While I am waiting for those first small cucumbers so I can make refrigerator pickles, many of my gardening friends have been harvesting for weeks.
My favorite new gardener this year is my great-niece, who gifted her grandmother with a giant zucchini she grew all by herself. At barely 4 years old, she sprinkled seeds along the sidewalk to her house and announced no mowing was allowed in her garden. Keeping a wide berth with the mower, her parents were more than a little surprised when things actually started growing. When she picked the zucchini, which wasn't much smaller than herself, and presented it to her grandmother, she proclaimed excitedly, ''I grew this cucumber for you!'' Cucumber/zucchini, it doesn't really matter when you're 4.
Interesting things are happening in the world of gardening. The viburnum beetle battle we had last year seems to have settled down a bit. After a heavy pruning of our common snowball viburnum, which is evidently the insect's favorite meal of all viburnum species, there were no larvae munching down on the leaves, although we also didn't get any blooms this year. I have noticed, however, adult beetles have migrated to the shrub, probably moving on from other shrubs they already devastated. At the end of the season, we will carefully look for the signs of egg deposits on the undersides of tender shoots. These signs include a sewing-stitch like pattern that indicates the holes where adults bored into the stems and deposited the eggs before covering them up for winter. Those branches will be cut off and destroyed before winter.
Now that summer is more than half over, it is time to start thinking of spring bulbs for fall planting. I've been receiving catalogs for several weeks and put them aside until the time was right. This year I've got my eye on more species of tulips in shades of red, yellow and magenta. A particular species that caught my eye is Tulipa humilis 'Persian Pearl,' a deep magenta-rose flower with a soft-yellow star-shaped interior. I also like Tulipa clusiana 'Cynthia,' a bi-color blossom of yellow and red stripes with red centers.
In the world of gardening, just like Christmas toy manufacturers, we have to think ahead. Growers were propagating poinsettia and gloxinia cuttings before the spring bedding plants were being sold. Equally early starts for growers are the fall beauties, such as hardy mums and flowering kale.
An interesting article in the latest edition of Greenhouse Growers magazine featured Garden State Growers from Pittstown, N.J., and their donation of at least $50,000 in pink calla lilies to be sold in select Walmart stores to benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure campaign against breast cancer.
While calla lilies are lovely plants, and this is definitely a worthy cause, buyers in northeast Ohio should be aware that these plants are not hardy to our winters. Still, it would be worth the purchase for the lovely colors and would make a great potted plant for a table centerpiece or as a gift. Garden State Growers will begin sending plants to Walmart Oct. 1, and although I do not know if our local Walmart will be one of the select stores to receive the plants, I would be tempted to purchase a couple.
Keeping calla lilies in containers is the only way you can assure its survival in northeast Ohio, although you can plant them outside in summer as long as the tubers come inside before fall. After the plant finishes blooming and the leaves start to turn yellow, store the plant in its container in a cool, dry place, preferably a spare refrigerator, for two to three months. You also can store unpotted tubers in slightly moist peat or vermiculite, likewise in a cool place. Only water the plants often enough to keep them from drying out. This resting period is necessary for the tubers to renew themselves. In early spring, replant the tubers in fresh soil, begin to water and fertilize regularly, and put them in a sunny location. They should rebloom for you if you want to go to this trouble.