Summer Vegetable Gardening

GENERAL INFORMATION: On the Peninsula all vegetables will perform best in a well amended soil. Clay soils are rich soils but difficult to work with. To prepare our clay soils for vegetable gardening, sprinkle gypsum at the rate of 10 pounds per 100 square feet, Master Start at 5 pounds per 250 square feet and 2 to 3 inches of organic amendment such as Gold Rush or Forest Blend over the area to be planted. Rototill or dig all of these ingredients into the top 6 to 8 inches of the planting bed. If raised beds are being used, they should be filled with Nursery Mix and amended as above every spring or fall. Plants in the summer vegetable garden need a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of full sun per day.

Unless you expect to plant 20 or more of the same kind of vegetable, it will be more efficient to buy pots of 2 or 4 inch transplants from the nursery rather than packages of seeds. Soil temperature must be 55°F or more before seeds or young plants will start to grow. Therefore, unless you can heat the soil (and there are ways), it’s not much use starting your summer vegetable garden before the end of March.


Peppers and Eggplant

Sweet Peppers, Chilies, and Eggplants are among those vegetables which take the longest to mature so be patient. Both Peppers and Eggplants should be set about two (or more) feet apart. Fertilize one and two months after planting with Master Nursery Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer or Dr. Earth Tomato Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer. Soil should be kept moist (not wet); soaker hoses run 4 hours twice a week during the summer are very effective.

Peppers, Eggplants and Tomatoes are very temperature sensitive. Peppers especially need day time temps in the 70’s before they will grow. When daytime temperatures exceed 85° to 90°F the flower blossoms drop off and no fruit is produced on those branches. If nighttime temperatures drop below 60°F or get above 75°F, the blossoms will also drop off.

When fruit is harvested, it should be cut with pruning shears so that a small piece of stem remains.

Squash, Cucumbers and Melons

Plant 3 to 4 young plants together in a cluster (hill) about 3 to 4 feet apart. Cucumbers can be planted next to a wire fence or in a tomato cage so they will climb and produce straight fruit. All of these plants produce male and female flowers. Often the male flowers develop first so no fruit develops. Sometimes, the female flowers develop but there are no male flowers to pollinate them and again no fruit develops. If this latter situation occurs, a small fruit often starts to develop but soon turns yellow and drops off. (See our Cucurbit Care Guide.)

All of the plants must be kept uniformly moist. During the warm weather of summer, a soaker hose running 4 hours, twice a week should be sufficient. If cucumbers are allowed to become the least bit dry, the fruit will become bitter. Melons need hot weather to ripen and are likely to be only minimally successful in the Peninsula garden. Fertilize as with peppers and eggplant.

String Beans

String beans are either pole beans (6 or more feet tall) or bush beans (2 to 3 feet tall). The bush beans take up less space than the pole beans and produce more quickly, but for a shorter period of time. Pole beans produce beans over a three month period, require a support of some kind; net, strings, wire cage or poles. The poles can be single or formed into a 3 or 4 sided teepee. There are more varieties of pole beans than bush beans. When the pole beans start producing beans, they need to be picked every other day.

Pole beans grow best from seeds. If they are grown against a net, plant the seeds 12 inches apart alternately on both sides of the net. If against a fence or on one side of a net, plant the seeds 6 inches apart. However the seeds are located, drop 2 or 3 seeds in each hole about one and one-half inches deep.

Bush beans can be planted from transplants, 2 to 3 feet apart.

Beans must be kept uniformly moist. During the warm weather of summer, irrigation twice a week for 3 to 4 hours with a soaker hose will be sufficient. Fertilize as with Peppers and Eggplant.

Young Beans, as they sprout out of the ground, are a favorite food for white and gold-crowned sparrows. Netting keeps the birds off until they get tall enough for the birds to lose interest.

Later, white flies are a nuisance. They can be controlled with sticky traps and a horticultural soap or pyrethrum spray.

Pick frequently so the Beans don’t get big and tough.

Leaf Vegetables

Lettuce, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Pak Choi,Basil and Cilantro grow best during cool weather and are often considered to be winter vegetables. These are good vegetables for the slightly shady part of the garden which is cooler than the full sun garden. (See the Winter Vegetable Care Guide for more details.)

Root Vegetables

Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips and Rutabagas can be planted from seed after Memorial Day and are also discussed in the Winter Vegetable Care Guide.

Tomatoes, Potatoes, Onions and Garlic

See the individual Information Sheets for each of these vegetables.