It's mid-summer now, and it's the beginning of proper summer harvests. If you've got beans, zucchinis, cucumbers, and tomatoes appearing, it is a good idea to harvest them as soon as they're ready.
This is so the plant can put energy into producing more new flowers and more produce.
To plant from punnets: Basil, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, Fennel, Leeks, Lettuce, Spring Onion, Zucchini
Sow in the gaps
It can be easy to get caught up in picking produce now and not thinking about the future months. If you've got some empty spaces, sow some more seeds.
Sow some more bush beans, carrots, beetroot, silverbeet. In the warmer areas, sow another zucchini and cucumber. In the cooler areas of NZ, you can start sowing early varieties of turnips now too. Baby turnips don't take long to grow and you'll have something new for your salads!
Plant Leek Seedlings and Sow Brassicas
If you haven't done so yet, you can start your autumn and winter brassica seeds off this month and continually sow a few every couple of weeks during late summer and autumn to stagger the harvests. Once the seedlings are planted in the garden, keep them covered with netting to protect from the white butterfly!
Leeks seedlings can be planted this month too. They need summer's warmth to do their main growing so that they're nice and fat in winter.
Remember crop rotation! If in the previous season you had planted brassicas in a certain place, don't plant them there again the following season. This will deplete the soil of nutrients and if there are brassica diseases present, they will infect the next crop too.
Check for bugs and diseases
The tomato/potato psyllid is out now and can wreak havoc on your toms and spuds! They're sapsuckers and can infect plants in the nightshade family with Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum. This will reduce yield and stunt plant growth.
If your potato greens look like they're dying back before they're ready, or your tomato leaves are browning off and curling, check the leaves carefully. Psyllid leaves a light dusting of sugars on the leaves, and the larvae are tiny and orange and look a little like scale.
Any late planted potatoes are best covered with a fine mesh to avoid psyllid.
Blight, particularly on nightshades is another problem, both early and late blight. Telltale signs of early blight are ring-like lesions on the leaves. They can also spread to the stem and the fruit, causing the fruit to rot and drop off. Late blight signs are black spots that appear on the leaves and then eventually travel towards the stem. Late blight spreads very rapidly and can heavily affect fruits in all the nightshade family, including potatoes underground.
If your plants get blight, remove the plants and burn or bin (don't compost) them and make sure not to plant the same plant there again for a few years. Early blight spores can survive in the soil for about 3 years.
Late blight spores don't live in the soil as they need living plant tissue to survive on, but overwintered potatoes or tomatoes are how it is spread and kept alive.
Blight Precautionary Measures
You can help to try to avoid blight by keeping your plants well-trimmed and staked to allow better air circulation. A spray of ½ tablespoon baking soda per 2 liters of water, with ½ tablespoon natural liquid soap to help it stick, is effective as a precautionary measure.
This spray also works well for powdery mildew, another fungal disease that can affect many plants but is common on squash and pumpkin plants. Signs of this are a white powdery-looking dusting on top of the leaves. Powdery mildew will usually appear later in the season. Don't get it confused with the permanent white veining some varieties of squash and pumpkin have.
Blossom End Rot
Blossom end rot is a problem often confused with blight. The bottom end of the fruit (where the blossom is) rots. This is usually a sign that the plant lacks calcium. However, it is often caused by erratic watering, not an actual calcium deficiency in the soil.
Keep on top of liquid feeding! A bi-weekly or weekly dose of a good liquid fertiliser will have your vegetables thanking you. Try some homemade liquid fertilisers.
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