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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Vegetable Expectations

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

Home Gardens and Community Gardens have really preformed quite differently over the past weeks of hot dry weather depending on the kind of care given or in some cases allowed in a community garden setting. Home gardens have the option of being pampered and closely watched. Community gardens sometimes are just "out there" a lot of times with minimal care. Being able to provide water to the garden plants this summer has been critical for two reasons. Number one just getting the plants established and kept alive while we wait for the summer temperatures to come down and two, once our vegetable plants produce flowers, soil moisture is critical for fruit and pod fill. Even if water has been available, production can be far less than expected as temperatures get into the 90's and most of our vegetables will abort their flowers. Having even soil moisture available allows the plants to absorb the kinds of nutrition needed for proper growth. Early in the season it is the plant that needs to grow and develop. Later the developing fruits or pods in addition to keeping the plant healthy. Blossom end rots on tomatoes and squashes and cucumbers is an example of calcium deficiency while the fruit skin was forming from uneven soil moisture.

Focusing the water near the base of our vegetable plants is a great way to be sure the vegetables get the needed moisture, especially as they establishing. If you are in a community garden setting, water may be available, but by the Bucket full, so focusing the watering makes a great deal of sense from just the resources needed to carry that bucket back and forth. At home we can be more generous and use the hose. Keeping the vegetable plants watered and not the surrounding soil can also mean fewer weeds. In a community garden where no pesticides are allowed this is a big plus. In the home garden, a herbicide could be used to prevent weed seedlings from establishing. In either kind of garden using mulch to conserve moisture and shade the soil is great.

Community gardens are nearly always placed so all gardens will receive a full days sunlight. This, in a typical year would potentially yield lots of produce for your use at home and to share with neighbors and even the local food pantry or church organization. This year we have lost some plant development time with the heat we have had even if you were able to water. In a home garden setting there may not be a full days' worth of sun, but that can mean in a year like we have had that the plants will be less stressed. Every time a vegetable plant wilts down, even with moisture in the soil or in between watering, there is a small set back before the plant gets to grow again slowly development. Insect feeding can also be more dramatic if the plants are water stressed. Aphids can hasten the wilting of a plant by the removal of sap. Keep up the watering, mulch if you can and be patient with the weather and you will get the produce.

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