In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Keep fruits off the soil with anything handy, including paper plates.
Keeping Veggies Growing
Vegetable growth moves into high gear this month, with heat-lovers thriving and setting fruit. To keep plants growing lustily and producing greater yields, feed eggplants, peppers, squash, and tomatoes when they blossom. Assure a plentiful set of peppers and tomatoes by increasing the magnesium available to the plants: dissolve 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts in 1 quart of warm water, and spray or sprinkle the solution on the leaves and blossoms. Pour the remainder in a ring around the plant at the dripline. Repeat this several times during the blossoming period.
Composted manure can be applied as mulch directly onto globe artichokes, asparagus, cabbages and other cole crops, corn, cucumbers, melons, and squash. But keep it away from beans, beets, carrots, lettuce, peas, sweet and white potatoes, and tomatoes, or it will encourage too much foliage at the expense of the edible parts we want.
If your first squash blossoms don't set fruit, don't worry. They're probably just male blossoms. Once the female blossoms (the ones with the miniature squash at the base of the flower) start appearing along with the male flowers -- and bees are present to pollinate them -- fruit set should take place.
Hand-pollinate tomatoes by flicking each bloom during the driest part of the day. Big plants can be taken care of with one or two shakes while holding onto their cages or stakes. The pollen is naturally sticky, and this helps it spread.
Keep melon plants growing strongly throughout the season for best quality fruit. Almost half of a melon's final sugar content develops during the last week of maturation, so stop irrigating then to concentrate the sugars. Optimum plant spacing for maximum sweetness is 6 square feet per plant.
Pick vegetables often, even if you don't plan to use that day's harvest immediately. Vegetables that aren't harvested soon enough will produce a chemical that inhibits further blossoming. Check plants at least every other day during the summer. This is especially true for beans, cucumbers, eggplants, squash, and tomatoes.
Sow and transplant more lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celery, chard, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, oakleaf and other heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant lettuces, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, New Zealand spinach, summer and winter squash, plus another round of tomatoes.
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