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In my home state of Maryland the 4th of July signals several gardening events as well as the feeling that summer has really arrived. Timing will of course vary according to latitude.

The year's corn crop is judged by its growth...it should be at least knee high by the 4th of July. The nut mast is well established by the 4th although not yet mature. One can look up and see if this is going to be a good year for the squirrels. The 4th of July is traditionally the time to dig potatoes but not too many other summer vegetables are harvested just yet. The race is on for the first ripe tomato and zucchini still looks desirable. Spring crops are petering out, if not completely gone. The fourth is also the marker for the final "pinching" back of fall blooming chrysanthemums.

Gardening chores in July consist mostly of weed and pest control, dead heading, harvesting and preserving those crops that are ready before seeds form and stop production, mulching, fertilizing and irrigation. It's a touch early for planting fall crops but succession planting of short lived herbs like cilantro and dill is appropriate. Young annuals can still be planted to fill in the gaps of spent spring blooming perennials / bulbs and will provide color until the first winter frost. If one grows perennials from seed, now is the time to start many of them. Lawn mowing frequency may be slowing down due to the heat but a nicely manicured lawn is often a priority for the outdoor festivities. Grass should be cut higher now that the "dog days of summer" have arrived to prevent it from burning and to shade out weeds more effectively.

Mosquitoes, ticks and poison ivy are all set to attack. First hatchings of songbirds have fledged and the parents are busy building or repairing nests for the 2nd hatch. Children are well into their summer camp, swim team, summer reading lists habits. More rare is the child at home digging, playing in the sprinkler or hanging in the hammock or tree house.

The 4th of July is traditionally celebrated with a daytime outdoor picnic. Patriotic decorations and desserts abound. Fried chicken, grilled burgers and hot-dogs, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad and watermelon, tomatoes plus corn on the cob imported from our more southern states is traditional. Those red, white and blue desserts stretch the cook's powers of invention. Jello or strawberries stand in well for the red, blueberries are obvious and whipped cream can be relied on for the white.

After the picnic families may trundle off to watch an afternoon parade, play or watch a game of softball and then it's off to the the fireworks just after dusk. The sun sets late this time of year so this is usually around 9 pm but the nearby fields are typically strewn with place holding blankets and lawn chairs much earlier. Often local bands and festival food / tsatske vans are set up nearby.

The actual 4th of July is a federal holiday but many local jurisdictions shoot off their fireworks display on the Saturday before. Many local citizens shoot off their illegal fireworks all week. Children's chemical light-sticks worn as a crown and fireflies over the knee high corn brighten their smaller spaces.

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