Discover more from The Weekly Dirt with Jessica Damiano
Reconsidering plant choices amid climate change, how to address flooded gardens
Plus: Troubleshooting flowerless zucchini
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It’s been a hot, dry (and, in some parts, terribly flooded) summer so far, and my plants are feeling the pain.
I’ve only picked one ripe tomato so far, and the few left on my plant have remained green for about three weeks now. My green bean production has been scant, too, and there are only two (still unripe) peppers to show from my two plants combined.
Extreme heat will do that. And after a few years of this nonsense, I’m afraid it’s looking like we need to prepare for more of the same.
I also haven’t seen one monarch butterfly yet. I’ve got dozens of white ones fluttering about — and I did see one Eastern tiger swallowtail — but no monarchs.
Some gardeners in my Zone 7 region are reporting overwintering success with plants suited for Zone 8 and warmer, and the heat-tolerant annuals and native perennials are the ones faring best in my garden.
It’s time to rethink what we plant because climate change means just that: Change.
Drop me a line and let me know what you’re noticing and also if you’ve experimented with plants that aren’t yet recommended for your zone — and how they’ve fared.
I’ll collect your input and report back to the group.
📬 Ask Jessica
DEAR JESSICA: I planted zucchini plants and now have lush and large leaves. I saw one or two yellow flowers at one point, but now there are none. Why can’t I seem to grow any zucchinis? — Barbara Pelikow
DEAR BARBARA: Zucchini and other flowering plants have difficulty blooming in the presence of too much nitrogen, so I wonder if you’ve applied excess fertilizer or if the grass growing near them has been fertilized. If so, that’s likely the culprit.
You don’t say where you live, but if your area has experienced very hot weather this summer, that also could be to blame for dropped and fewer blossoms. Here in New York, my five plants have produced only one zucchini so far, with very few flowers, and I’m attributing it to the heat.
Zucchini requires moist soil, so be sure you’re providing enough water. Be sure to water deeply a couple of times a week, ensuring that water soaks the top 4 inches of soil.
The problem could also be due to a lack of pollination. However, I know you report a lack of blossoms altogether.
Zucchini plants produce both male and female flowers, and pollinators like bees are needed to move pollen from the male blossoms to the females, which then produce fruit.
Early in the season, male and female flowers often open at different times, making pollination impossible. Eventually, they sync up, but if bees and other pollinators aren’t around, the plants may need our help.
When you do get flowers (and keep the faith! I believe you will!), you can intervene by hand-pollinating your plants when the blossoms open. First, identify your flowers: Males are attached to the plant with a simple stem; females have a swollen base that will grow into zucchini if pollinated.
When flowers are open in the morning, remove an open male and pick off its petals, leaving only the yellow stamen on the stem. Touch the stamen several times to the center of each open female flower. Alternatively, you can leave the male flower in place, collect its pollen with a cotton swab or small paint brush, and touch it to the center of the open females. Then sit back and await your zucchini.
💡 If you do one thing this week…
Order spring bulbs! It might seem too early, but you’ll need to reserve your selections before they run out. Most catalogs will ship them to you at the correct planting time for your zone.
IN THE SOUTH AND WEST…
Most spring bulbs need to be exposed to a cold winter, which typically means they won’t likely survive in the ground if you’re gardening south of zone 7. So they must be dug up, stored and refrigerated for 6-12 weeks before replanting. Otherwise, they should be treated as annuals and replanted every year.
But, although alliums and Spanish bluebells can’t handle anything higher than Zone 8 in the South, they tend to hold their own in the West down to Zone 10.
Many daffodils and amaryllis will return reliably up to zone 8 in the South. Daffodils can even survive up to zone 9 or 10 in the West if the soil isn’t too dry.
👍Find of the Week
I received a ZoomBroom Tornado this week, and I couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised.
The compact, light-as-a-feather, cordless leaf-and-debris blower assembled in less than a minute, charged in about a half hour, and cleared my back deck — including furniture — and front porch in about 5 minutes total.
I’m impressed with how easy, light and comfortable it is to use (it weighs about 2 pounds and feels even lighter (maybe it’s the distribution).
And it’s quiet — much more quiet than my vacuum cleaner.
I give the ZoomBroom Tornado 👍 for quick, easy, environmentally friendly and effective patio cleanups.
👏 Sunday shoutout
Linda Santorello of Northport, NY, writes: “Here is some of nature’s beauty in my yard. I love going out in the morning to see the incredible overnight changes.
This IS Mother Nature at its best.”
And Beth Brenner shared photos of her colorful blooms in Atlantic Beach, NY.
Send in your photo, and you could be featured next (bonus points if you’re in the photo!)
📰This week in my Associated Press gardening column
I write a weekly gardening column for the AP, so you might have seen my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you happen to be. In case you miss it, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
Last week: Are ants in your plants harmful?
You can read all my AP gardening columns here.
📚📺🎵 Random things I did this week
💉 After watching several people I know come down with the disease, I got my first shingles vaccine this week.
📺 I’ve been enjoying my Peacock TV subscription, which I signed up for with the intention of watching Bupkis and then canceling. But after watching two other excellent original series — Poker Face and The Resort — I’m considering keeping the service.
💃 I went to my first Flamenco show in Brooklyn — so much fun!
💔 I’ve been mourning the losses of Sinead O’Connor and Paul Reubens, both longtime favorites. I remember working in the newsroom on Saturday mornings in the early 90s, when we would tune two of the three TVs to news channels to keep an eye on breaking news. The third played Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
This newsletter is member-supported
This week’s newsletter was made possible by generous support from Stephen G., Mary and readers who wish to remain anonymous. THANK YOU!
I’m a freelance writer who juggles various gigs to piece together a living. I spend hours every week writing The Weekly Dirt, answering your questions and sharing advice to help you achieve the garden of your dreams. As much as I enjoy it, I have bills to pay so can’t afford to work for free. If you work for a paycheck, I’m sure you understand.
I considered putting The Weekly Dirt behind paywall and charging a subscription fee, but although I am reserving that as a last resort, I’d rather not go that route because I understand that not everyone can afford even a nominal fee, and I genuinely love helping people learn how to garden better.
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If you enjoy receiving The Weekly Dirt and want to support my work, please consider “buying me a coffee!”
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I welcome your comments and suggestions, so please send them along — as well as any topics you’d like to see covered and questions you’d like answered in the Ask Jessica section.
Until next week, stay safe. Be well. And always keep your mind in the dirt. —Jessica
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