Sow There! Mid-summer veggies; what now? 6-9-2016

Just a few days after this picture was taken, these beauties are ready to be eaten, preferably while watering and while wearing my pajamas.

Summer vegetables are the sprinters of the plant world. They get out of the box at full speed — grow, produce, set seed and die — all within a single season.

Zucchini is just the best example. We put seeds in the ground in May. By early June the plants are growing several inches a day.

In mid July I will be picking one or two a day, try to find new zucchini recipes, choke down zucchini slices like they are popcorn, hand zucchini to friends, using the toaster oven outside to bake zucchini muffins, hand zucchini to strangers, plan to carve a canoe from zucchini that grew and grew …

Just about the time I remember how to actually spell zucchini without spell-check, the plants are tired and ready to die.

Is it worth it?

In addition to the plants in our black plastic truck liner raised bed, we have four tomatoes in 10-gallon pots. As of right now there are two medium-sized red tomatoes and about four golf-ball sized tomatoes. We also have dozens of dried, fruitless flowers.

“Is this worth it,” I said out loud while the cat circled around my ankles like a figure 8. “Couldn’t we just buy a tomato here and there at the store?”

Yes, my Handsome Woodsman confirmed. Yet, when was the last time I bought tomatoes and ate and enjoyed the fruit whole? When was the last time I treated a store-bought tomato like a sweet summer fruit?

He is right on this particular point. When I eat tomatoes I am standing in the yard, usually in the morning. I pick a fruit and let the flavor explode into my mouth.

If I make an omelete, I grab cherry tomatoes off the plant and throw them into the eggs whole.


When I called Jerry Mendon at Mendon’s Nursery in Paradise, I had several questions, but asked him about tomatoes as well.

“Are they worth it?”

I could tell he was wondering whether this was simply a rhetorical question.

After a pause Jerry said it like it is.

“I can’t stand store-bought tomatoes,” he said. The varieties are bred for mechanical harvest. The fruit has a tough skin. They are picked green for better packing, he said, among other things.

He’s right of course.


The conversation quickly shifted to dead tomato blossoms. Jerry confirmed that when it gets hot quickly flowers fade.

The reason has more to do with sudden change a in temperature vs. the actual temperature, he said.

Very soon we’ll have another flush of summer fruit, he predicted.

The best time for tomatoes to set fruit is when night-time temperatures are between 60-70 degrees.

Meanwhile, he suggested adding a heaping teaspoon of plant food about every two weeks to my 10-gallon containers. The first number of the plant food is nitrogen, and he recommended using fertilizer with a 4-8 as the first number. The other numbers matter much less.

As noted in an article about a month ago,, there’s no reason to buy specialty fertilizer for different plants, Mendon maintains. Plants can’t read the words on the bag, they just want plant food.


As for the rest of the raised bed, it’s probably time for me to add mulch. The problem is that I keep adding seeds to the open spaces in the soil.

Mendon recommended adding a mulch called Bumper Crop, which contains nitrogen. Mulch is always great for keeping in moisture and preventing weeds. However, as the mulch breaks down, it robs nitrogen from the soil.

Bumper Crop has the extra nitrogen to offset the depletion of nitrogen, Jerry explained.


Its not too late to plant basil seeds in the ground. Basil seeds grow easily. The leaves can be harvested for salads or to eat with tomatoes while you stand in the yard.

I personally always forget to plant fall-ripening food like pumpkins and winter squash. Now is a good time to place those seeds in the ground.

I was flattered that Jerry remembered I was growing things in a black, plastic truck bed liner. He said I should be careful not to plant seeds too close to the edge, which will be about a million degrees. His advice is to keep plants 10 inches from the edge. The good think about vines is that the leaves will grow over the edge, taking up very little space in the actual raised bed.

The vines can also be trained to climb as chain-link fence. Just be careful the vertical growth does not block the sun in your garden area.

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