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THINGS TO DO IN THE FRUIT & VEGETABLE GARDEN

---Anne K Moore June 6, 2009---
Photos by Anne K Moore

Most vegetables grow well in the 6.0 – 6.5 pH range.  Irish potatoes are a different crop.  They should be grown in a pH range of 5.0 – 5.5 to prevent scab disease.  Blueberries require a very acid soil, in the pH range of 4.0 to 5.2.  To find out just what your garden needs, get a soil test.

 

Most summer vegetables will languish if planted too early.  They should go in the ground when soil temperature reaches 70 degrees F.

 

Squash, melon, and cucumbers are especially susceptible to cutworms and borers.  Just as your plants are beginning to flower and set fruit they collapse.  This is a good sign that something has invaded the stems.  To thwart the moth so she cannot lay her eggs, wrap the vegetable plant stems with cardboard or aluminum foil to just below the soil surface.  If you grow your own from seeds, wrap the stems as they get long enough to hold the wrap.

 

Acclimate your homegrown seedlings to sun and wind before planting them out in the garden.  Give them several days of shade, and then move them to a less shady spot for several more days.  Keep repeating until they are in full sun.

 

Lay down thick mulch around your vegetables, small fruit, and fruit trees to conserve moisture and stop weed seeds from germinating.

 

If you find holes in your plant leaves with no sign of an insect, suspect slugs or snails.  A shallow dish of beer sunk in at ground level will catch some of them but a better solution is to sprinkle Diatamaceous Earth around the base of the plants. 

 

Slugs and snails hide in the mulch during the day and munch your crops at night.  Diatamaceous Earth is a natural powder made up of very tiny sharp particles.  It is not a poison.  Soft-bodied insects are cut as they crawl over this material.  Its only problem is that it is non-selective.  If good bugs crawl over it, they can be killed too.  So it is best to only treat the base soil, not the leaves.  This way, you get the culprits as they come to feed.

 

Please do not apply insecticides when bees are flying.  Pollinators are in short supply.  Keep insecticides off flowers at all times.  Pesticides should be a last resort.  They kill all insects, including beneficials.  One big reason for growing your own vegetables is so you know just what has gone into the soil and on the crop.  Poisons can be kept out of the garden with some due diligence.

 

The best, safest way to control insect damage is to handpick the culprits and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.  They can be good at hiding and at camouflage so look in stem junctions, along stems, and on the undersides of leaves.  Remember, too, that big fat caterpillars munching your parsley, fennel, or dill will grow up to be beautiful butterflies.  Remember to plant extras for them.

 

Thin out fruit trees by removing the smallest and insect-infested or diseased fruit.

 

Composting is a good thing to do but do not compost diseased or insect-infested plants or leaves.  If the compost does not get hot enough to kill the organisms you could be spreading trouble with your compost.

 

Be sure to keep your vegetables and fruits well watered.  Blueberries need water to produce next yearŐs flowers.  Consistency is vital, especially with tomato plants.  An even supply of water prevents blossom-end rot (which is a dark brown or black sunken area) on the bottoms of tomatoes, melons, and peppers.  If blossom end rot occurs, spray the plants with a calcium solution according to label directions.

Cut back herbs to keep them compact and prevent them from bolting (flowering).  Use the snips in cooking.  Keep vines and plants well staked.  Regular harvesting of vegetables keeps them producing.

 

Pick ripe produce promptly.  If your veggies get over-ripe, the plants will stop putting on a new crop.

 

Herbal Bouquet

 

Yellowed leaves on blueberries may indicate iron deficiency or pH problems.  

 

Growing food for yourself and your family is a very rewarding experience.  If you are new to gardening, start small so that you are not overwhelmed with your first garden.  With experience comes knowledge.  Soon you will be sharing your produce with your less-fortunate garden-deprived neighbors.



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