During the summer’s end, most of us are between gardens that is, we have just about finished harvesting all the vegetables from our spring gardening effort, and preparations for the fall vegetable garden haven’t begun yet. Summer is a good time to inventory your gardening project. Take a careful look at the problems you had, and the rewards you enjoyed from your spring garden. Keeping track of the things that went wrong, as well as things that went right, will help you have a more successful garden this fall.
In this article we’ll discuss some of the things you might be looking at in the next couple of weeks. My information was provided by Emeritus Vegetable Specialist Jim Stephens of the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
First of all, if you still have vegetable in your garden, you should begin a weekly spray program. We’re into the rainy season now, which means hot, wet days, and warm, humid nights, the right conditions for insect and disease pests to flourish. Tomato or corn fruit worms and pickle worms can be extremely destructive.
Even those pests which haven’t been overwhelming thus far, such as aphids, cabbage worms, are expected to become severe during the rainy season. So protect your garden vegetable with a good spray program.
In addition, be on the lookout for the spread of plant diseases. Diseased plants should be pulled out and disposed of as soon as possible. Plant remaining in the garden should be sprayed weekly with a good fungicide.
If you’ve noticed the mosaic virus in your vegetable garden, and wondered if it could spread to your fruit trees, our specialist says that there’s little chance of that happening. Mosaic virus is quite specific to its host plant, and will usually attack just those plants in close proximity in the garden. However, you should keep your garden as free of weed as possible. Weeds can host the mosaic virus.
Summer is a good time to evaluate the seeds varieties you selected for the spring garden. Ask yourself such questions as: did the variety produce a strong vigorous plant? What about the quality of the vegetables itself? How about disease resistance? Try to make note of the varieties which did well and those that didn’t, so you’ll have some idea of the ones you’ll want to include in the fall vegetable garden, or plant next spring.
Summer is also a good time to observe the beneficial effects of mulching. If you mulched your spring garden, you’ll notice that you have very few weeds. Whereas your neighbor’s unmulched garden might be overrun with a difficult weed problem. Nematode injury is also much milder on mulched vegetables. While nematodes will attack mulched vegetable, their effects are not as severe, because of the healthier root zone of the mulched plants.
The most striking observation you’ll make about mulching is the way it controls soil moisture. Vegetables grown on unmulched hot, sandy Florida soils will droop and wilt, while those grown in mulch gardens will stand tall. I’ve seen all kinds of things used for mulching including the traditional oak leaves, pine straw, hay and wood shavings.
Some gardeners even used old tire in their gardens. The tires were placed on the ground, and tomato plants, two or three per tire, were planted inside the tire. As the plant grows, the tomatoes could rest on the tires, rather than on the ground, which will possibly reduce fruit rots.