Garden Tips | July 4, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - July 4, 2014

Garden Tips

Time to sit back and anticipate the harvest

by Jack McKinnon

As I sit at my desk here in my garden cottage the tomatoes are ripening on the trellis outside. I am planning the fall borders. It's July and the summer is in full glory.

Water in the bird bath is important now. The creek a mile away is a long flight especially for the finches and chickadees. It's a pleasure to hear them come through the forest chirping as they go. I put out seed every morning on the plate I glued to a piece of pipe. Pigeons come too, usually right away, but when the small birds come, the whole garden seems to perk up.

I can hardly wait for my Daphne to bloom. It is a rescue plant and completely died back soon after I brought it home. Now with fertilizer and regular water it will have a good show, and the fragrance may very well inspire a poem.

With the floor swept and the bookshelves dusted I can go out and harvest the salad greens for tonight's dinner. Possibly even with some fresh ripe berries.

Here are the tips:

1. Do the hardest thing first. If you make a list of chores and projects for your garden, choose the most difficult to do. When that one is done, every other one will be easier.

2. Spend time with a good book and iced tea. Decide what will make this time special. Choose a book that is worthy of special contemplative garden time. Make iced tea with mint, citrus and possibly a rose petal.

3. Start thinking about harvest time. If it looks like you will have enough squash, cut some blossoms now and make an omelet. Sometimes thinning back now will make fruit bigger as the season progresses. Cull apples, pears and plums if there are still any on the trees.

4. Mulch to save water and keep the weeds down. Of course, do this after weeding.

5. Prune dead, dying and diseased branches through out the summer. This saves quite a bit of work in winter and is easier to see when there are leaves on the branches.

6. Correspond internationally about your garden. Find a pen pal by joining a garden club or plant society. Ask friends if they know people who would like to write about their gardens. This makes for interesting and memorable documenting what is going on in your garden as well as your friends.

7. Photograph and journal what is new and different in your garden. If there is an interesting variety you want to remember make note of it and print out a photo. I found a variegated Nasturtium a couple of years ago that has yellow blossoms. It makes me so happy to show it off, even by email.

8. Keep an eye out for squirrels, gophers and fruit-stealing birds. There are a lot of crows these days, and I saw a squirrel crossing the street yesterday with a pumpkin blossom almost as big as it was in its mouth.

9. Cut the whips off of your Wisteria. If you don't like the seed pods popping in the night cut them all off as well.

10. Pick berries for the table, jam and the freezer. It makes a nice outing with the family to go to a U-Pick farm on the coastside and come back with a few pounds of ripe Olallieberries and lots of stained fingers. Of course you have to taste them a bit too. Be sure to put a little extra change in the sin can when you weigh your pickings.

Good Gardening.

Garden coach Jack McKinnon can be reached at 650-455-0687, by email at Visit his website at


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