July 2018
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

Squash in a Cage?

My mother-in-law had an unconventional way of raising squash – in a tomato cage. She did this so plants would survive summer thunderstorms. The central stem of the plant is gently tied to a stake while the cage helped keep the big leaves from twisting too much and being broken by the wind and rain.

This made the squash easier to spot and pick, too!

Of course, this technique is for bush-types, not vining ones.

If you look closely, you can see the small tomato cage surrounding this squash.


You can still start a crop of zinnias now.

Sow Seed for Late Blossoms

There is still time to sow a crop of annual flowers this summer. Some of the ones that bloom quickly from seed include marigolds, zinnia, cleome, cosmos and branching sunflowers.

They all come up well in the heat, provided you keep them watered.

The reward is a fabulous fall crop of flowers in late summer and early fall when the weather starts cooling down, and it’s fun to be in the garden again.


Catch Rainwater

A rainwater collection system is a smart addition to a garden.


Save on your water bill by capturing rainwater from the rooftop of the house or other structures. Most gardeners start with 50-gallon barrels, but it doesn’t take long to fill one with rain from the house gutter system.

A gardening friend in Atlanta made a relay of barrels so that six collected 300 gallons. They were double-stacked on a rack for an easy gravity feed to the garden.

Also popular for water storage are square, 250-gallon food-safe plastic containers.

The ultimate is a tank like this one. Most will hold 500-3,000 gallons. Tanks are generally made of polyethylene, fiberglass, metal or even concrete.

There are many online sources for ideas and guidelines on how to create your own system. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System maintains several helpful webpages on this topic. Type "ACES rainwater collection" in your browser search bar to find one.


Stump Becomes Wire Sculpture

What remained of this old tree that had to be cut down was just enough to create the base for a whimsical, wire garden sculpture. Wire curlicues were simply poked into holes drilled in the wood. The curlicues were made from heavy-gauge wire shaped by winding around various-sized sticks or pipes. Of course, it’s up to the artist to fashion whatever shapes you choose! I saw it at the Tennessee Extension Service open house in Jackson several years ago.


This old tree has artful new branches made of wire.

This year, the fun day at the West Tennessee Research & Education Center is Thursday, June 12. There are always impressive display gardens, speakers every hour, food and garden vendors, and a big plant sale by area Master Gardeners.

It is only a two-hour drive from the tri-cities area and a good day trip for folks in Northwest Alabama.



The bright fiery-red blooms of crocosmia match the summer heat. This summer treat is in bloom right now. Keep your eye out for it in case someone in your circle of friends has a planting needing to be divided this fall – the ideal time to dig and divide.

However, if someone gave you a division now, it would probably survive. Give it full sun and well-drained soil.

Crocosmia makes a long-lasting cut flower, too – another reason to have a patch.

Red is the most popular color, but yellow and orange selections are nice, too.


Extra Potassium for Tomatoes

Tomato plants require extra potassium when they are fruiting; often they need more than their roots can take up from the soil. To help keep plants healthy and productive as long as possible, spray the foliage weekly with a soluble kelp powder high in potassium.

It will help the leaves stay healthy and help resist serious diseases during the time when there is so much disease pressure.


Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of “The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists” and former garden editor of Southern Living Magazine.