Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
June, 2004
Regional Report

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Sow cucumber and squash seeds every 3 to 4 weeks for continuous harvests.

Summer Veggies

Sow or transplant lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celeriac, celery, chard, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, oakleaf and other heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant lettuces, melons, okra, peppers, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, New Zealand spinach, summer and winter squash, and tomatoes.

Some vegetables are more efficient than others, producing more food for the amount of garden space they use and the time they require from you. Carrots, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, summer squash, and tomatoes produce the most. Yields of cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes can be even greater when they are grown on trellises, saving soil space for growing more crops.

Plant the last batch of corn this month, as later plantings will probably have smut problems (those big, grey and black puffs of fungus in place of kernels) when harvested in September. Or you may choose to innoculate your corn with the fungus -- it's a delicacy in Southwestern and Mexican cuisine.

Removing suckers that form at the base of cornstalks will not increase (and may even decrease) yields. The extra leaf surface of the suckers increases photosynthesis, which provides more food for the developing ears. However, remove any ears that form on the suckers, as these will take energy away from the main, full-sized ears.

Succession Planting
When replanting areas where you've just grown vegetables, follow heavy-feeding leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage with nitrogen-replenishing legumes, such as peas, beans, and soybeans; or plant a less-demanding root crop. Don't fertilize the soil again before succession plantings of beans or carrots, since excess nitrogen results in forked and hairy carrots and lush bean plants with few beans. Do add some compost before setting out spinach, kale, and lettuce, since you do want lush foliage in these crops.

Tips for a Better Harvest
For 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.

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.

Keep vegetables picked 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.

The rich tomatoey flavor and aroma of raw tomatoes is the greatest when the tomatoes are left at room temperature and eaten just after being cut. Refrigeration kills the fragrance.

If you must store tomatoes in the refrigerator for several days before using them, harvest them early in the day, when they are still cool from overnight and are less sensitive to chilling injury -- that disappointing, flavorless, mushiness.

The most time-consuming activity in a small garden is harvesting. It requires twice as much time as weeding. But then, harvesting is so much more enjoyable!

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