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Edition 6.26
July 1st, 2006

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Thanks for taking the time to read the Grangetto's Garden Gazette. If at any time there is a topic that you would like to see in the next newsletter or you have a gardening tip you would like to share, please feel free to email us.





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"...make no mistake, the weeds will win, nature bats last.."
—    Robert Michael Pyle

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When to Harvest Your Vegetables


One of the most common mistakes made by beginning vegetable gardeners is harvesting the crop at the wrong time. Since ripeness varies according to planting time, the weather in any given year, the variety of the particular vegetable planted, and many other things, one can't just say, "Harvest this vegetable on July 21st." So we've gotten together a general guide for harvesting many commonly-grown vegetables.

We thought of restricting it to vegetables that grow easily here, or to summer harvest only - but greenhouse-growing is becoming more popular so we decided to do the long list.

Asparagus: Begin harvesting when spears are 6-10 inches tall and before heads open. Snap them off at ground level; new spears will continue to grow. Stop when the average spear diameter is less than 1/4 inch.

Beans (snap): Pick before you can see the seeds bulging. They should snap easily into two. Check daily, as they will get tough quickly.

Beans (lima):Pick when well filled, but not overmature.

Beets: You can harvest and eat the green tops that you thin out of the rows. Beets are somewhat a matter of preference when it comes to the right size - most prefer a diameter of 1.5 to 2 inches - but they are ready any time after the shoulders come above the soil line.

Broccoli: We eat the unopened flower buds of broccoli, so check often as weather warms, and get them before they bloom (don't expect your heads to get to supermarket size). Harvest when the buds are about the size of a match head. Remove with a sharp knife; leave between 4 and 6 inches of stem.

Brussels Sprouts: Harvest when they are green, plump and firm (usually an inch or more in diameter). Harvest by twisting off or cutting the sprout from the stem.

Cabbage: Harvest cabbage when the head is firm and has reached adequate size depending on the variety and growing conditions.

Cantaloupe (muskmelon): The color should change to beige and the fruit will 'slip' from the stem easily. You may be able to notice a sweet smell when ripe.

Carrots: Depending on variety, pull when about 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. The top of the carrot will show at the soil line and you can gauge when the diameter looks right for your variety. If the diameter looks good, chances are the length is fine too.

Cauliflower: As with broccoli, your cauliflower heads will probably not get to supermarket size. Harvest when the head looks full and while the curds of the head are still smooth.

Chard (Swiss): Harvest as leaves become large enough.

Collards (kale and mustard): Harvest young plants or lower leaves on older plants. Leaves should be young and tender. Taste improves with cool weather.

Corn: Pick after the silks become brown. The kernels should exude a milky substance when pricked.

Cucumber: Check daily and harvest early (if harvesting for pickling, even earlier). Timing and length will vary with variety. The fruits should be firm and smooth. Over-ripe cucumbers can be very bitter or pithy, even before they start to turn yellow.

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Lawn Care in Summer Months

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Cool-season grasses:
Just as in June, cool-season lawns such as perennial ryegrass, bluegrass, and fescue are growing slowly now, so do not mow short. Be sure to cut ryegrass and bluegrass to 2 inches. Tall fescues should be left even taller - between 2 and 3 inches after cutting. Mow tall fescues often, but never cut off more than one-third of their total height.

Extend the time between irrigation of all fescue now, and water it deeply to encourage deep roots. Most other cool-season grasses tend to seed shallower than warm-season lawns, and require more frequent watering than warm-season grasses. In hot weather most cool-season grasses need to be watered twice or three times a week in interior zones, and at least once a week in coastal zones. Early in the morning (any time between midnight and dawn) is the best time to irrigate both for water conservation purposes and also for lawn health.

Do not fertilize cool-season grasses now in interior zones. Along the coast fertilize very lightly - one half of the normal amount.

Warm-season grasses:
Warm-season lawns such as Bermuda, zoysia, kikuyu, Adalayd grass, dichondra, and St. Augustine thrive in summer and are growing at their fastest now. As in June, cut common Bermuda even shorter to 1/2 or 3/4 of an inch. Cut zoysia to between 3/4 and 1 inch and kikuyu as short as 1/2 inch, to keep it in bounds. Remember to slice down and through kikuyu and pull out escaped kikuyu stolons often, to stop their tendency to creep into flower beds. Dichondra should look billowy and lush now. Cut it high or not at all. St. Augustine grows fast, so cut it often to 3/4 or 1 inch at least once a week.

All warm-season grasses should be watered deeply and infrequently, so as to encourage deep rooting, rather than watering shallowly and often. St. Augustine needs the most water; it can die if it is allowed to go dry. Be sure to water it at least once a week, more often in sandy soils. Bermuda, zoysia, and kikuyu can often go as long as two weeks between waterings, depending on the weather and your climate zone. Water deeply, and extend the time between waterings as much as possible while still maintaining good appearance.

Feed most warm-season grasses every four to six weeks during the growing season. Feed Adalayd half-strength, early in the month. (Too much fertilizer can stress it in hot weather.) If kikuyu is growing well don't feed it at all. Too much fertilizer can make kikuyu very difficult to manage. If you want to get rid of kikuyu or Bermuda as weeds, kill them now with glyphosate, and pull them out by the roots, but be aware that they might come back from seeds.


Who's Horning In On Your Tomatoes?

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By Tamara Galbraith

It's mid-summer, your tomato plants are humming along and even starting to bear fruit. Then one day while checking your toms, you notice lots of leaves in the middle and bottom of the plant are either munched or totally gone. Your tomatoes themselves might even show damage. What happened?

You've probably unknowingly provided a four-star restaurant for a large caterpillar known as the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata). This chubby, ever-hungry garden pest is generally green, with several V-shaped marks down its back, and a blue/black "horn" on the tail.

Hornworms can be controlled with any organic pesticide formulated for caterpillar control such as Safer Caterpillar Killer, Green Light Spinosad, or Monterey Garden Insect Spray before planting. Hand-picking and dropping into a bucket of soapy water is also good if it doesn't freak you out to handle them (wear gloves, though).

Keep one or two, though, and put them in a jar with holes punched in the lid and some leaves for food until they pupate. Hornworms are the larvae of the beautiful hummingbird/sphinx moth. Watching this fat ugly caterpillar turn into such a lovely creature over the course of a couple of weeks is a great experience for gardeners young and old. Once they reach the moth stage, they are no longer a threat to plant health and should of course be set free.

Morning Glories

Perennial morning glories (Ipomoea acuminata) get started rapidly when planted now. Grow them from seeds or plants in full sun and in ordinary or poor soil, with no nitrogen fertilizer added. (Keep morning glory seeds away from children- they're poisonous). Water them regularly to get them going and occasionally thereafter.

These vines are invasive, drought resistant, and permanent once established. Use morning glories for an old-fashioned, colorful look and to hide chain link fences. They're not for formal gardens but can be an eye-catching ornament in the right spot.

The Importance of Sun Protection

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article imageAre "sunblocks" and "sunscreens" the same thing?
No. They both provide sun- protection for the skin, but they use different ingredients and mechanisms in achieving that protection. A "sunblock" most commonly uses zinc oxide or titanium oxide to "block" the sun's harmful rays from penetrating the skin by reflecting it. A "sunscreen" uses minerals and other ingredients to absorb the sun's harmful rays once it gets into the layers of the skin. This helps mitigate sun damage to the skin. Sunscreens are easier to wear than sunblocks as they readily absorb into the skin and do not leave a whitish residue. However, sunblocks are more advantageous in that they do not allow penetration of the sun into skin. Their ingredients are often more harsh and may leave a whitish residue on the surface of the skin, as they do not absorb easily. This can be a problem when you wish to wear every day, or under makeup. Sunblocks are good for long periods or extreme sun exposure, swimming and sports.

article imageWhat is "SPF" anyway?
SPF stands for "sun protection factor". The FDA requires all sunscreen products to put their SPF on their label. The SPF reveals the amount of sunburn protection that a sunscreen can provide an average user, when applied correctly. It is recommended that sunscreens have an SPF 15 or more. Note: An SPF of 30 is NOT twice as strong as an SPF of 15, but rather provides about 97% protection against UVB rays compared to 93% protection against UVB rays for SPF 15.

article imageWhat are UVB and UVA rays?
The sun's radiation accounts for 90% of skin aging and skin cancers. UV's are the damaging invisible ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun. Both cause suntan, sunburn and sun damage. UVB rays are rays that burn the skin during peak sun hours (between 10AM and 2PM) in the summer months and UVA rays- are rays that cause aging year round, regardless of weather.

article imageCan I use my sunscreen for my face on my body too?
Yes. However, sunscreens can be expensive and sunscreens developed especially for the face, even more so: they must use a more advanced science and expensive ingredients because the face tends to be more sensitive than other parts of the body. This is especially true after facial treatments or surgery of any kind. General advice: It is better to use a specially formulated sunscreen for your face on the rest of your body, if you have to, than to use a general allover sunscreen on you face.

The Rose Slug

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The Rose Slug gets busy every year in early summer and can skeletonize your rose leaves. Starting sometime in May. You see them every year. The leaves have hundreds of holes, brown spots and look just awful. When you look you often don't see anything. The culprit is the Rose Slug, This is the larval stage of a Sawfly insect on your rose leaves. The eggs hatch out into these little green larvae that look a bit like a caterpillar. They eat like crazy and then disappear. Most varieties have only have one cycle but they can do lots of damage in a short period of time.

After the leaves are skeletonized and brown it does no good to spray. That's like locking the barn door after the horse is gone! Too late. All the Bayer Rose products with cyfluethrin work really well. We have them most of them for sale such as Bayer Tree & Shrub or Bayer Rose & Flower Insect Killer. For the organic gardener use Green Light Spinosad or Monterey Garden Insect Spray.

West Nile Virus Statement

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Experts have indicated that West Nile virus, which is spread primarily by the bite of an infected mosquito, may have a significant impact on California this summer. Since 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported more than 9,000 human cases and hundreds of animal cases of West Nile virus.

In an effort to safeguard our collection of animals, our employees, and guests, the Zoological Society of San Diego is responding appropriately to these issues. The San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park are participating in a nationwide surveillance program with other zoological facilities supported by the CDC in an effort to combat a major outbreak in Southern California. For several years both facilities have made mosquito control a priority by eliminating or drastically reducing mosquito-breeding habitat. Some of the preventive measures include the following:

  • Control adult mosquitoes through mosquito devices and other biological mechanisms.
  • Dispose of mosquito larvae with the introduction of gambusia (mosquito fish) into large bodies of water at both the Zoo and Park. Gambusia consume mosquito larvae in warm fresh water.
  • Advise our animal care staff and facility attendants to get rid of mosquito breeding sites by eliminating any standing water from buckets, trash cans, and barrels.
  • Vaccinate highly susceptible bird and mammal species from the Zoo and Park and apply booster vaccinations the following year(s). A combined 600 specimens from the Zoo and Park have been vaccinated to curb the impact of West Nile virus.
  • Advise the public when discovering a dead bird to not make contact with the bird and immediately call the County of San Diego Environmental Health Department at (858) 694-2888.

The San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park agree with public health officials that mosquito control will be the most effective way to reduce the risk of West Nile infection in the San Diego metropolitan area. To obtain more information on the West Nile virus, we suggest you visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site at or call the CDC public response hotline at (888) 246-2675.

Keep Your Pet Safe for the Fourth of July

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A special thanks to the San Diego Humane Society for this information, used with permission. Please visit them online at

Although the Fourth of July is a fun holiday for people, it can be a nightmare for pets. While most people enjoy the sights and sounds of fireworks, animals don't understand the commotion and can be frightened by the startling, disruptive noises.

When threatened by an unfamiliar experience, such as loud noises, even the calmest, most obedient animal is apt to flee or act out of character. Cats may hide when frightened and dogs may try to escape by jumping the fence or digging a hole. Some animals may even experience nausea when confronted with an extremely frightening experience.

The San Diego Humane Society offers these tips to pet owners:

• Don't take your pet with you to firework displays.
• Prepare a quiet, secure place for pets to spend the evening where they feel safe.
• Make sure the room is secure and remove any objects that might injure your pet should he/she become startled by the loud noise.
• Don't leave your pets alone in parked vehicles. Even with the windows open, a parked car can quickly become a furnace. While the temperature outside may reach up to 80 degrees, the temperature inside your car could reach 120 degrees. This type of overheating can be fatal.
• Always make sure your pet has current identification, including collar I.D. tags, licenses and/or microchip I.D. In case your pet gets out of the house, this simple procedure will help avoid the possible heartache of losing your animal.

The Fourth of July should be a pleasurable experience for everyone, including your pets.
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Recipe of the Month: Popsicle Sticks


What You'll Need:

  • Red Juice (red raspberry, cranberry, cherry)
  • Blue Juice (blue Kool Aid, Blue Gatorade, blue raspberry)
  • White Juice (white cranberry, lemonade, coconut juice drink)
  • String Licorice
  • 5 or 6 oz paper cups
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Baking Sheet

Step by Step:

Line up several paper cups on a baking sheet. Pour 4 tablespoons of red juice into each cup. Freeze 2-3 hours until firm-slushy.
Remove from freezer and poke a popsicle stick into the center of each cup of juice. Add 4 tablespoons of white juice and freeze 2-3 hours.
Remove from freezer. Top off with blue juice and freeze 1-2 hours until slushy.
Remove from freezer and insert a 2 or 3-inch string of licorice into each popsicle. Freeze until hard. Peel off paper cups to serve.


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