They thrive in hot weather and intense sunshine. They convert all of that wonderful sunlight into sugars that they use to grow and make food. The high temperatures help ripen the fruits of tomatoes and cheer-on the swelling of green bean pods. Tomatoes, zucchini, basil, and peppers are all classic summertime veggies. There is a reason that fresh vegetables like these taste best in summer- they like it hot!
Watering is Key
During hot spring and summer months, it is crucial to make sure you are watering your plants consistently and sufficiently. Getting to know your plants’ water requirements can take a little bit of research and a lot of time in the garden to fully understand your garden environment. Water needs can vary depending on how much sun your garden gets, how wind it might be, and what type of soil you use. Some soil can hold water more effectively than others, and that can impact how often you need to water.
Water moisture meters are usually readily available at hardware stores and garden centers. They can come in handy if you prefer a measurement to determine water needs. Your fingers are another great and even more readily available moisture gauging tool. Surface level soil moisture does not always tell you what you need to know, so dig down a few inches with your hands or a trowel and feel the soil. It should be as wet as a wrung out sponge. If it is any wetter than that, you may be watering too often, and if it is any drier than that, you may need to increase the amount or number of times per week that you water.
Certain plants have specific needs such as drying out completely between waterings or being constantly moist, so get to know your plants a little better to know if this is the case. Start with reading the tag or seed packet your plant came with. Oftentimes sun and water requirements will be written there on the tag. Consulting a gardening book such as the Sunset Western Garden or looking up your plant online is another simple way to learn more about the species you are caring for. Bonnie Plants website has a great educational section, and Old Farmer’s Almanac has some good articles, too.
The best time to water your garden, especially in hot weather, is the early morning before it gets too hot. The plants will be the most receptive to water at this time, and the roots and soil will have the opportunity to soak in the water before the intense heat dries everything out. If you are watering by hand, be sure to direct the stream at the base of the plant near the roots. The roots are the plant organs which take up the majority of a plant’s water and nutrients, so near the roots is where the water you apply will be the most effective and efficient.
Unnecessary moisture left on the leaves and the soil can make plants more vulnerable to fungus and bacteria. If you do run sprinklers, be sure to have them run early in the morning. This way the excess water will dry in the milder part of the day as it starts to heat up. By the time the sun is at full strength, the excess water will have evaporated. Drip line systems are generally very efficient and deliver water at a slow, steady rate to the roots of the plant.
Over the past few days, it has been fun watching our plants grow in leaps and bounds. I swear some of our tomatoes grew a few inches taller overnight! With some of the tomatoes growing up and over their cages, I am planning to start pruning the tops of the tomatoes to help keep them a more manageable size. Additionally, I prune the bottom leaves off of the tomato plants, so that none of them are touching the soil. Pruning some of the dense inner leaves of the tomato plants can also be nice for creating greater airflow between the leaves of the plant. The climate in and around a tomato tends to be hot and humid, which is great for tomatoes but also for fungus.
Our zucchini has put on its first fruit, and I am eagerly watching it grow. Even though I suspect we’ll soon be swimming in squash and wishing we weren’t, that first harvest of the season is always something magical to look forward to. Somehow the veggies taste extra delicious when you grow them yourself!
We are trellising our cucumber vertically with a tomato cage to help it maintain a social distance from the zucchini. Cucumbers have a vining growth habit and can quickly grow over and around your other plants if you let them. By intentionally training our cucumber onto a vertical trellis, we are keeping the other veggies’ health and safety in mind. Not to mention it also makes them easier to harvest!
The ‘Jedi’ jalapeno peppers we planted have already started to put on fruit. While I don’t know if these peppers will be strong in the force, I do suspect they will be strong in spice!
Our basil plants are lagging somewhat behind the rest. They stayed inside longer than most of our other seedlings because they were small, and now they continue to grow more slowly than the rest. We gave them a dose of fish and kelp emulsion liquid fertilizer, so hopefully they will start to catch up soon. Fingers crossed for some delicious pesto in my near future.
Hope everyone is keeping cool and staying safe out there! Happy gardening!