It's warm, it's cold
Last updated 4/5/2007 at Noon
It’s warm, it’s cold, it’s hard enough to dress comfortably much less plan a garden planting. It is warming, though, and the days are getting longer. We are moving into summer mode. I gave a quick overview last week and am now going to take the next few articles to go into specifics of each crop and how to grow, harvest and care for all those summer nummies! You can keep planting onions, carrots, beets, members of the cabbage family and lettuces, as they will still do well.
Let us start with tomatoes. Everyone loves to grow tomatoes – 35 million of us. There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes: cold weather, hot weather, pea-size to grapefruit-size, hybrids to heirlooms. Tomatoes come in every shape and color, from ripe while still green to black, pink, orange, yellow, red, striped and on and on!
Grow tomatoes from transplants; it is easier and they do better. Plant three to six plants of different types now and in the end of June for all summer and into fall harvest. If the plants are tall and lanky, just plant them a little deeper. They will sprout roots on their stems and this will strengthen them. Transplant most plants in the late afternoon, especially tomatoes. This allows them to settle in overnight when there is very little stress. If you have a plastic cover of sorts for the young plants, it is a great idea. Make sure they have a lot of water in the beginning. As they mature, they only need water occasionally.
Most tomatoes need some form of support. Stakes can be driven into the ground five feet apart in line; then, tie string between them, sandwiching the tomatoes in-between. Keep tying them up as they grow. Also, a wire cage can be made with six-inch reinforcing wire. Make the cages two feet in diameter and get six-foot-tall wire. Stake them into the ground to stabilize them. Tomatoes on the ground will either rot or get eaten by bugs and do not generally produce as well.
To harvest, simply taste them. Pick at the peak of freshness, or vine-ripe flavor. The absolute best-tasting cherry tomato is Sun Gold.
A kelp and humate foliar spray once a month, when the plants are young, will help offset a lot of tomato disease problems.
Zucchini, yellow squash (straight and crookneck) and all the other variations only need two total plants at a time to give you a great harvest. Plant them every two months (April, June and August) for a continued fresh supply all summer into fall. Summer squash are space-efficient, fast-growing and one of the easiest crops to grow. Harvest them five to six inches in size with the flowers still attached. Picking them small will keep the vines producing. Feed them heartily and give them lots of water.
If planting cucumbers, plant them now under plastic. Replant again toward the later part of May to keep an ongoing harvest happening. Grow the non-bitter green varieties; lemon cukes are wonderful; if you like to pickle, grow a pickling variety and plant some dill to go with them. These guys are also heavy feeders and like lots of water. Do not let the cukes or squash dry out completely in-between watering. Harvest cucumbers before the seeds get too large and woody. You can foliar spray squash and cucumbers when the plants are young also.
Next article we will go into corn, peppers, eggplants, some melons and potatoes. The nights are still a little chilly for these guys. Stay happy; enjoy the beauty of the garden.