Veggies – Boom or Bust?

August is when the vegetable garden is in full throttle.  If you planted zucchini, you are trying to give them away to everyone you know.  Tomatoes are ripening faster than you can eat or cook into tomato sauce.  And your corn is as high as an elephant’s eye (according to the 1943 musical, Oklahoma).  But, is it?  We’ve had a relatively wet summer in Delaware, so far. Of course, rain is good, but too much can cause problems in the garden.  Tomato plants with fruit cracks can be caused by hot, rainy weather.  Some plants have leaf roll, where older leaves near the bottom, roll up from the outside towards the center, caused by high temperatures and too much pruning.  Various leaf spots are starting to reduce the ability of tomato plants to capture the sun for photosynthesis.  One solution is to be sure to space your tomatoes far enough apart for sufficient air circulation.  Avoid watering tomatoes from the top, which spreads disease spores (although hard to avoid when rain is doing the watering).  Always rotate the location of tomatoes in the garden.  Many fungal diseases overwinter as spores in the soil, so if you have a problem one year, you will probably have it the next unless you plant tomatoes in a different location. Bacterial leaf spot is also a problem on tomatoes and peppers and is favored by rain and high humidity.  You can pick off the worst leaves and/or use copper sprays for large plantings.

My two zucchini plants have succumbed to squash vine borers and look like a wilted mess.  If you catch these borers early, when one or two leaves are first starting to wilt, you can carefully remove the vine borer by making a slit in the stem with a sharp knife.  Sometimes parts of the zucchini vine will even re-root in rich soil.

Corn has thrived in our 2017 summer weather.  I have never seen corn so tall and green! Remember to plant corn in blocks, rather than long straight rows.  Corn must cross-pollinate. Pollen from the top of one corn plant must fall on the silks of a neighboring plant.  That works best when the corn is in blocks.  Plant corn several times during the season, so it doesn’t all ripen at the same time.  Or use different varieties with varying days to harvest.  Corn varieties vary from 60 to 100 days from planting to harvest.

Beans, especially when picked young and tender are one of the best garden vegetables.  Purple beans are fun because they are easy to see and pick.  They do turn green when you cook them.  Can you tell the difference between wax beans and green beans?  One of the activities around my family dinner table was to close your eyes, receive either a wax or green bean, and guess the color.  Statistically speaking, my family is a fan of all beans, regardless of color.  The key to successful green, purple or wax bean crops is multiple plantings.  Beans will produce for 2-3 weeks. If you space out plantings by about 3 weeks, you will always have a new crop to harvest.

Lettuce and other leafy greens, like arugula, kale and spinach are cool season crops.  That doesn’t mean they can’t be planted in the summer, but they will bolt and become bitter more quickly in hot weather.  So, plant multiple crops and harvest them young.

If all this sounds too complicated, here is a solution – buy your vegetables from a local farm stand, a CSA (community supported agriculture where you buy a share at the beginning of the season and receive a box of veggies each week) or from the UD Fresh to You Garden.  The UD Fresh to You stand is located off Route 896 near the University’s

Townsend Hall — across from the historic farmhouse.  Just follow the signs down Farm Lane.  Produce is sold on Fridays from 11 AM to 4 PM.

Fresh produce ready now and young plants at the UD Fresh to You Garden in Newark.