With the consistent moisture and summer heat, my tomato plants have gone into overdrive and are now now towering over 4-feet tall. They’re weeks ahead of schedule and with a little luck, we’ll be enjoying the first Sungold tomatoes within a week or two. Yet, it’s not time to sit back and let Mother Nature take its course as there are still many small tasks that can help ensure a bumper crop from your veggie garden.
I like to give my edibles a good dose of a liquid organic food every two weeks or so. I generally use Seaboost or Gardener’ Dream, which are locally produced kelp or fish based fertilizers. I don’t bother feeding quick growing crops like lettuce, but the slower growing tomatoes, peppers, pole beans, cucumbers, squash and kale really appreciate the nutrient kick, seeming to put on a fresh flush of growth within days!
It’s also important to continue watering if we don’t get a weekly deep rain. Most crops will need about an inch of water a week, so be prepared to drag out the hose if the skies remain clear. When watering, try to moisten the soil and not the foliage. Splashing water can spread certain plant diseases, especially on tomatoes, beans and squash.
A 3-inch layer of mulch (straw or grass clippings) can be tucked beneath your tomatoes, broccoli, kale, peppers and eggplants to help lock in soil moisture, prevent the spread of soil borne disease and suppress weeds.
Speaking of weeds, make sure to keep weed growth to a minimum. This won’t be a problem with veggies and herbs grown in containers, but in the garden, weeds can quickly take over! A weekly weed pull - preferably after a rain when the roots slip easily from the soil - is ideal.
Insects are a natural part of a garden. Some are beneficial, some are not. The best defense is vigilance. We enjoy playing in our garden and I regularly take a look around to see if any leaves are being eaten or crops damaged from insects. Slugs are my biggest pest by far. I hand pick whenever I see them, squishing them beneath my boots or tossing them into a bucket of soapy water (with a dash of added vegetable oil). I also sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the soil surface around my pole beans, tomatoes, broccoli and other crops often ‘bugged’ by slugs and snails.
Generally speaking, a quick hand picking is enough to thwart most types of garden bugs, especially in a backyard kitchen garden. A good book (such as Good Bug, Bad Bug by Jessica Walliser) is an invaluable guide to identifying the bugs that are helpful to the gardener and those that are a nuisance.
Finally, don’t forget to succession plant. As crops are harvested, replace them with fresh seed or transplants to ensure a non-stop harvest. For example, our early peas are replaced with bush beans, followed by a crop of salad greens for autumn harvests. Add a 1-inch layer of compost or aged manure to the soil between crops to keep production high.
If you have more than you can eat, don’t forget that our local food banks welcome garden produce. Just give your veggies or herbs a quick rinse, bag them up and drop them off at your closest food bank location.
Niki Jabbour is the author of the award winning book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener (2012 American Horticultural Society Book Award) and the host of The Weekend Gardener radio show that airs every Sunday from 11 to 1 pm on News 95.7 FM. For more info, please visit www.nikijabbour.com or follow her on twitter at @NikiJabbour.