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Master Your Garden

By By Barbara Kozlowski, Master Gardener CCE

We’ve had rain, warm weather, cool weather, sunshine, more rain, and so the springtime cycle continues. We luckily did not have a late Spring frost although it did get very cool. Many of the early spring perennials have bloomed, making way for summer flowers, perennials or annuals.

In another vein, my rhubarb is ready for pulling and my chives are flowering. Chive flowers are a great addition to a salad or fresh veggie platter. And rhubarb — sauce, jam, chutney, pickled, up-side-down cake or pie (alone or mixed with strawberries) — mmm, my mouth is watering. My favorite way to prepare and eat rhubarb is to wash it, cut it up into medium size pieces (2 inches or so), place into a large pan with just a touch of liquid, sugar to taste and then cook on a low heat until soft. I don’t like to cook the rhubarb too long, as I like pieces of the rhubarb, not just all mush. When local strawberries are available, I may add a few of them for a different flavor. If you are growing rhubarb in your garden, be sure to remove the flower stalks as they appear. This allows for more stalks of rhubarb to grow.

Of course, the weeds are growing, too. Weeds are a fact of nature and seem to pop up overnight. Mulching helps to control and remove them. Weeding your garden is a constant chore and requires almost daily attention. Daily weeding helps to prevent the aggressive ones from spreading. If you cannot weed daily, try to weed at least once a week. A weed-free garden will be more beneficial to the perennials, annuals and veggie plants your have growing.

Weeds are not the only threat to your garden and the plants growing there. Our gardens are filled with insects, many of them beneficial to the plants growing there. Look into companion gardening to prevent the unwanted insects from devouring your plants.

I don’t usually specify certain publications, but I recommend Sally Cunningham’s book, “Great Garden Companions,” for your gardening library. It is filled with an incredible wealth of information to help give you the best garden you can have. Every time I pick up this book, I learn something new or am reminded of a solution I used in prior gardens. I have used marigolds and herb plants to promote a healthy garden.

Some of the common pest insects to look for include aphids, flea beetles, Japanese beetles and slugs. These insects can destroy a garden and can be dealt with without using toxic pesticides that also kill the beneficial insects. I will recommend that you do not use the Japanese beetle lures sold commercially. They lure the beetles to your yard, better to take a bucket of soapy water with you during a walk into your yard and shake off any beetles into the bucket. It will kill them — problem solved. A garlic water spray will work against aphids, again without injuring beneficial insects.

Happy gardening and mark your calendar for Wednesdays in the Arboretum (starting in July), sponsored and presented by the Master Gardeners of Cattaraugus County Cornell Cooperative Extension. The sessions are free and will be held rain or shine.

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