Summer Vegetable Garden

As summer winds down, it’s easy to assume that the vegetable garden is about over. Even if our tomatoes, peppers, squash, and beans are still producing, we may decide it’s time to concentrate on fall planting, and begin to divert our attention from our summer crops. The minute we offer less water, food, and regular harvesting, those crops will respond by growing and bearing less vigorously. So which came first: the plants’ decline or our lack of care?!

The truth is, unless you live in a very northerly climate, August and September are probably nearly as warm and sunny as June and July were. The days do get shorter, which is a factor in many crops’ performance, but in today’s climates, both air and soil temperatures remain high for a longer period. And for many plants, the slightly cooler, wetter weather of late summer and early fall is much more hospitable than the scorching, dry heat of midsummer.

So what can you do to keep the summer vegetable garden producing as long as it can? Here are a few tips:

  • Keep the garden very well weeded and free of debris. Fighting off diseases and pests will stress your plants, taking away energy from fruit production.garden_basket

  • Follow a regular watering schedule. If you are getting more rain now, alter the schedule, but keep the consistency. Irregular watering can lead to cracked fruits and lower production.

  • Harvest ripened fruit promptly. If the crop is left on the plant even a few days beyond its harvest point, it will signal to the plant to end production for the season.

 

96565And when the serious cold autumn weather begins and your summer crops stop bearing, be ready for a cool-season crop! Here are some ways you can get started in August and September:

  • Start seeds indoors of fall crops such as cabbage, kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. The seedlings will be ready to transplant when the weather cools down.

  • Direct-sow seeds of quick cool-season crops such as lettuce and radishes when temperatures begin to fall.

  • If you live in a warm climate, direct-sow beans and peas in late August or early September for a quick fall crop. Even if the temperatures fall and you don’t get fruit, these legumes are such great soil builders that you can till them back into the soil for even bigger, better crops next year.

  • Sow a cover crop to build soil fertility and feed the pollinators that pass through your garden in late season, when other food sources (such as blooming flowers) are scarce.

With a little preparation and attention, you can extend the summer vegetable garden for many weeks beyond the official “end of summer,” and replace it promptly with cool-season crops and soil builders!

 

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