Garden Tips Newsletter – June 2012


Learn about local resources and opportunities for gardening.

Long-time Master Gardener Romola Georgia offers up timely tips to keep your garden in top condition.

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Archived newsletter from June 2012. Click here to return to the Archive list.

Transition Palo Alto Garden Notes for June

Watering tomatoes

If your plants are in the ground, water deeply in the morning, but only after the top 4” of soil is dry.  Letting the soil surface dry out reduces insect pests and molds and fungi.   Overwatering drowns the roots and makes the fruits mealy.  Watering lightly and frequently is the worst thing you can do, encouraging pests and not forcing the roots to grow deeply. Having deep roots increases the plant’s stability and enhances fruit uniformity.

If your plants are growing in containers, it is usually best to soak the soil in the morning until water just starts coming out of the holes at the the bottom of the pot.  On hot days, you might need to water in the afternoon as well.  Avoid watering in the evening and particularly avoid splashing water on the leaves.  Wet leaves at night are more susceptible to fungal infections.

Harvesting your vegetables and fruit

More often than I’d like to admit, I have gone to the trouble of planting and nurturing a vegetable crop, and then neglect the crucial step of harvesting and eating it when it is still tasty and nutritious. Here is a lovely guide for harvesting many popular edibles:

Three excerpts:

Leaf Lettuce: Start harvesting as soon as the leaves are big enough to eat, about 4 to 5 inches long. You can pick the large outer leaves or slice the entire plant off about 1 inch  above the soil line, prompting the plant to send out new growth, which will reach eating size in another 3 to 5 weeks. Harvest in the morning when the leaves are crisp and full of moisture. If your crop begins to bolt or is threatened by a hard frost, harvest the entire plant.

Eggplant: The best eggplant fruits are so young that the seeds are barely visible when you cut them open and are about 4 to 5 inches long for standard varieties, a bit smaller for mini types. The skin should be glossy and tight. If the skin is dull, that is sign the eggplant if overripe and the flesh will be tough and losing its flavor. Overripe eggplant also have black seeds forming inside.  Cut fruits from the plants with 1 inch of stem attached, and store them in the refrigerator.

Bulb Onions You can begin to harvest onions as soon as they are big enough to use as green onions.Bulbing onions are fully mature when the tops turn yellow and start to fall over. To speed the maturation process, knock the tops over with back of your rake, just bending them over, not snapping them. Wait a few days until the tops turn brown, then carefully lift the bulbs out of the ground with a spading fork. Gently brush off the soil, but don’t wash them.  To reduce the risk of rotting in storage, cure the bulbs by letting them dry in a warm, airy place out of direct sun or rain for a week or two. When the papery outer skins are completely dry and brittle and the tops are withered looking, cut the tops off about 1 inch above the bulb and put them in mesh bags or braid the tops together. Hang braids or mesh bags of onions in a cool, dry spot to store them.

Weeding – Keep pulling the weeds in your vegetable beds. They are competing with your vegetables for water and nutrients, so yank them when they are small. Mulch discourages weeds and also helps to conserve moisture.

Vegetables – Reseed or transplant seedlings every three weeks for successive harvest of beans, corn, squash, carrots, beets, and leaf lettuce. For the adventurous, try collards, rutabagas, or mustard greens.  You can still set out the heat loving tomatoes, eggplant,  cucumber, and basil. Provide support for your indeterminate tomatoes, large pepper plants and pole beans with a stake, trellis or cage system.

Protecting Your Fruit from birds, squirrels and rats -If you summer prune your fruit trees, they may stay small enough to be covered with bird netting.  Erect a PVC pipe frame first and cover with net which should be weighted down at ground level.  Alternativey you can tie 18” lengths of shiny  bird tape tied to bamboo poles long enough to emerge out of the top of the tree.  Use several on each tree and remove when you are finished harvesting.  Once again, if you expect a large harvest or cannot use all your fruit, consider contacting Village Harvest  They will harvest your trees and donate a portion to the needy. They also have tips on managing your trees.

The purpose of this group is to share information, resources, questions, and events about vegetable gardening. Our wonderful Mediterranean climate permits us to grow and eat from our own gardens in every month of the year.


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