By Laura Matter
Now that our summer sun is more consistent, the gardens are bursting and already ready for harvest. To keep your garden fruitful all season long, here are some tips.
Pick your beans
Summer vegetables that are actually fruits will produce more if they are picked two to three times a week. If the fruits of green bean, summer squash or cucumbers get too large, the plant begins to die back and yields are reduced, and the fruit is not as tender or tasty.
Veggies to keep on picking include:
•Green beans — both pole and bush types;
•Patty pan squash;
•Yellow crookneck squash; and
•Broccoli — keep picking the side shoots to keep more coming.
Keep your garden productive by filling garden space as you harvest out your spring crops. Many fast-growing vegetables can be sown all month in time for a robust fall harvest.
Seed the quicker-growing crops, like leafy greens, later this month for fall harvest. Good choices include:
•Romaine type lettuces;
•Radish — you can eat the greens, too;
•Turnips — for greens and roots both;
Now is also the best time to get started with many over-wintering vegetables. Plants you add to the garden now, either as seed or transplants, need time to establish themselves before they need to cope with our cold, rainy, winter weather.
Sow slower-growing, hardy, overwintering root crops and members of the cabbage family by mid-July.
Tasty choices include:
•Peas — snow and snap; and
Practice smart watering
For the best success with getting your seeds to grow in the heat of summer it is important to limit water evaporation and reduce soil temperature. Use specially made landscape cloths, like shade cloth or floating row covers, to provide some relief from the sun.
Be sure to keep the seed bed moist for the first seven days after planting seed. Take advantage of larger plants in your garden, and use the shade they cast as a planting area.
Water your mature plants at their base and in the morning hours to avoid disease issues. If a plant sits through our cooler evenings with moisture on the leaves, you are creating a perfect environment for disease to develop.
Water deeply; test the soil after you water by digging down a few inches to make sure the soil is wet. Soil has a tendency to repel water if it dries out too much. Add compost to increase the water-holding capacity of the soil.
You can also avoid cultural issues like split tomatoes if you keep the watering consistent.
For more information about summer gardening, contact the Garden Hotline at (206) 633-0224 or e-mail help@ gardenhotline.org.
LAURA MATTER is the program coordinator for the Garden Hotline at Seattle Tilth ( seattletilth.org).