Keeping your vegetable garden healthy until harvest time

How much do we water the garden, what time of day is best?

The spring rains have finally stopped and the bright summer sun is shining.  The vegetable patch has been planted and should be growing, well like a weed. The conditions will be just right to produce bright, juicy red tomatoes, firm dark green or yellow zucchini squash or crisp compact cucumbers for those delicious summer salads we all enjoy and love.

Now that the vegetable garden is well established, the next biggest concern is keeping it healthy until harvest time.  Here are a few suggestions and tips to help that happen.

One of the biggest concerns now that the dry heat has arrived is watering concerns. How much do we water, what time of day is best?  A general rule of thumb when watering is to make sure the garden gets at least one inch of water a week of a consistent application.  The best time to water is early morning.  Most plants prefer to have their roots well watered and in doing that problems such as powdery mildew can be avoided.

Adding mulch such as grass clippings (as long as it has not been treated with herbicides) , straw, bark chips or leaves helps to prevent water loss, reduce weeds, and prevent erosion around the plant from wind and rain.  It is also beneficial in preventing the spread of soil-borne fungal diseases.

For a healthy crop of tomatoes, pinch back the suckers that form between two branches.  These sprouts will not produce fruit and pinching them will direct the energy of the plant to the growing and ripening of the fruit.  Adding crushed egg shells around the base of the plant adds much needed calcium for cell growth.  Also removing the lower leaves (about a foot from the ground) helps reduce disease.

Zucchini is an easy vegetable to grow.  They benefit from a thorough watering to encourage the root system to go deep into the ground.  Squash do well with a monthly top dress of compost, or manure as healthy plants are better able to resist pest and disease problems.

Another widely popular vegetable is the juicy cucumber, it is a versatile vegetable.  It is very important to have bees in your garden to promote the pollination process.  Without this happening you will have a beautiful plant but no cucumbers. A spot of honey on small boards placed in the garden will encourage the bees to visit.  Powdery mildew can be a problem so overhead watering should be avoided.  Pickling cucumbers are harvested at about 2-3 inches long, while the slicing variety should reach about 4 -6 inches in length.

These are just a few tips and ideas which can be applied to your vegetable garden to ensure a consistent and bountiful harvest. No matter what you have planted from the few I have mentioned above to the many other plants gardeners enjoy every day of the growing season similar elements remain the same.  Plenty of sunshine, consistent watering and soil maintenance are important to the successful backyard vegetable patch.

Betty Drover operates a local garden business and shares this space with business partner Patty Siddall every other Friday. Contact: 250-364-1005