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Harvesting Vegetables

There's nothing wrong with being a little lazy when it comes to working out in the hot sun during this time year. But don't be lazy about harvesting your vegetables. If you don't pick the fruits of your labor, the plants will generally stop producing.

Most vegetables are annuals and their natural cycle is to grow, bloom, produce fruit and ripen seeds. If you leave fruit on the eggplants, the seeds inside start ripening, start maturing. This is very energy consuming for the plant and generally is done at the demise of other plant parts. Or, if seeds start to ripen, the plants are signaled "mission accomplished" and there is no need to produce more fruit. So if you want a continuous supply of fresh veggies, you must be diligent and keep that mature fruit picked from the plant.

There is one rule that applies to all vegetables. Do not leave over mature fruit on the vine, even if it is too big for harvesting. Pick it and compost it.

Beans - harvest 4-6" long and seeds inside are still small. Pull pods gently, yanking may actually uproot the plant or pull them away from trellis.

Cantaloupes - netting on skin should be pronounced and the skin should change from green to yellow. Look for a crack between the stem and fruit so the cantaloupe separates from the vine easily. Cantaloupe that has been picked should smell very sweet at the point where the vine attaches itself to the fruit.

Corn - When silks turn brown, remove ear with a sharp twist. Don't yank. Top ear on plant matures a day or two earlier than those below. Puncture a kernel. If liquid inside kernel is light like skim milk, the ear is ready, if clear, it's too immature. If white like cream, it is over mature and will taste starchy.

Cucumbers - Harvest them anytime after they're 3" long. Understand that the seeds get larger and harder as fruit approaches full size.

Eggplants - The purple varieties should be glossy and deeply colored, not faded. If the fruit has faded, it is overripe and contains small, hard seeds that may taste bitter.

Okra - harvest every day or two when pods are 3" long. Pods over 5" long get tough and stringy. Use sharp knife as pods don't pull easily from vine. Don't forget to wear gloves and long sleeves to protect you from these prickly plants.

Peppers - Harvest any size, If you allow them to reach full size they'll turn red and last longer in storage. Use pruners or sharp knife and you can damage entire plant.

Summer squash- Harvest yellow when it's 3-6 inches long. Zucchini when it is 4-8" long and scallop when it's 3-5 inches across. Blossoms are edible as well. Fried squash blossoms are a real Southern treat.

Tomatoes - Harvest when brightly colored but still firm. Fruit reaches peak flavor 5-6 days after it begins to blush. Ripe tomatoes hold flavor for about two day on vine before they taste overripe.

Watermelon - Look for skin that is starting to dull. And for the bottom of melon where it rests on ground turn from white to yellow. Experienced gardeners can determine ripeness by the sound of the thump when they flick their middle finger against the melon. A hollow sound means the melon is ripe.

Tomato Problems with David Chambers

David Chambers is in charge of growing Tomatoes at Callaway Gardens. He grows his Tomatoes on a trellis. Even David encounters Tomato problems. Today we discuss a few: Tomato Blight - comes from the soil, Blossom End Rot - not much can be done, Cracking - heavy rains, possibly too much nitrogen, Cat Facing - poor pollination, tapping on the vine can help.

Maintaining Annual Beds

Some tend to give up on their gardens this time of year. Several steps should be followed to keep those annual beds beautiful. Fertilize - this will help new growth. Use a 10-10-10, it's inexpensive and easy to find. Use about 1 pound for every 100 Square feet. Deadheading - if flowers have faded take them off, new growth will follow. Replace faded plants - if a plant hasn't made it, dig it up and replace it. The whole bed will look better.

Propagating Begonias

Parker Andes shows us two methods to propagate Begonias. Cut the stem about one half inch below the leaf, put in potting soil, use something to hold it in place, in about 3 weeks you should have roots. You can then place in a 4-6 inch pot and a beautiful Begonia should be well on its' way. Another method: Cut a leaf in 3 or 4 pieces, put each piece in potting soil, hold it down, wet the soil initially, then mist frequently, don't put in direct sunlight, in about 3 weeks roots should have developed. You can then put in a 4-6 inch pot and in a month or so the plant should be ready.

Living Color Wheel With Helen Phillips

Color combinations make an impact in the garden. How do we maximize this effect? Think of all the colors on a wheel, red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo or purple and violet. Colors that are adjacent to one another on the wheel are harmonious colors, opposite colors are complimentary colors. When you want real eye-catching combinations you need to interject complimentary colors.

Callaway Gardens

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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Monrovia Nursery Company
Photographs by Doreen Wynja for Monrovia

Monrovia has put together a list of their top 10 flowering annuals, perennials and shrubs that can bring life and cheer to you garden ASAP. For an interesting article, click here .

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