Backyard Vegetable Garden: Summer Tips

Make sure you are getting the most out of your backyard vegetable garden by following these helpful summer tips.

Harvested-green-peppers

Summer in the vegetable garden is a time filled with a seemingly unending supply of fresh vegetables.  But is your backyard vegetable garden performing at its best?

Here are a few summer tips to follow to make sure that you don’t waste a single day of delicious summer vegetables straight from the garden.

1. Give your pepper plants a needed boost using Epsom salts.  Want a lot of peppers from your garden?  Epsom salts are the answer.  Despite their name, Epsom salts aren’t actually a salt – they are a combination of crystalized sulfate and magnesium.  Apply 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts around each pepper plant every 6 weeks OR apply as a foliar spray by mixing 2 tablespoons of Epsom salts in 1 gallon of water and spray the leaves of pepper plants once a month.  Soon after applying, you will soon have a plentiful harvest of peppers.

Malabar spinach

Malabar spinach

2. Try growing something new in your summer vegetable garden.  Do you grow the same vegetables year after year?  How about trying out a new vegetable that you’ve never grown before?

One of the new vegetable plants in my garden is called Malabar spinach.  Unlike most greens, it will grow through the entire summer in the vegetable garden, long after my leaf lettuce and regular spinach have bolted due to the summer heat.  While not technically a spinach, Malabar spinach has a peppery, citrus flavor and tastes delicious when used in soups and stir-fry.  Some people enjoy its raw flavor too.  Malabar spinach does best when planted in a container, much like mint, or it can become invasive.  Provide a small trellis for support so that it can grow upward.

3. Water vegetables in the morning and keep the leaves dry.  Like most plants in the garden, it is best to water vegetables in the morning instead of in the evening where leaves remain wet and could lead to the formation of fungal diseases.  Vegetables should also be watered from the base since their leaves do not like to be wet.

Flowering carrots

Flowering carrots

4. Allow some vegetables to go to seed and collect them for next year’s garden.  Do you get tired of buying new packets of vegetable seeds every year?  Allow a few of your vegetables to flower and form seeds and then collect them.  *Note – this works best with heirloom vegetables because the seeds will produce the exact same type of plant.  You can use seeds from hybrid vegetables, but the resulting vegetables may have slightly different characteristics.

Another bonus of allowing a few vegetables to flower is that they attract pollinators in the garden.  My fellow blogger, Jill, wrote a great blog post on how to store seeds that you can read here.

Freshly harvested thyme and sage.

Freshly harvested thyme and sage.

5. Harvest herbs just before they flower.  The flavor of herbs is most intense before they begin to flower.  Herbs (and vegetables) should also be harvested in the morning for best flavor as well.  Use your herbs immediately or you can preserve them freezing into ice cubes or drying them.

Marigolds and leaf lettuce

Marigolds and leaf lettuce

6. Keep harmful insects away by adding companion plants.  No one likes to see bad bugs in the garden and the damage they leave behind.  Prevent damaging insects from bothering your vegetable garden by planting companion plants, which will repel bad bugs naturally.  Marigolds and nasturtiums are a great choice and add both color and beauty to your vegetable garden.

There are a large variety of plants that will help keep damaging insects away and will keep you from having to reach for pesticides.  For more information on companion plants in the vegetable garden, click here.

7. Get ready for fall and plant cool-season vegetables.  For gardeners in zones 7 and above, late summer is a time to get your garden ready for planting cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and leaf lettuce. Vegetable gardeners in colder climates can plant short-season varieties of cool-season vegetables in late summer.

So, take a little time to make sure that your vegetable garden is in shape for the remainder of summer.

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