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Making Life Better During the Dog Days of August



  If I ruled the world, I would make August illegal. We could have two Mays or Junes, but August would be out. While “dog days” (having to do with the conjunction of Sirius - the brightest star in Canis Major - and the Sun) are suppose to be from July 3 - Aug. 11, we will still feel the sticky, hot days until September. Really, the yuck has nothing to do with that star; it is just a part of August.

  So along with my favorite pastime of gathering ripe seed, I have a few other things that I am busy doing on these sticky days. My tomato plants are really looking rough at the bottom, yet a few richly green stems are present at the top. So I rooted a few of these in some fresh potting soil in a gallon pot and they are now in my garden and looking quite fresh and perky. I should get a few tomatoes from them before our first frost which is still a couple of months away. These cuttings were fairly large when I cut them - about 12 inches or more in length. They rooted very quickly - within a week. After a couple of weeks, out to the garden they went. Even if I only get green tomatoes, I can pick these and let them ripen indoors. Green tomatoes will ripen indoors if you can see the light yellow-green blush on the blossom of the tomato. Or, I can make lots of fried green tomatoes.

Tomato plant about 3 weeks after making cutting.                                    Special photo

  I went out this week and trimmed the long stems of my muscadine vine so that I could see the grapes underneath much easier. I tried to be careful not to expose the hidden fruit to the hot sun too much. After being nestled in the deep shade of leaves, they will scald easily in the direct sun. This has been a great summer for those vines - I pruned them heavily in the spring, but with all the water, the growth has been phenomenal. At first glance, it looks like a good crop of muscadines is on the way.

Long shoots removed on muscadines to expose the bounty of fruit.
                                              Special photo

  I love muscadines. Some folks eat the whole grape; some only eat the pulp and suck the juice; some only suck the juice; and others suck the juice, spit out the pulp and seeds and eat the skin. I eat it all, so much so, that one year I found myself in the hospital with diverticulitis at the end of muscadine season. I was certain that these grapes were the culprit, but my doctor assured me that this was not the case. Diverticulitis is caused by a bacteria; not a muscadine seed. Believing him, I am back to my old practices. I did find a few ripe ones on my early cultivars. Yeah!

  As I collect seed I am watching the buckeye trees in my garden. They are loaded with pods. As soon as they start to crack, I gather them and put them immediately into a pot of soil. I only let the ones dry out that I put in my pocket for good luck.

  You can also save the seed of the heirloom tomatoes and peppers - those that are open-pollinated. They will come back true to variety. Arkansas Traveller, Brandy-wine, Boxcar Willie, Mortgage Lifter - Ancho pepper, Habanero, Cayenne - just to mention a few. They can cross pollinate if you have planted the different varieties close together, so the best seed are those collected from plants that are distanced from other varieties. These tomatoes will usually self-pollinate. Even if they cross, you might get a great tomato.

  Fill these August days with some fun gardening activities and the Dog Days will go faster.



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