Although late this year, the weather is at last consistently warm. The cold, fifty degree highs of the June 12 to 13 weekend marked the last of lingering spring and days finally yielded to warmer temperatures. Cool season vegetables are bolting (seed formation photo right) and warm season vegetables are taking off. Nighttime temperatures are out of the forties, and the fifty some degree nights are even skirting with sixty degrees F. It’s time to think about early summer vegetable gardening tasks.
Fertilize to size tomatoes and peppers – After transplants are established and growth really starts, it’s time to fertilize and encourage plants to put on size. This early growth builds the frame to bear a decent fruit load. In mid-summer fertilization should cease because you want the plants to enter a fruiting mode and not produce vegetative leaf growth.
Seed those 60 day’ers– June is the time to seed or continue to succession seed a variety of vegetables for summer. Carrots, beets, chard, collards beans, squash, New Zealand spinach, and others are all fair game. Many of these are 60 days or less to harvest.
Thin – Once seeds have germinated, do take care to thin seedlings by pinching, cutting or pulling out. Crowded plants won’t produce good yields. Seeds such as beets are really a dried fruit that contain multiple seeds and the germinated cluster of seedlings must be thinned (photo above left). Snip the plant to be removed at the soil line with a scissors to avoid disturbing the roots of the seedling meant to be left to grow. Beet thinnings can be used for salads.
Water – Consistent watering is coming into play big time. You can cut back from the post-transplant babying of plants into a more normal, twice-a-week routine (in clay soils – more frequently if growing in sandy soil). Check soil for moisture and only allow plants to get three-quarters dry before watering. Note that many people overwater tomatoes according to national studies.
Mulch – Now that temperatures are in the nineties and soils are thoroughly warm (68 degrees F at last check), mulching should be considered. Herbicide-free grass clipping mulch is my favorite (photo right). It’s readily available on a weekly basis with lawn mowing, quickly biodegradeable when it’s eventually mixed into the soil, and performs all the usual mulch chores of keeping down weeds, holding in moisture, keeping soil surface temperatures cooler for root functioning, etc. Apply in two installments 5 to 7 days apart with each fresh layer being no more than 1 to 2 inches thick to avoid matting, rotting and associated odors. The total cumulative mulch depth should be no more than 2 or 3 inches thick.
Photo credit: Bolting lettuce, Beet seedling clusters, Grass mulch – All Carl Wilson