Rain causes late start to summer vegetable garden

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By Dennis Morgeson



Heavy rains in April and May delayed the home gardening season this year, forcing many gardeners to wait later than usual to plant or transplant seedlings into the garden.
And, June’s moderate temperatures have continued the early trend of slow growth. But as more sun hits garden plants and accelerates growth, vegetables should begin to flower, develop fruit and, eventually, ripen.
Gardeners should keep an eye on changing weather patterns to ensure their plants receive the right amount of water. Recent high temperatures are good for some vegetables, such as tomatoes, but the heat may wilt other vegetables if they do not receive sufficient water, either from rainfall or irrigation.
To ensure healthy plants and good harvests, gardeners should make sure to irrigate plants when rainfall (roughly 1-inch per week) is insufficient.
A water gauge, available at home supply stores, is an easy and inexpensive way to track rainfall totals. This simple tool can help you conserve water, since you’ll know when to turn on the hose and when to leave it off.  If you don’t have a rain gage, you can place an open-faced can, such as a coffee can, near the garden and check to see how much rain it collects. Be sure to empty the can periodically so that mosquitoes do not breed.
You can also stick your finger into the soil to feel how moist or dry it is-water when the soil is dry to the first knuckle.
And later in the summer, watch for a reversal of weather conditions, as periods of limited rainfall are a common occurrence in August into September.
Some tips for a bountiful garden:
• Use newspapers (a few layers) and grass clippings (from lawn that has not been treated with herbicides), not landscape mulch.
• To reduce competition, reduce weeds with compost, black plastic or hoeing.
• Work compost into the ground so that it doesn’t form a hard crust, which can cause rain to run off rather than soak into plants.
• Gather produce early in the day, after the early morning dew has dried.
• Choose ripe fruits and vegetables that your family will be able to consume in a timely manner.
• Consider freezing any extra fruits and vegetables. Many, such as peas, peppers, beans and corn freeze well. Just rinse, cut into appropriate pieces, and place in a freezer-safe container or bag.
If you want individual pieces of the vegetables, place on a sheet tray lined with parchment to freeze and then transfer to the freezer-safe container or bag when frozen.
You can use extra basil to make into pesto and freeze as well. You can also freeze fresh herbs with water in ice cube trays-a handy way to have “fresh” flavors.
• Remove and discard any vegetables that are damaged, blemished, or showing signs of disease or pests. (It’s best to remove these from the garden area. Composting and feeding them to chickens are great ways to get rid of excess vegetables.)
Harvest often to ensure a steady supply of tender and sweet vegetables and to prevent bolting.
Allowing vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage to sit on the stem for too long, especially in warm temperatures, results in an unpalatable bitterness.
It also gives wildlife and pests too many opportunities to ruin your hard work.
• Source Rick Durham Home Horticulture Specialist University of Kentucky
For more information, contact the Washington County Cooperative Extension Service.
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.