A few quick tips and answers to get you through July and August
The July heat has been cranked up to high and your veggie garden is likely exploding with growth. If you’re new to this—and started a garden in the midst of the earliest stages of the pandemic—isn’t it rewarding to see what you planted spring to life? You can actually grow your own food and that’s not the only thing that’s growing in the process. Look what you can do!
For all of the veggie and herb garden veterans out there, we’d love to hear about this year’s surprises and challenges when you stop in. Or you can always call, email or take advantage of online chat.
In the meantime, here are a few pointers and answers to some of the most common questions we hear this time of year:
The growth is out of control. What do I do?
A good ‘problem’ to have, right? When we plant, everything looks so tiny, and the space, immense. But that’s ok, there are some simple things you can do.
- Go vertical. Stake your eggplant and peppers to give things a bit of breathing room. You can also train your cucumbers and cantaloupe to grow up a trellis (I’ve been using panty hose to tie them!) and save a little space.
- Let them all hang out. If some of your spreaders like summer squash and watermelon are hanging over raised beds or the edges of your garden, let them do their thing.
- Thin things out and enjoy what you pull. And if things are just too cramped, consider thinning them out by pulling or cutting every other one. For many of your lettuces and leafy greens, everything you’re thinning and cutting can be put to good use in the kitchen. Win/win.
Remember that pinching or cutting back the flower buds on your herbs like basil and parsley will 1) make your fingers smell like Italy, (delizioso!) and 2) preserve energy for your plant to produce more leaves.
I see something growing on my plant and I’m not sure what it is. What should I do?
Don’t do a thing until you find out a little more! My first instinct when I looked at my tomatoes and saw a caterpillar with a mass of white, oblong rice-shaped obtrusions was to pick it off and throw it into a bucket of soapy water (which is normally what I would do with a hungry, plant-destroying pest).
But after a quick online search (yes, sometimes I still need a little help in this department), I learned that these white capsules are actually wasp cocoons. The female parasitic wasp laid her eggs under the skin of this hornworm caterpillar. Hornworms have a large appetite and can decimate your tomatoes. But the wasp’s larvae actually feed on the hornworm from the inside out, spinning protective cocoons. Adult wasps eventually emerge and the weakened hornworm dies.
All that to say, Mother Nature is pretty amazing. When you’re walking your garden, start to learn a ‘good bug’ from one that can be harmful, what to plant to encourage beneficial bugs and if all else fails, snap a photo and bring it in or email us and we can help you and your plants grow in the right direction.
Some of my crops are finished. What can I do now with the space?
How do I know when to harvest my veggies?
You’ll get a feel for this the longer you garden, but we like to walk the garden every day for mini harvests. Here are also some specific pointers:
- Harvest cherry tomatoes when they look like something you’d see in the grocery store. Even if they’re a bit smaller, I like to pick mine earlier than later. You can always ripen on a sunny windowsill after picking. And picking a little on the early side helps you get to your tomatoes before birds, bugs, etc.
- Cut the largest outer leaves of your leafy greens like chard, kale and lettuce when you need them. Although, at this point in the season, I’m removing all old and spent spring greens if they’re not yielding much because the rotting foliage and fungus is the perfect place for bugs to hide.
- Pick green beans every day because it’s like deadheading flowers, they will continue to send out more buds and produce more beans.
Water less often, but when you do, give the whole area a deep soak.
Since we have a lot of time on our hands, watering with a hose can be relaxing and peaceful. A great solution if your container gardening. Be sure to check containers once a day in this kind of weather.
But our veggies and herb gardens are in need of some serious moisture and you may not have the patience for that. Plus, the soil around your plants often gets missed and that’s where roots are growing and looking for a drink.
Here’s where adding a layer of quality mulch that’s rich in organic matter comes in handy, sealing in moisture and smothering opportunistic weeds.
If possible, hook up a sprinkler or soaker hose and give your plants a good deep soak, drenching the area 2-3 times a week.
We’re in the garden center if you need us. And we’re excited to be able to spend more time with you. We’ll be keeping you posted on summer harvests, as well as cool-weather crops you can plant, care tips and more.