Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Plant Now for Second Summer Vegetable Crop

The thermometer may be stuck on 95 degrees, but don’t let the summer heat beat you out of a second crop of fresh summer veggies. There is still time for another crop across much of Georgia.
The first round of summer vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, sweet corn, southern peas, snap beans, cantaloupes and eggplant were planted in March and April, and the harvest on those crops is about to wind down.

But with Georgia’s subtropical climate, the summer gardening fun has only just begun. Yep, you’ve got plenty of time for another round of summer crops before the first frost. This usually occurs around mid-October in the mountains and mid- to late November in south Georgia.
There are 110 to 120 frost-free days from late July until mid-November, so warm-season crops that mature in less than four months will usually mature in the fall, barring an early frost.

You have even more time to plant cooler-season fall crops such as leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli, carrots and radishes. These can be planted well into the fall season and some can even weather the winter.

Many gardeners make several plantings throughout the year at various intervals to have new crops maturing periodically throughout the summer. Others try to maintain the first planting and harvest tomatoes, squash and the like throughout the summer.

Rather than trying to keep the same plants producing indefinitely, it is often better to start over after the first planting plays out. This usually results in better yield and quality.

Crops like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant can be transplanted now, just as they were in the spring. For crops such as squash, cantaloupes and cucumbers, however, seeding them directly into the ground will work just as well, if not better. Snap beans, sweet corn, okra and southern peas are generally directly seeded in either season.

Don't plant the same crop back in the exact same place. Rotate your garden space to reduce potential disease problems. For instance, plant tomatoes where you planted squash this spring.
Gardeners should also rotate families of crops. Plant peppers, tomatoes or eggplant where squash, cucumbers or cantaloupes were. But don't plant cucumbers on the same ground where squash was most recently planted.

Establishing the crop will be more of a challenge than it was in the spring. Because of the intense heat, you'll need to keep the garden watered enough to reduce heat and drought stress. Apply water during the day to provide some cooling on the surface and allow the foliage to dry by nightfall.

The longer gardeners wait, the longer it will take for the second crop to mature as days get shorter and the mercury finally starts to fall. So start these crops by mid-August. Some fast-maturing crops, like snap beans, cucumbers and squash, will produce if planted by early September.

(Author Terry Kelley is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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