Renovate Strawberry Beds

If strawberry beds are weedy and overcrowded, renovate them. Mow plants down with the mower. Till under all but an 8-inch row of plants in the middle of the bed and thin remaining plants to 6 inches.


Squash and Melons Not Setting Fruit

You're right that there aren't as many pollinators around, for a variety of reasons. A mite has devastated the honey bee population, and the media has scared everyone with "Killer Bees" so people are having hives removed in greater numbers than before. You might try a diverse planting of flowers to encourage more visitors. Some annuals that do well in the heat here are coreopsis, cosmos, gaillardia, vinca, lisianthus, and salvia. Herb flowers are also great for attracting insects. Limiting or eliminating pesticide use also encourages them.

Most vining crops start by producing a lot of male flowers before the females, and these early flowers wither and die. Once both flowers are present, you can hand pollinate the blossoms yourself by taking a small artist's paint brush or cotton swab and transferring pollen from the male flower(without a small fruit behind the flower) to the female flower (the one with a small fruit behind the flower).

Tomato pollen isn't viable much over 90 degrees, so fruits won't set when our temperatures get too high. You can try gently tapping and shaking tomato plants in the early morning to pollinate.


Sweet Corn Ears Lack Kernels

Unfortunately, if the kernels are not formed they will not fill out. I would suspect the problem was caused by poor pollination, due either to rainy weather when the pollen was ready, and/or perhaps planting your corn in a row instead of a block. Since corn depends primarily on wind to transfer the pollen to the silks (which is what makes the kernels grow), you need to plant it in a block. A clump of 5 stalks per hill or a block 4 feet square is usually the base limit to ensure proper pollination. Also, corn is a heavy feeder and requires a good, steady supply of nutrients for good growth. Since the stalks look fine, though, I don't think lack of nutrients was the problem.


Growing Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is easy to grow. Plant the seeds in the spring and harvest anytime, from baby leaves for salad to larger leaves for cooking. Burpee's carries 'Bright Lights', a packet containing several colors. You can also purchas 'Rhubarb Chard' that has crimson stalks and glossy green, crinkled leaves, or 'Fordhook Giant' with dark green, thick, tender leaves.


Wilting Basil

In my experience, even though it is an herb basil actually needs a "normal" amount of water. If the soil feels dry and the plant recovers when you water it, then it needs more water--either more frequent watering, or more thorough watering. When you apply water, soak the entire rootball--rather than just sprinkling the surface. (Be sure to allow excess water to drain away.) When the soil surface dries out, it's time to water again.

There are two other possibilities, however. One is that the plant is simply reacting to heat and perhaps wind and cannot take up water fast enough to make up for the speed at which it is transpiring. In this case it may wilt slightly even when it has been well watered. Providing it with a bit of shade at noon or during the afternoon will help if this is the case. Another possibility is that the roots have begun to fill the container, and it needs a larger pot with more soil.


Harvest Edible Flowers

Edible flowers such as borage, calendula, nasturtium, pansy, and rose taste best when picked and eaten the same day. Harvest flowers in the morning, after the dew has dried to adorn salads, soups, and entrees.