Cool season veggies are great – cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and George Bush’s favorite – broccoli. As the soils warm however, the time for planting warm season veggies is upon us. Crops such as peppers, eggplant, squash, tomatoes and cucumbers thrive on warm growing conditions – 75 to 85 degrees F. Hopefully, your weekend project in April was to solarize your soil. If not a week of solarization is better than none at all.
All vegetable plants have insect and disease pests, but it seems that the heavy duty ones are on warm season veggies. Verticillium wilt, and squash vine borer are two good examples of major pests. You can reduce pests in your warm season veggies by rotating them in your garden. Move your kale, lettuce and carrots to the area where your tomatoes grew last year and vice-versa. You may cut down on some of the incidence of carryover pests by rotation.
Once established, warm season veggies will progress nicely as long as the soil is moist, they days are sunny and the temperatures are warm. However, too much of a good thing can be bad. As the season progresses into summer, keep a watchful eye on the thermometer. When temps creep into the 90’s start applying mulch to cool the roots. Lots of materials will work just fine for mulch – shredded or sheets of newspapers, dried grass clippings, pine needles, straw, and sawdust are a few examples. The mulch will cool the soil, hold in moisture and help prevent weed growth.