Ahhhh, the lazy days of summer! The mere mention of it brings up images of sunbathing at the beach or sitting on a patio sipping a frosty beverage. For the home vegetable gardener, summer means reaping the rewards of your hard work that you put in over the spring – juicy ripe tomatoes, zucchini and hot peppers turning a crimson red.
That is not to say that there are no duties to be done in your vegetable garden during the summer – there are. But it tends to be a much shorter list when compared to everything that needs to be done during the spring and fall. And that’s just perfect for the gardener on vacation.
Summer Garden Checklist
1. Flower Pinching. Summer is a time when many of the plants in your garden are going into reproductive mode. This is great for plants that you eat the fruit from such as pepper, zucchini and tomatoes. But, unless you are looking for seeds, this is not so great for herbs, which are also starting to flower at this time. When herb plants like basil, oregano and others start to flower, you should pinch off those flowers immediately because once the plant starts to go into reproductive mode, the stems become tough and woody and the flavor becomes more bitter.
Again, if you are looking for seeds, you can let them go, but that particular plant will not be as nice for eating once it flowers.
2. Succession Planting. One of the best ways to maximize use of your garden space is succession planting – that is, following one crop with another. Many crops that are planted in the spring can be planted again in late summer for a fall harvest.
Succession planting requires a little planning and know-how, but the results are definitely worth it. Pull out any old crops that you will not be saving seed from in order to make room for the new. As weather during the late summer starts to cool down, you can start planting cool weather crops again such as lettuce. Other crops to consider for a fall harvest are kale, snap beans, spinach, carrots, beets, cauliflower and broccoli. With less daylight, these late crops tend to take longer to mature but these mid-to late-summer plantings make your autumn dinner table all the more bountiful.
3. Pests. Like spring, the summer season brings with it its own set of garden pests. Japanese beetles, grasshoppers, whiteflies and other intruders view your garden as a delectable smorgasbord and if you don’t stop them in their tracks, they might just get more produce from you vegetable garden than you do!
Story continues below video
If you’re having a particularly buggy year, you might be tempted to blast the unwanted creatures with toxic chemicals/pesticides. But if eating those chemicals – or feeding them to your family – is as unappealing to you as it is to me, consider these alternatives.
- Use all-natural bug spray. One method incorporates a mixture of chili peppers in water, while another uses all-natural diatomaceous earth. Either way, bugs will run — or die.
- Floating row covers. Translucent white, porous fabric is used to cover your prized veggies. It lets in light, while keeping creepy crawlies out. The fabric can be draped over metal hoops, wooden frames or wrapped around tomato cages….