you prune, the denser the hedge will grow. Prune back wisteria and train the vines where you want them to go.

Lawns

We are in the summer hot season, and unless we get a reasonable amount of rain, your lawn will go dormant. That is, if you don't water it regularly. Going dormant is a lawn's natural reaction to heat, and it just means that you won't have to cut your grass so often, so there is a good side to having a brown lawn.

Flower gardens

With oriental lilies in full bloom, the flowerbeds smell wonderful. Dahlias are in bloom, adding their showiness to the yard. Watch for humming birds tending to your lilies. They love the fragrance and nectar. Deadhead flowers as they die back or your plants will try to make seeds. Snipping off dead flower heads often gets the plant to make more flowers. Fertilize roses lightly to get more flowers before fall. Keep your flower gardens weeded and above all have fun in the sun!

Pachyderm painters on exhibit in Tiverton

The work of Thai elephant painters (yes, elephants!) will be exhibited at Gallery 4 at the Tiverton Four Corners from Aug. 12 to Sept. 4. The opening reception will be on Saturday, Aug. 12, from 4 to 7 p.m.

Some 22 paintings done by the elephants will be shown during regular gallery hours, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

A portion of the proceeds of any sales during the exhibit will go to the World Wildlife Fund and the Thai Elephant Conservation Center.

For more information, call gallery owner Bob Smith at 8160999.

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