It’s not over, not by any means. There is still plenty of time left to garden even though we just past the summer solstice on June 21st. There are many different kinds of plants that can go in as seeds right now and still produce a bountiful harvest before the end of the growing season. With oil prices up, food prices are up as well. Remember, it takes a lot of oil to grow, harvest, and transport our food. A good home garden is the most environmentally friendly way to deal with this, and you will save yourself a bundle in the process. Besides, you also cannot beat the fresh taste of home-grown food!

This weed filled garden bed can be turned into a nice, productive vegetable plot with a little effort. Photo by mrl2022.

The only problem with all I have said is that unplanted garden beds can look rather intimidating right now. My unplanted garden beds are filled with weeds that are almost as tall as I am – but I am not scared by this! Any area can easily be converted to planting beds in a few steps. For me, that means mowing down the high grass with either a push mower or a trimmer, and then tilling up the remaining vegetation. I then rake out the big clumps and shake all the dirt off before removal. Now it is time to limestone or add fertilizer, if need be, based on soil tests conducted earlier. If you do not have a tiller, you could pull out or dig out the roots with a shovel, spade or fork. With a bit of hard work, the beds will be all ready to go. Although gardening bed preparation may be a chore, seed planting is quick and easy.

Green beans are probably one of the easiest crops to plant. There are two basic types which have different growth requirements. The first is the pole-type. These will need some type of structure to climb up. It does not have to be pretty, however. Go grab a fallen tree limb and stick that in the ground and it will happily climb up that. In the olden times, people would take three large branches, tie them together at the top, and plant the seeds around the base of each. Cattle panels can work as well either bent over to form an arch, or two on their long side stuck together at the top with worm-gear clamps. Much easier are the bush-type beans as they do not need any support. With either type, keep them picked for two reasons. First, they will continue to produce more beans if you pick them regularly. Also, if the beans are left on the plant too long, they become woody, stringy, and generally unpleasant to eat. Other types of beans can also be planted now as well (Lima, Runner, etc.). All beans will benefit from an inoculation with beneficial bacteria. It is not essential but can help them grow larger and produce more. These inoculants are many times sold near the seed packets. 

Pole-type green beans that will grow up these cattle panels. Photo by mrl2022.

Summer squash is another favorite with plenty of time to produce. Examples include various zucchini types, crookneck, yellow, and pan types. These plants have a nice bush growth habit. I usually mulch the area before planting the seeds so there is no competition from weeds. By the time any weeds would get going, the plants are so large they shade them out. Planting summer squash later sometimes helps avoid the squash vine borers that usually finish egg laying by July 4th. If pests still are a problem in your area, floating row covers will work. These consist of thin fabric that essentially screens in the plants. Be sure to tuck the edges into the soil all around the bottom of the covers. Take the covers off once the plants start flowering so they can be pollinated by beneficial insects. Plant varieties resistant to diseases if you have had trouble in the past. Amend the soil with compost before planting and these veggies will thrive. Keep the plants well watered. It is best to water in the morning, especially when plants are setting fruit. Watering in the evening may encourage powdery mildew and similar diseases.      

Zucchini seedlings just sprouting through the layer of mulch. Photo by mrl2022.

Winter squashes like butternut, acorn, decorative gourds, and pumpkins all can go in now too.  You probably will probably not win the biggest pumpkin contest at the fair, but you can still produce plenty of fruit. These are generally vining types that require an ample amount of space to spread out. Some winter squash are available as a bush or semi-bush type if your space is limited. Read the back of the seed packets and pick the variety best suited for your situation.  These also benefit from incorporation of compost into the soil at planting time. Keep the area weed-free while they are establishing, and their large leaves will do the rest once they get going. 

Another plant that is commonly planted in succession to ensure continual harvest is corn. Now you could do one of the sweetcorn varieties, or you could do ornamental corn. Many people I know, myself included, like the variety of colors produced by the ornamental types. Just be sure to separate corn varieties by the distance recommended on the seed packages to avoid unintended cross pollination, which can have detrimental effects on the edibility of harvested sweet corn. Alternatively, you could plant them at different times to ensure they are out-of-sync at pollination time. 

I am planning on putting in many varieties of sunflowers in during the next week. For continual flowers, plant these at two-week intervals. There are many styles and varieties so you will have to do a little research. They literally come in all shapes and sizes. Plants may be a few feet to more than twelve feet tall. There are ones with a large flower at the top of the stem, or multiple flowers on each plant. If you are planning to use them as cut flowers, try some of the pollenless varieties as they will not release pollen on to your table. There are some kinds that are nice for bird food, and others that are nice for people food. Follow package directions and make sure you are purchasing the correct type for your planned use. Regardless, they all look beautiful in the garden.   

My last suggestion is somewhat of a generic category. Try putting in some flowers. Cosmos are great and quick to grow. Sprinkle a few seeds now and they will be flowering in no time!  Dahlias are also another possibility with their large tuberous roots. The plants may even be starting to sprout in the bag. You could even think about planting seeds of some perennial flowers like Shasta daisies or Echinacea cone flowers. They will not flower this year, but will look great next year. 

The lima beans are sprouting, but the bed needs some quick attention to prevent the weeds from overtaking them. Photo by mrl2022.

So, there you have some easy suggestions for quick, easy plants that can go in the ground now.  The warm soil temperature will help them germinate quickly provided you water them well every few days. Try and disrupt the weed growth with a hoe until crops get going. Most of the plants discussed here will shade the weeds out after that. Now I am going to go take my own advice and get more planting done!

Happy Gardening!

Dr. Matthew Lisy, UConn Adjunct Faculty

Lots of happenings in the vegetable garden this week as things start to take off. Yellow summer squash and zucchini are starting to produce fruits. The first flowers that appeared were male, identified by their long stems holding the blossom. Female flowers have a small squash shaped ovary at the blossom base, that if becomes pollinated, will grow into a full-sized squash.If the pollination of the female flower does not happen, the tiny squash will drop off. Female flowers appear about a week after the first male flowers are put out by the plant.

Female squash blossoms with a fruit behind it. Photo by C.Quish

Female squash blossoms with a fruit behind it. Photo by C.Quish

Male squash blossom is on the long stem. Photo by C.Quish

Male squash blossom is on the long stem. Photo by C.Quish

At the first appearance of blossoms, the squash vine borer also was seen. The adult is a clear winged moth that lays her eggs on the hollow stems both varieties. The egg hatches into a larva tunneling into the center of the vine, feeding on the inside of the stem and blocking the transmission of water to the leaf and all plant material above their feeding site. The result will be wilting of the plant.

Squash vine borer adults, Jeff Hahn photo, UMN.edu

Squash vine borer adults, Jeff Hahn photo, UMN.edu

Control measures are trapping adults, preventing egg laying, and killing larva once stem is invaded. Trap adults by placing a yellow bowl or container filled with soapy water in the garden. Adults are attracted to the color yellow, will fly to the container where they become trapped in the soapy water. Check for eggs on the stems daily and crush any you find. Some folks wrap stems with aluminum foil to create a barrier to egg laying. If larva are found inside the stem, use a hat pin to poke through the stem into the larva to cause death of the insect while the stem will not be harmed much. Another way is to use a knife to slice lengthwise into the stem, dig out the larva, put the stem sides back together and cover with soil. The plant often recovers. Chemical control includes applying insecticide to the base and stems of the squash plant. This will kill the larva before it has a chance to burrow into the stem. Registered insecticides again the squash vine borer are neem, Surround, permethrin and pyrethrins. Always follow pesticide label directions.

Kale, bok choi and Swiss chard are keeping us in greens. The dreaded small caterpillars are starting to appear. Imported cabbage moth, crossed striped caterpillar and the cabbage looper are all common in Connecticut. Insecticidal soap, Bt and spinosad are organic control measures that work well on the early stages of the caterpillar. Apply at recommend label times to keep up with any new hatchings. Be aware of any white moths flitting around the cole crops to alert you to egg laying and the subsequent caterpillar presence.

Cross-striped cabbagworm larva (Evergestis rimosalis). Clemson University USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, www.insectimages.org

Cross-striped cabbagworm larva (Evergestis rimosalis).
Clemson University USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, http://www.insectimages.org

Cabbage looper larva (Trichoplusia ni) and feeding damage. David Cappaert, Michigan State University, www.insectimages.org

Cabbage looper larva (Trichoplusia ni) and feeding damage.
David Cappaert, Michigan State University, http://www.insectimages.org

Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers were planted late as my garden had to wait for other responsibilities to happen before planting took place this year. All seem to be slow due to the colder spring soils, so maybe this is a blessing in disguise and I will have an extended harvest. I plan on planting spinach, lettuce, kale and carrots during August for later season crops. Colder hardy varieties will be selected and I will use row covers later to protect from frosts.

– Carol Quish

Male squash blossoms, C.Quish photo.

Male squash blossoms, C.Quish photo.

Where are all my summer squash? Why do my plants have many blossoms and not squash? These are a few of the questions I hear about yellow and zucchini squashes when the squashes look like they should be setting fruit. Be patient, gardeners, squash will come.

Squash plants produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers contain the pollen, the male part the reproduction process.  The female flowers have the ovary at their base. The ovary looks like a very small squash. This ovary will not develop and will be aborted,(dropped off), of the plant if pollen is not moved from the male flower to female. The process is called pollination, resulting in fertilization, then the ovary will develop into the fruit, the squash. The male flowers are produced and open a few days before the female flowers open. So the males are ready before the females. (I am not going to comment on this.)

The male flowers are on a long stem with no little squash at the flower base.

Male Squash Blossom, photo by C.Quish

Male Squash Blossom, photo by C.Quish

Male squash blossoms, C.Quish photo.

Male squash blossoms, C.Quish photo.

The female shows the small squash.

Female squash ovaries at base of flower. C.Quish photo.

Female squash ovaries at base of flower. C.Quish photo.

 

Insects such as bees are the common pollinators of squash plants. They feed on the nectar in the flower, and in the process pick of pollen from the male flowers, dropping some in the female flower when the move into it. If all goes well, fertilization happens and the squash will develop.

A common pest insect of summer squash is the squash vine borer which lays eggs on the stems of the squash. The eggs hatch into a larva which tunnel into the stem to feed. Their feeding damages the inside of the stems and the water conducting vessels of the plant, causing part or entire collapse and wilt of the plant. The squash vine borer is a clear winged moth with 1/2 inch long orange abdomen with black dots. It flies during the day and rests at night. The SVB is attracted to the color yellow. A trap can be made by filling a yellow bowl with with soapy water. The SVB will fly into the bowl and drown. Place trap near squash plants. Other management options are to plant a second crop of summer squash in early July that will mature after adult borers have finished laying eggs. Pull and destroy any plants killed by squash vine borers to keep the larva from overwintering after feeding for four to six weeks. They exit the stems and burrow a few inches into the soil to pupate  where they stay until the following summer. There is only one generation per year..

I use a row cover as a physical barrier that keeps out all insects. The row cover is a poly spun fabric similar to mosquito netting placed over all of the squash plants in the bed, then held down with weights to exclude all insects. The row cover also excludes the pollinators, so I have to either hand pollinate each female blossom or remove the cover once the female blossoms appear to allow insects in to do their job of pollinating. If hand pollinating, do it in the morning as the pollen is most available then.

Row cover protecting squash from insects reaching the plant. C.Quish photo

Row cover protecting squash from insects reaching the plant. C.Quish photo

Squash vine borer adults, Photo UMN.edu

Squash vine borer adults, Photo UMN.edu

 

Squash vine borer larva and damage. Photo UMN.edu

Squash vine borer larva and damage. Photo UMN.edu

 

-Carol Quish