Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!
Some of you are getting a late start this year, and that works. The soil is warmer and drier, less fungi. The plants grow quickly in warmer temps. Okra starts better now, eggplant is happy, and long beans started now like the heat of late summer when they produce those long grand beans! If you have a short summer where you live, plant early maturers. Others of you are having delicious harvests – cherry toms for sure, zukes & cukes, abundant beans!
WEATHER We at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden have been having May greys, that’s a marine cloud layer that rolls in early morning and sometimes clears early to mid afternoon. It’s looking like we might have June glooms too. The May grays have kept Pilgrim Terrace soil temp a bit cool, 63/64 on May 31, so you may want to wait to plant and hope it’s warmer by mid June.
- This kind of dank weather we use less water but the bees don’t fly. Help your tomatoes by giving the cages or the main stems a sharp rap to help the flowers pollinate. You can do that on sunny days too to make more pollination, more tomatoes.
- Get that long water wand with the easy shut off device and put your water at the roots of your plants. Water in the AM if possible so plants will dry quickly, from any spray, to reduce fungi.
PLANT To extend your harvest later into summer, plant more of everything except winter squash, melons, pumpkins, unless you live in the hot foothills. Seeds are fine, transplants are faster. From transplants, more celery, corn, leeks, okras, peanuts, peppers, soybeans, squashes, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Choose bolt resistant, heat and drought tolerant varieties. Plant another round of anytime fillers: beets, carrots, chicory, chives, slo-bolt cilantro, leeks, warm season lettuces, green onions, radish, warm season spinach.
Companion planting is smart planting. Not only do plants repel pest insects for each other, but some enhance the growth of another. Some share space very well like pole beans on a trellis with cucumbers using the lower part of the same trellis. Plus, beans provide Nitrogen for the cucumbers!
- Pop in some tasty potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugs.
- Add some quick growing radish with cukes & zukes to repel cucumber beetles, the little guys with yellow/green stripes.
- Also plant radishes with eggplants/cucumbers as a trap plant for flea beetles
MULCH If you haven’t mulched yet, this it a good time to do it. Use a soil feeding mulch, seedless straw works well. Use an inch or so under tomatoes. You want their soil to get a little air, the soil to dry some, and if you have it, the fungi to die. Otherwise you can put on, up to say, 6″ worth. The exception would be to leave soil under melons and other real heat lovers bare so the soil is good and HOT! Yes, they will need more water, so be sure your basin is in good condition and they get water only at their roots. Some gardeners trench straw into their pathways to compost in place for next year’s planting. They move the path over and plant in the tasty old one!
SIDEDRESS June is the time to seriously start sidedressing! Your plants are launching into production. Ideally you would start sidedressing as soon as they start flowering. They are then at a growth mature enough to bloom, and are gearing up to add fruits as well! Hungry. So give! Pull back your mulch, scatter and lightly dig in a little chicken manure. If you prefer organic granulated fertilizer sprinkle it around evenly. And/or lay on a ½” of tasty compost, topped with some worm castings. Or you can water on some fish emulsion. Water well slowly and gently so things stay in place. Pull your mulch back in place.
WATERING The key to good looking fruits is regular watering and enough water. After you water stick your finger in the soil and see if is wet below or just at the surface. A general rule is an inch a week. Summer plants often need more during hot weather. If plants don’t get enough water, production is sporadic, fruits misshapen, they are susceptible to pests and diseases. Too much water brings ‘soft’ plants susceptible to aphids.
- Irregular watering makes beans and cucumbers curl, strawberries have irregular shapes.
- Lettuces and chard need plenty of water to make those crisp juicy leaves. However, chard naturally shuts down and droops in the heat of the day. Don’t drown it!
- Tomatoes have deep tap roots and can make do with little water. In fact, dry farming concentrates their taste!
- Big plants like corn and zucchini need ample water as do huge vines like winter squash, melons, pumpkins.
- Heavy producers like beans need plenty, especially if they are closely planted.
Three CURRENT PESTS at Pilgrim Terrace
1) Aphids are topping the list. That means ants, then white flies. Lay back on water and fertilizers because they ‘soften’ plants and make them easy for aphids. Tiny though they are, they do suck the life from your plant, reduce its vigor.
- Grow habitat plants for aphid predator beneficial insects
- Be generous with worm castings, they suppress aphids. When planting, just 10-40% of the total volume of the plant growth medium is all that is needed, 25% is ideal! If you have aphids, lay down about an inch of castings out to the dripline, mulch with about an inch of straw and slowly water in. Make a worm casting tea and foliar feed both the undersides and tops of leaves.
- Keep an eye on your plants, smush, knock off or hose away aphids. Once numbers are high and they have begun to distort leaves, it’s often difficult to control these pests, because the curled leaves shelter aphids from insecticides and natural enemies.
If you are in luck, a natural predator may knock out the colony, or the weather may get hotter.
- If not, tanglefoot or ant stakes are on your shopping list. Ants literally protect and tend the aphids.
- Alternatively, per the Old Farmer’s Almanac, try spraying the aphids with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.
- Stir together 1 quart of water, 1 tsp of liquid dish soap and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Do not dilute before spraying on plants.
- In a spray bottle combine 2 parts rubbing alcohol, 5 parts water, and 1 tablespoon liquid soap.
- Organic controls include alcohol spray (isopropyl alcohol, straight or diluted), soapy emulsion (can be mixed w/alcohol), horticultural oil (read the directions) and pyrethrum spray. Soapy water/alcohol should be reapplied every 2-3 days for 2 weeks. Keep that spray bottle handy.
2) Western Striped Cucumber beetles, not to be confused with Bagrada bugs. Bagradas appear and thrive when temps are 85 degrees and above for 3 or 4 days or more in a row. They are into Brassicas, where cucumber beetles are into cucurbits, cukes and squashes, in the flowers and chewing the leaves.
The kind of cucumber beetles we are currently having are the little stripey jobs, black and yellow green. Cucurbits are so sensitive few insecticides can be used and insecticides kill bees. The beetles are particularly bad news to cucumbers because they spread diseases that can kill plants as quickly as in three days! Sadly, once your plant starts to go down there is no saving it. Only alternative is to replant…somewhere else.
Whenever possible get disease/pest resistant varieties. Plant smaller groups of plants in different areas so the beetle doesn’t march right on through a line of plants and you lose them all at once. When planted in different areas, you might lose most of them but not all. Make companion planting part of your practice. Radish repels the beetles. Plant radish in advance closely to where you will plant cukes. Always think in terms of groupings of plants. Smush, smush, smush. The Old Farmer’s Almanac emphasizes preparing for next year….
Cornell’s disease resistant varieties list is worth the read for all veggies! Many agricultural universities develop fine veggies that get used worldwide, ie Cornell developed Marketmore 76 and 80 Cucumbers. Also check your local university for varieties specially developed for your area.
FYI for fun: Cucumbers are native to south Asia. They were grown by the Greeks and Romans. also in England in the Middle Ages. The Spaniards introduced cucumbers into the New World in 1494.
3) Spinach, Beet and Chard Leafminer damage looks dire, but is common, not immediately life threatening, doesn’t affect the flavor of the plant but sure is ugly and can kill your plant if ignored! Leafminers are the larvae of several different insects that feed between the layers of plant leaves sucking out their nutrients. Heavy damage slows plant growth and the plant may drop its leaves. Details from U of Illinois Extension: Spinach and Swiss chard leafminer flies are 1/2 inch long and gray with black bristles. This leaf miner lays eggs on the underside of the leaves singly or in batches up to five side by side. One larva may feed on more than one leaf. After feeding for about two weeks, the larvae drop from the leaves onto the ground where it pupates and overwinters in the soil as pupae. REMOVE the eggs or remove the leaves. NO PUPAE is what we want. Stop the cycle!
Plant so neighboring plants leaves don’t touch each other. This is especially true for Spinach and chard, plants that will stay in the ground for repeated harvests. They are NOT plants to row crop. Separate your plants by planting in different areas; interplant with herbs. You can row crop beets closely spaced if you harvest them right at or right after their maturity date. Once they lose their peak vibrancy, the leafminers know. Keep your chard harvested, well watered, well fed, to keep it growing and producing fast, sometimes outgrowing the leafminers. For immunity, give it plenty of worm castings both in the surrounding soil and on the surface of your soil. Cover the castings with a thin layer of compost then straw to keep the castings moist. Some say soft fast growth is perfect habitat for the miners, but chard is meant to be a fast grower with plenty of water to keep it sweet! If you can’t eat it all, find a friend or two who would appreciate some and share your bounty! Or remove and give away plants until you have what you can keep up with. Plant something else delicious in your new free space!
HARVEST! Harvest at your veggie’s peak delicious moment! Juicy, crunchy, that certain squish in your mouth, sweet, full bodied flavor, radiant, vitamin and mineral rich! Besides being delicious and beautiful, it keeps your plant in production. Left on the plant, fruits start to dry and your plant goes into seeding mode. The fruit toughens or withers, maybe rots, sometimes brings insect pests that spread to other plants. Your plant may stop production thinking it has fulfilled its purpose. Keep beans picked, no storing cucumbers on the vine. Give away or store what you can’t eat. Freezing is the simplest storage method. Cut veggies to the sizes you will use, put the quantity you will use in baggies, seal and freeze. Whole tomatoes, chopped peppers, beans, onions. Probiotic pickle your cukes.
Marvelous May images at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden!
“I associate the garden with the whole experience of being alive, and so, there is nothing in the range of human experience that is separate from what the garden can signify in its eagerness and its insistence, and in its driving energy to live — to grow, to bear fruit.” ~ Stanley Kunitz – a poet who lived over 100 years
The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!