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Village of AsharokenThe small but powerful Village of Asharoken

Late Summer 2010 Gardening Article:           By Joan G. Hauser

Picking your own vegetables, fruits and flowers can be a fun family outing.
Picking your own vegetables, fruits and flowers can be a fun family outing.
Thereís a special pleasure that comes from picking your own fruits and vegetables. Itís almost as good as growing them yourself--and itís a fun family project, especially when you reap the results at dinner. Most of the farms that allow picking are farther out east but the F & W Schmitt Farms at 29 Pinelawn Road is in Melville (off Walt Whitman Road). There you can pick tomatoes, plum tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and string beans on weekends from 9 AM to 4 PM. For more details, call 271-3276.

For more information and listings of sites, visit Pick Your Own in Suffolk County For a list of Suffolk County farmerís markets selling only what they bake make, grow, or catch, go to: Suffolk County Farmerís Markets.

And, don't forget the Northport Farmers Market: Every Saturday, through November 20, from 8am to 1pm, at the foot of Main Street Northport. Purchase the freshest produce, fish, other foods and crafts all from local purveyors.

It's too darn hot.
Art by Joan's granddaughter Rose
Water is essential. Your garden needs more of it when it is so hot. Watering when the sun is at its highest can damage your plants and will, at the very least, evaporate too quickly to help them. I set my sprinkler system, for 4:30am every other day and suggest watering early or late in the day. During the recent heat wave, I was advised by the sprinkler company to re-set my program so that it was running for longer periods of time. Instead, when itís been really hot, I water daily and even sometimes, twice a day.

Friends have told me that their trees are losing green leaves. Just like your lawn, trees need deep watering. The New York Parks Department says that trees need 15 to 20 gallons of water once a week. Thatís about 3 or 4 buckets full. They suggest poking small holes in the bottom of a large trash can, filling it with that amount of water, and leaving it overnight next to your favorite tree.

Your lawn needs approximately one inch of water per week. If you have a sprinkler system, hereís a good way to check it out. Place clean tin cans at various locations before the sprinkler goes on. After it has run, measure the water in the cans; add or subtract watering minutes accordingly. Remember not to cut your lawn too short when temperatures are so high.

Potted and hanging plants are the most needy during these periods of drought. Check the soil or heft the pot. When the soil is dry, the pot will be lighter. Because these plants are in a small environment enclosed by their pots and are often annuals with shallower roots, they will need more water to survive than those in your garden.

If a plant is dry and wilting, try adding extra water--by hand if necessary. An astilbe of mine sagged, so I dug it up, put it in a pot near the hose, and watered it by hand intensively every day. I cut off the dead stems and watched the rest of the plant slowly green again. It may not look rich and full this year, but it will be perfect next year in its new, shadier home.

At this time of year, deadheading is the way to go. Removing dead flowers accomplishes two purposes. First, you fool the plant into producing seeds again, therefore giving you more flowers. Second, your garden looks so much better after youíre done. The down side of deadheading is that you are not allowing the flowerís seeds to broadcast naturally so that youíll have fewer new plants next year. To deadhead, cut spent flowers as soon as they bloom. Cut the long stems of tall flower down to the base. For other plants, snap or pinch off only the flowers with clippers or your fingers. When plants look ratty, trim back the foliage as well. Some flowers will re-bloom and others wonít. To keep annuals in shape, remove faded flowers as often as possible. If the plants become too leggy, cut back drastically. Petunias and salvia will respond well to tough love.