Extend the vegetable harvest with good planning

July 3, 2013 

Since we moved last year, I now have a sunny yard where I can raise a garden. I call it my farm, even though it is small. I have a few vegetables and fruits on the farm. The livestock on the farm consists of two overweight dogs whose main purpose in life is to get in my way while I work.

I check on the farm daily, harvesting the produce and later giving my wife the “Farm Report.” “Squash production is up again today (for the 12th day in a row), but blackberry production is down (the dogs ate the berries). The cucumbers are taking over the snap beans and are producing cukes in the blueberry bushes while tomatoes need to be staked again because they are swallowing the peppers.”

Veggies are fun at this time of year when harvest is in full swing. Of course, it can be a challenge finding someone to share excess squash. Though we have a bounty of produce now, you may want to plan now for extending the harvest season. Some plants will continue to produce, while others might not. Plan now to have fresh produce for the rest of the season.

Regular fertilization will help extend the harvest, but don’t overdo it. Most vegetables like a light fertilization every five weeks or so. Fertilize more often if you use only liquid fertilizers.

Harvest vegetables regularly to keep them producing. Leaving large fruits on the plant will cause plants to stop producing.

Our frequent rains can make vegetables more susceptible to diseases. I cannot discuss every vegetable disease here, but look for spots on leaves, stems and fruits; yellowing leaves and distorted or dying stems and leaves. Identify your disease by contacting your local Extension office (dial 800-ASK-UGA1 from any non-cell phone) or looking at online vegetable insect and disease guides.

Diagnose the problem before applying a cure. Removing the infected leaves, keeping the leaves dry when watering, mulching and watering between 10 p.m. and noon may reduce disease problems.

When planting for late harvest, remember that you may not need as many plants for your second planting. If you have already filled your freezer or pantry, just plant enough to give you some fresh vegetables for the rest of the season.

Sweet corn has a very short harvest time. Plant it every 2 weeks to give a regular supply. Plant it in several short rows instead of one long row. This will help it to pollinate.

Squash, cucumber and snap bean plants stop producing as they age. Plant more now through early August to give an extended harvest. Snap beans may be hard to germinate in the summer, but you can try. They will probably grow better if they are planted into a clean seedbed with no plant material on the surface.

If the plants stay healthy and fertilized, okra, peppers and eggplants should continue to produce. The longevity of tomato plants depends on the type you bought and their overall health. I expect more diseases this year because of the rains, so you may want to plant a second planting of tomatoes between now and mid July. You may still find tomato plants in the garden center, or you can root your own. Do not plant tomatoes from seed at this time of year because you might not have enough time for them to produce before frost.

To root tomato plants, gently break healthy, disease-free suckers off the plant. Suckers are the small branches that grow from the spot where the leaf attaches to the main stem. Break these off when they are 3 to 5 inches long. Root them in water or potting soil. Strip the leaves off the bottom, and immerse the bottom half in the soil or water.

For cuttings in potting soil, keep them moist and in the shade until they root. To prevent cuttings in soil from drying out, you can seal the pot with the cutting in a clear plastic bag. Watch the bottom of the pot to see when the roots emerge. Move the rooted cutting to the garden and provide a little shade for the first few days and careful watering for the first few weeks.

Willie Chance works with the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture and helps train the turf and landscape industry.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service