Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health

August Vegetable Gardening Tips

What You Should Plant ... and When:
Starting Your Vegetable Garden: Fruits And
Veggies More Matters.org

Vegetable Garden: what you should be doing in August: Fruits and Veggies More Matters.org 

Harvest
Melons, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Squash, Corn, Broccoli, Cauliflower (All Regions)

Harvesting Tips

Melons
Harvest melons when they are hard or firm to the touch and the desired color and size.

      Watermelon
      Regular varieties of watermelon should have assorted coloring of white and grass- or dark green and be 12-18” in length and diameter. Smaller varieties will typically be dark green, 6-9” in length and 5-8” in diameter.

      Cantaloupe
      Cantaloupes should have assorted coloring of tans, hints of cream or white, and be 6-9” in length and 6-11” in diameter.

      Honeydew
      Honeydew melons should be light green with hints of yellow, 6-9” in length and 6-11” in diameter.

Gently grip the melon so the bottom rests in the palm of your hand and your fingers wrap around the sides, then carefully cut the stem with a kitchen paring knife. Leave 1” of the stem on the melon. Place the harvested melon on your kitchen counter. NEVER store uncut melon in the refrigerator; the cold air, dark conditions, and varying humidity levels will grossly expedite the ripening process and the melon will go bad very quickly. It’s best to harvest melon as you needed. Video Recipe: Grilling Watermelon

Note: The leaves and stalks can be a little ‘prickly’ so you might consider wearing a pair of garden gloves when harvesting.

Tomatoes
Tomato plants now bear green, yellow, and red tomatoes. Harvest tomatoes when the entire surface area is the color you planted, and firm or hard to the touch. If the tomato feels soft, it is likely overripe and should be placed on the compost pile, thrown away or left in the yard for animal friends to eat.

For red tomatoes, you can harvest when all of the surface area is red with about a ¼” greenish/yellow diameter around the stem. If the tomato is the desired color and firm to the touch, gently grip it so the bottom rests in the palm of your hand and your fingers wrap around the sides, and turn clockwise. After a few rotations, the tomato should easily snap away from the stem. If this doesn’t work, use a paring knife to gently cut the stem. Place the tomato on a window sill and the remaining area will ripen in a few days.

Place the harvested tomatoes on your kitchen counter. NEVER store tomatoes in the refrigerator. The cold air, dark conditions, and varying humidity levels will grossly expedite the ripening process and the tomatoes will go bad very quickly.
Video: Varieties of Tomatoes

Cucumbers
Harvest cucumbers when they are 6-10” in length, the surface area is a grass– or dark green color, and the vegetable is firm or hard to the touch. If the cucumber feels soft, it is likely overripe and should be placed on the compost pile, thrown away or left in the yard for animal friends to eat.

Gently grip the cucumber mid-length and turn clockwise. After a few rotations, it should easily snap away from the stem. If not, use a paring knife to cut the stem. (Note: The leaves and stalks can be a little ‘prickly’ so you might consider wearing a pair of garden gloves when harvesting.) Place the harvested cucumber on your kitchen counter or in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Video Recipe: Pickling Cucumbers

Squash
Yellow, green (zucchini), butternut and spaghetti squash should be harvested when the vegetable is 6-10” in length. Acorn squash should be harvested when the vegetable is 5-7” in diameter. Patty-pan squash comes in regular and miniature varieties. The regular squash should be harvested when the vegetable is 5-8” in diameter, and 1-4” in diameter for the miniature varieties. For all squash, the surface area should be the color indicated in the ‘color’ list below and they should be firm to the touch.

      Colors of Squash (when ready to harvest):

      • Yellow – crayon or sun yellow
      • Zucchini – grass – dark green
      • Butternut/Spaghetti – tan or very light orange
      • Acorn – shades of crayon and dark green; specks of orange may also be seen
      • Patty-pan – white – light cream

Gently grip the squash so the bottom rests in the palm of your hand and your fingers wrap around the sides then carefully cut the stem with a paring knife. Leave 1-2” of the stem on the vegetable. Place the harvested squash on your kitchen counter. NEVER store squash in the refrigerator. The cold air, dark conditions, and varying humidity levels will grossly expedite the ripening process and the squash will go bad very quickly. It’s best to harvest squash as needed. (Note: The leaves and stalks can be a little ‘prickly’ so you might consider wearing a pair of garden gloves when harvesting.) Video: Ideas for Using Squash

Corn
Harvest corn when the plant stalk is 4-7’ tall, the ear of corn is 7-13” long and firm or hard to the touch, the tassel (thin, silk-like strands at the top of the ear) is white to very light brown, and the outer layer of the ear is medium-dark green. Another way to determine if the ear is ready to harvest is to gently pull back a little of the outer layer of the ear (the green part) close to the tassel and inspect the corn kernels. Depending on the type of corn planted, the kernels will be white to yellow in color and 1/8– 1/4” in diameter. Gently grip the ear so your fingers are close to the tassel and mid-length of the ear rests in the palm of your hand. Gently, but forcefully pull away from the stalk in a downward motion. The ear should break or snap from the main stalk. If not, pull in a downward motion and gently twist the ear until it breaks from the main stalk.
Video Recipe: Corn Lollipops

Broccoli
Harvest broccoli when the head is 7-12 inches in diameter, firm or hard to the touch, and the flowerets are varying shades of green/gray. Gently grip the sides of the head with your fingers and using a kitchen pairing knife, cut the stem, leaving 4-6 inches attached to the head of the broccoli. You will likely get 1-2 additional cuttings from the same plant before it dies. If you see small yellow flowers on the plant or anywhere on the head of the broccoli, it’s over-ripe and should be placed on the compost pile, thrown away or left in the yard for animal friends to eat. It’s best to harvest broccoli as needed. Video: Using Broccoli

Cauliflower
Harvest cauliflower when the head is 7-12 inches in diameter, firm or hard to the touch, and the flowerets are white or light cream. Gently grip the sides of the head with your fingers, and using a kitchen pairing knife, cut the stem, leaving no more than two (2) inches attached to the head of the cauliflower. You will likely get 1-2 additional cuttings from the same plant before it dies. It’s best to harvest cauliflower as needed. Video Recipe: Spicy Cauliflower

Monitor Soil Moisture
The soil should be moist to the touch and a small amount should stick to your fingertip. If no soil sticks to your fingertip, you need to water. All watering should be done in the very early morning or as close to dusk as possible to allow for maximum penetration into the soil, and to prevent damaging and ultimately killing the fruit and vegetable plants. The hot sun will heat the water droplets remaining on the leaves of fruit and vegetable plants and ultimately burn the plant, killing it.

A general rule of thumb is to water for 20-30 minutes. During very hot and humid conditions, with little or no rain, it may be necessary to water 4-5 times per week.

Fertilize
Fertilizer is necessary for replacing and building nutrients and minerals in the soil and feeding the plants; it allows the plants to grow healthy fruits and vegetables. Use any organic or chemical fertilizer.

Weed
Once vegetables begin to appear on your plants, weeding becomes very important. The plants need to pull all of the nutrients from the soil so they can ‘feed’ the vegetables. If weeds are also in the soil, they compete for the nutrients and typically win out, resulting in few and small vegetables.

Inspection
Inspect leaves of plants to check for signs of disease or bugs. Use organic or chemical pesticides as needed/desired.

    Typical signs of disease are:

    • White specks or spots on top or underside of leaves
    • Brown spots on top or underside of leaves
    • Holes in leaves
    • White or brown spots on vegetables

Most bugs are easily visible and are commonly found on the top or underside of leaves, but can also be found on the stalk of the plant and at times on or in the vegetable itself. If you believe a plant might be diseased or have bugs, organic and chemical pesticides are easily found at your local lawn and garden store. The label of each pesticide will list the type of diseases and bugs that will be treated. If you can’t determine the type of disease or bug, purchase a general or all purpose pesticide.

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