Summer is synonymous with fresh tomatoes, sweet corn and watermelon.
These all love hot sunny weather and are easy to grow. By mid summer though, you may find that the vegetable garden is in need of some care.
Vines All the melon and squash produce come from vines that run along the ground. If you have not been watchful you could find that your vines have taken over the whole plot. The large leaves of squash, pumpkins and melons can shade out and even climb up other plants. This feature is why the early American growers would plant sweet corn near the watermelon – the melon would grow under the tall corn to shade the roots. If your vines have out run their bounds, trim it back. Note the main stems and any fruiting areas and trim back to give everything room to grow.
Pollination may be a problem in this part of the garden. Squash plants produce flowers that are either male or female. For pollination to occur, both these flowers need to be open. One or two vines that are flowering on alternate days, may encounter a problem. Taking a cotton wool ball and touching the pollen in the male flower and transferring it to the female flowers will ensure that you get some fruit.
By July you should be getting beautiful ripe tomatoes from your garden. These are easy to grow, healthy vegetables that can be grown in pots or even a bag of dirt, so everyone has the opportunity to grow them. Tomatoes come in two sorts – the determinate and the indeterminate. Determinate varieties grow to a specific height then produce fruit which tends to all ripen at the same time. The indeterminate ones keep growing and producing fruit all through the summer. These will probably need to be trimmed at the top by midsummer. They can tower up to six or even eight feet if left to themselves, but upward growth is done at the expense of fruit, so pinching out those growing points encourages the flowering cycle to begin.
Another mid summer problem that occurs when the flower cycle halts due to temperature. The plants will not produce a flower and the subsequent fruit when the temperatures soar into the nineties or above. As soon as a cooler spell arrives, the flowers will be back again.
) is a carefree and tasty herb that does well in the vegetable patch alongside tomatoes and peppers. This trio love warm summer days and mild summer nights. Basil does need to be pinched out regularly though to encourage branching. Pinch the growing tip and any side shoots, to promote more leaf growth. Eventually though the herb will insist on producing a flower. At this stage it is best to go to another plant.
Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is another herb that many people have problems with.Never purchase a plant of cilantro as this is a fast way to disappointment. The plant resents being transplanted and as an annual, it goes to seed quickly. It is much better to use seeds for a successful harvest. If you want to enjoy cilantro throughout the summer, sow a few seeds every other week. The seeds germinate in just a few days, and the first flush of bright green growth can be harvested within a month. A second or third harvest is possible with most varieties before the leaf form changes from solid green to feathery fronds. At this stage, let the plant go to seed and collect the seeds. The seed, which is the spice coriander, can be used in curries and on salads and stored in a dry place.
With a few minutes in the summer vegetable garden now, your patch will remain productive for many more weeks.
Kate is a gardener, a garden writer and a garden educator living in Atlanta, Georgia. She has written for national magazines and local newspapers, plus hosts a weekly radio show. You can visit here website at www.katecopsey.com, her blog at www.katesgardenjournal.com.