The heat of summer can wreck havoc for a garden in desert climates. Yet, there are still wonderful vegetables that thrive in the heat. In the next few posts we will focus on recipes and gardening tips relative to summer. Starting off this series is “harvesting in the summer”…
Tomatoes and Peppers
Summer is a great time to harvest tomatoes and peppers. These gorgeous vegetables are ripened to perfection with summer when properly tended to in scorching heat. These vegetables thrive with the ambient heat of summer. However, they can burn when not properly shaded. Other risk factors include: premature ripening of fruit, burned leaves and small numbers of producing.
Many home improvement stores offer products to shade your plants. For those interested in more of a DIY shade structure; the process is simple. Suggestions include non-porous stakes, such as white PVC piping. PVC bent to your desired shape (usually arched) will work well as the “base” to drape your shade fabric. Speaking of fabric; always use landscaping shade cloth that is designed specifically for that purpose. Unfortunately, using any other type of fabric as a shade barrier can result in some very negative effects for plants.
What else can you do to protect your plants? Start at the roots! You should have already been using compost as a natural fertilizer, now is a good time to mix in some with the existing soil at the root base. Summer is also a good time to add mulch around the root base of your summer garden.
Water, Water, Water… At the right time! Avoid watering overhead during this time of the year. Droplets of water left in direct sunlight can result in sunspots on your plants. Watering during the day can also prove to be futile as the desert air dries out the soil. Watering early morning, early evening and at night will ensure that the plant receives all the water that it needs.
Pruning and Harvesting! Tomatoes are ready, peppers too and those artichokes need some pruning. When is the best time to prune and harvest? Its arguable with some gardeners; however, in the desert: morning is best right after your first watering.
Here an artichoke has been left to bloom in the summer. These blooms are strikingly beautiful. However, one the plant has reached the bloom period it is not advised to harvest from the plant. Allow the plant to complete its blooming cycle. Plants such as tomatoes and peppers which also bloom, can and should be harvested when they have blooms. The rule of thumb for pruning and harvesting applies to herbs as well. Remember: at first light, is just right!