For those of you who lost some, or all of your first garden transplants due to our weird spring weather, the good news is that there is still plenty of time to start all over again. Last year, by the end of May, there were few to no vegetable, herb or annual transplants available at local garden centers due to COVID increased demand. This year I am happy to say that many garden centers have dramatically increased their inventory. Yesterday, I was able to buy more Brussel’s sprouts at Story’s nursery and I noticed that they still had a large selection of almost all other vegetables and herbs to choose from.
You can still direct seed crops like beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, corn and even summer squash, such as zucchini or yellow summer squash, right now. They will all produce a normal harvest later this season. This is actually the optimal time to plant beans, squash and sweet corn, as the soil temperature reaches 75 degrees, or warmer. You can plant an early corn variety that matures in 65 to 75 days at the same time as a late variety that matures in 90 days without fear of cross pollination. Some of the “super sweet” corn varieties are sensitive to cross pollination. I am not that fond of the texture of “sugary gene enhanced” super sweet corn varieties, since the kernels are tougher, but they sure are sweet! They also will retain that super sweetness for up to two weeks after harvest. I see some of these already for sale in supermarkets. I will wait for more local corn myself!
These “super sweet” corn varieties are NOT genetically modified, (GMO) varieties however. As far as I know, there are zero, GMO corn varieties sold for home gardens. Of course, if you happen to live near a farmer growing field corn, the odds are very good that it IS a GMO variety, unless he or she is certified organic. Perhaps 90% of all the field corn grown in America today is GMO. No organic certification agency allows GMO seed to be planted. The most common GMO, is modified to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. This used to be known as “RR” (Round Up Ready) corn, but glyphosate is no longer only available as Round Up. The pollen from this corn can “theoretically” travel as much as ½ mile in a few minutes with a 15 mph wind, but in reality, 99% of the pollen travels much less than 500 feet.
Neighbors who have already planted zucchini will soon be overrun with them and they will be giving you as many as you want, or more than you want. Plants direct seeded now will be producing in late July or August, when theirs has died and you can repay the favor. It does not take all that long to become satiated with zucchini. Neighbors have been known to lock their doors, pull down the shades and hide when they see you approaching with yet another bushel of zucchini. I think some gardeners are happy when their zucchini dies due to squash vine borers or squash bugs. It takes great gardening courage to say “ENOUGH” and just yank out the bushes that are producing about 50 pounds of zucchini a day.
On the other hand, some of you who are already anxiously awaiting the first harvest, may be disappointed to see that very few fruit actually, are formed from the early flowers. Squash plants produce separate male and female blossoms on the same plant, so they can self-pollinate, but sometimes they produce only male flowers for a period of time. It is easy to distinguish male from female flowers. Female flowers have a tiny fruit on the bottom of the blossom, already formed when the flower opens. Sometimes this fruit will begin to grow, only to rot when a few inches long. This is because it was not properly pollinated. If you see both male and female flowers, you can transfer the yellow pollen from the male flower to the female, using an artist paint brush. Or, you can wait until the bees or other pollinators do it for you, eventually.
I have yet to see a honey bee on my property this spring, but I have plenty of bumble bees of several different species. Please avoid spraying any flowering plant, tree, shrub or vegetable with any sort of insecticide, organic or chemical, to avoid killing bees or other pollinators. Finally, If you pinch off the first flowers of peppers and tomatoes, before they set fruit, or even if they have formed fruit, you will get a much higher yield later this season.
Reach Bob Beyfuss at email@example.com.