Welcome back to our “Year in the Organic Garden Series!” In May, we got our warm season garden in the ground with organic starts and non-GMO seeds. If you missed the post, or want to refresh your memory, please take a look at May in the Organic Garden.
In June, with any luck at all, our tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash, and pollinator-attracting Summer flowers are coming along nicely! This month’s post will focus on techniques to help your crops along towards a robust harvest and we’ll hit a few other timely topics. As always, we welcome your own comments, questions and contributions to help make this an even more useful resource for our readers.
Harvesting this Month!
Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries (variety dependent) should be ready to harvest. Your local bird populations will also be interested in these fruits as they ripen. It’s a good idea to cover with bird netting if you haven’t done so already.
Also, your Spring herb garden should provide plenty to dry and preserve for later usage. Fresh is best, but don’t let the bounty go to waste!
Plant a Second Wave
To extend your harvest season, go ahead and plant a second wave of cucumbers, squash, beans, and even potatoes if you’ve got the space. There are plenty of warm long days left to reach maturity.
It’s also finally hot enough to plant okra from seed. Soil temps should be 65F by now and air temps in the 70F+ range consistently. Okra plants, and especially the flowers, are visually striking during the growth phase.
Provide Support and Use Your Vertical Space
As they grow and eventually flower and fruit, many of your crops will need or benefit from physical support &/or trellising. Support structures can either be purchased or cobbled together from materials you may have around your garden. Bamboo is great for this job and can be used as simple stakes or as material for creating custom trellis structures.
Tomatoes and Peppers should be caged or staked. This will help to protect them from weather-related damage and minimize the risk that later heavy fruits will break their branches.
Cucumbers and other vining crops (even watermelon…if your trellis is really strong and you’re growing a smallish variety!) will benefit from a trellis to grow on. A trellis gives you more space to work with as the plant can grow vertically and will also keep ripening fruits off the ground. This makes harvesting easier and helps to minimize pest pressure.
Pests and Pathogens Should be Managed
While it’s a lot more fun to write and think about your thriving garden, the reality is that it will face pressures every growing season. It would be impossible to cover every threat and treatment within this space. Instead, we will cover a few basics and provide our best tips for identifying and managing Pests and Pathogens in your garden organically.
First things first, inspect your garden every day and observe anything that seems problematic. Catching a problem early is much better than hoping that it will resolve itself. Sometimes that does happen! But more often than not, the pressures that your garden crops face won’t self-correct and intervention may be called for.
Step one is to diagnose the problem. Your County Extension Office, experienced gardeners, and the teams at better garden shops are all great resources. The good news is that if your garden is experiencing a problem, you’re not alone and these people talk to a lot of gardeners in your area. Their collective wisdom and experience is essential.
Once you have a proper diagnosis of the problem, you can decide how and if you’d like to treat it. Here are a few commonly used, organic treatments to pressures your garden may face.
Diatomaceous Earth is effective against insects with exoskeletons (ants, crickets, etc.). It is powdered remains of fossilized aquatic organisms called diatoms. At a microscopic level, the rough particles of diatomaceous earth damage the insects’ exoskeletons. It is considered safe for usage and may be applied either in its dry form or mixed with water as a spray. After a heavy rain, the product will need to be reapplied if the threat has not yet been eliminated.
Products containing Bacillus thuringiensis (BT for short!) are effective against caterpillars and leaf-eating worms while being safe to other species. BT should be applied as a foliar (leaf) spray to both sides of the plant’s leaves. Products containing BT are available ready to use and to be mixed.
Neem Oil is derived from the seeds of the Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica) and is an effective treatment against various crop pests and diseases. Neem oil suspensions can be used to control powdery mildew, black spot, downy mildew, rusts, leaf spot, scab, aphids, spider mites, scale whiteflies and more. We recommend applying in the early morning when winds are calm to minimize risk to pollinators in the area. Neem oil products are also available in ready-to-use and mixable formulations.
Fungal infections can often be remedied with liquid Copper Fungicides. These products can be used on edible crops up to the day of harvest and also on many ornamental plants.
Watering and Fertilization
June is a warm month which means that watering when the rains are insufficient is essential. Remember to water at the base of the plant, in the mornings at a rate of ~1 inch/week. Fewer deeper waterings are better than more frequent splashes.
Also, at this point, your plants have likely utilized a good portion of the nutrients in your soil as they’re growing rapidly. Be sure to incorporate regular fertilization in your gardening routine.
Please review our April posting for more details on both watering and fertilization.
Looking Forward to July!
In July, in addition to being hot as a furnace, we can expect to begin harvesting some of our warm season crops. It’s also a chance to start some of our fall garden from seed indoors. We’ll be back to cover our suggestions and highlights in a month.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this guide. We welcome your comments and questions. Happy organic gardening!