“In the Yard” column for June 21, 2013

Following up on last week’s column calling for creative solutions to protecting garden harvests, Pam Coltharp of the Garden District shares one that’s worked for her fig tree.

“I heard somewhere several years ago about using leftover Mardi Gras beads to keep birds away from figs,” Coltharp writes.

“It’s not only festive, but has worked pretty well for us!” she says.

Seems like it could be the motion of the beads, when the birds alight and start tearing into a fig, that could be the working mechanism here.

(Or maybe the beads resemble a very symmetrically looped snake?)

RIPE MOMENTS: I think it’s reassuring to have guidelines for knowing when vegetables and fruit are ready to pick.

Some helpful tips from the Southern University Agcenter tell us when it’s harvest time for the following:

snap beans, before seed causes the pods to bulge.

summer squash, when young and tender and the rind can be punctured or scratched with your thumbnail.

cucumbers, when young and tender; a yellowish skin means the fruit is past the best edible stage.

bell peppers, when they’ve reached full size and the fruit is firm; mature peppers easily snap when lightly lifted.

eggplants, at any stage after they reach one-third of their normal, mature size.

watermelons, when the “ground spot” changes from white to light yellow.

CHILDREN GARDENING: Master Gardener Claire Fontenot will present a seed-planting program for children, ages 4 to 11, at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the East Baton Rouge Parish Pride-Chaneyville Branch Library, 13600 Pride-Port Hudson Road in Pride.

Fontenot will explain the process of planting seeds, as well as how they grow and become plants.

Space is limited, so call (225) 658-1560 to register.

Ellyn Couvillion

Advocate staff writer