University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Early Summer Vegetable Garden Problems

June 26, 1997

Believe it or not, June is just about history. Normally, we expect home vegetable gardens to start producing some early crops. The 1997 season has been far from normal. Cold conditions lasted well into June, then rains, and now some heat. This combination has caused some problems in the vegetable garden.

There is still time for planting many crops, so if an earlier planting failed or you just never got to it, make plans now. From now through about the first week of July, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, snap beans, and summer squash can still be planted. Seeds should germinate quickly in the warm soil. If the weather turns dry, be ready to water.

Tomatoes do well in the heat of the past few days, and most areas have had plenty of rain. However, as fruit starts to develop, blossom-end rot is a common problem if soil moisture levels fluctuate. The bottom end of the tomato will turn black and rot. Avoid this by watering on a regular basis and mulching the soil over the root zones of your tomatoes.

Watch for cucumber beetles on cucumber, squash, melons, and pumpkin. These small yellow beetles with black stripes or spots can cause extensive feeding damage. In addition, on cucumber and cantaloupe they spread bacterial wilt, which causes vines to wilt and die. Control these beetles with either carbaryl (Sevin) or rotenone. Both insecticides are very toxic to bees and other pollinating insects, so apply late in the day once the vines start to bloom. Another option is to cover plants with polyester row covers until blooming begins.

Squash vine borer is an annual threat to squash and pumpkins. Protect squash by applying Sevin to crowns and runners on a weekly basis, or using a row cover as mentioned above. Summer squash (such as Zucchini) planted in early July most likely will not see injury because the adult insect (a clear-winged moth) is typically done laying eggs by the time those squash plants would be big enough to be attacked.

Finally, recent rains have helped weed populations explode. Hand-pulling and shallow cultivation are needed on a regular basis. Put down a mulch to help prevent more weeds from invading areas that were just cleaned up. If an area of the garden is not being used, it's still important to keep weeds in check to reduce problems in the future.


Click here for the full article index