Do you know the difference between a good vegetable garden and a good flower garden? Both of them start out looking good; nice and neat with even rows and plant spacing with never a weed in sight. Both of them demand lots of care and attention if they are to grow properly but the main difference is that while the flowers of summer are starting to produce eye candy and give glorious picture opportunities, many vegetable gardens are looking a bit scruffy around the edges.
And, this is deliberate. Remember that with leafy plants, regular harvesting is essential for continued growth. You’ll get far more basil if you cut half of the new leaves off every week or harvest a little bit every few days than if you try to grow it into a humongous plant and take a single harvest.
This is the same for lettuce and spinach and any other of the salad greens that are so wonderful at this time of year.Harvest those leaves regularly and don’t be afraid to keep doing it even though the plant is a bit on the ugly side.
How To Start The Vegetable Garden Season
Mind you, twice weekly watering and heavy applications of compost in the spring are necessary to keep the plant producing rather than simply withering away under the onslaught of regular harvesting.
A good friend and great gardener has been selling some of his excess organic vegetable produce for a few seasons now and he produces some of the best greens I have ever tasted. He does this by regular harvesting (man, his plants are ugly) and copious amounts of compost every year.
There are few weeds to be seen in his huge garden and water is supplied through regular drip irrigation so the plants aren’t stressed. He handpicks all the pests and other than last year’s scourge of squash beetles, his garden is relatively pest-free. I also note he starts the second crop in July so that it is starting to come into harvest just after the main heat of the summer has passed.
Mind you, the rest of your vegetable garden should be starting to look pretty good about now. The growth of tomatoes and vine crops should be well on the way to harvest size.
Are Your Lower Tomatoes Shaded?
Remember that tomatoes love the sunshine and if the lower fruit sets are shaded by large bottom leaves, these leaves can be removed without harming the plant and you’ll get tomatoes a few days earlier from the exposed fruit.
Do not remove the upper leaves though; the plant needs them for food production.
In the greenhouses, we would remove all leaves below the fruit set being harvested. In other words, the staked plants would be clear of leaves right up to the fruit set currently ripening. (Tomatoes ripen from the bottom up.)
Regular Watering Is Critical To Avoid This
Regular watering is essential for all vegetables but particularly for tomatoes at this time of year. If the first fruit set has a soft flattened bottom with mold or rot there, you likely have blossom end rot. This is a physiological condition and not a disease. While technically it means the blossom didn’t get the calcium it needed, in practice, it means the plant did not get the water it needed to move the soil’s abundant calcium up to the blossom in time.
Don’t bother buying calcium; simply add more water to the garden. With all the rain we had this spring, this should not be a major problem in our gardens.
In conversation with my friend this week, he noted that his squash was not pollinating very well this year. He said that what was happening was the small squash would look like it might be forming after the flower fades but then it rots away.
He pointed out that this is not a disease but rather the blossom was not being pollinated. Without pollination, there will be no fruit set. Bees normally do this for those big yellow flowers but bee populations seem to be down this year (bees are quite sensitive to many horticultural chemicals) and you too may find your vine crops are not what they might have been.
It’s Not Likely A Bee
As a side note, I always take umbrage with people who go picnicking and say that the bees were swarming them looking for food. Invariably, bees take the blame here but it is actually wasps that are doing the raiding. Further to that, wasps are actually beneficial to our gardens because while they might take the odd bite here and there from a fruit or vegetable, most of them are insect predators of one kind or other and help control the bad guys in the garden.I whack them when they get into the house but once outside, wasps and I have a friendly truce going.
So don’t be too worried if your vegetable garden is looking a trifle blowsy right now. That’s the way it is supposed to look if you are enjoying it.