News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

The Canyon Gardener: Keep plants healthy to increase your summer harvests

Got some vegetables in the ground during the false summer panic this spring? Are they still alive? Are they thriving? It’s not too late to replace some and plant succession rows. 

Planting seeds or transplants is only the beginning. There are several things gardeners can do to keep the plants healthy and increase harvests.

Got tomatoes? Determinant tomatoes are bush-type and will need some low support when all those big fruits are hanging on the branches. Indeterminant tomatoes will vine forever – or at least until they freeze. 

Trellises at least 5 feet high help vining tomatoes, cucumbers and pole beans reach their potential. Pinch off leaves that touch the ground to keep insects, slugs and diseases from creeping up from the soil. 

Indeterminant tomatoes produce fruit longer if pruned. Cut or break off branches below the lowest flowers. Pinch out sprouts that form between the main stems and side branches.

Fertilizer can be worked into the soil around vegetable plants a week to a month after planting. The roots will have settled in and will be seeking nutrition. Select a fertilizer with more potassium than nitrogen or phosphorus (NPK) to stimulate blooming, and follow directions on the package to use the optimum amount. 

After watering the fertilizer in, add mulch to conserve moisture. Sawdust and bark can pull nitrogen from the soil as they decompose. If using, select a fertilizer to replace the nitrogen. Composted leaves are good mulch.

Avoid plant stress by providing water often enough in sufficient amounts. The drier and windier the weather, the more evaporation and transpiration (plant sweating) occur. June is a good time to set up an irrigation system or schedule for the summer.

Pick fruits and vegetables regularly to avoid diseases (and slugs) related to rotting. Keep the garden beds tidy and free of litter. If there is too little produce to use right away, freeze it by spreading on a small tray. Then pour the individual pieces into a labelled bag until it is full. A container in the freezer for pieces of veg that are trimmed off can be convenient to make stock for soups or pasta. 

For tips on preservation and storage of fresh foods, visit at . 

When days hotter than 80 degrees F arrive, cover tomatoes and other fruiting vegetables with shade protection. Fruiting will cease for many vegetables during heat spells. Leave ends open for pollinators go get in and out. Water the soil early in the day on hot days so plants can take it up through the roots and be turgid before the transpiration peaks.


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