The Plenty of July: Harvesting for Your Plant’s Health 

When your plants start putting out ripe fruit, it’s time to harvest. Don’t let your harvest sit on the vine too long, or you’ll end up creating a number of problems in your garden. Leaving your crops in the garden too long will encourage pests, wildlife, and disease to take over for you. If you harvest frequently and thoughtfully though, you can actually extend the life of your plants and increase your yields! 

Plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini and squash, all respond to harvesting by making an effort to produce more viable seeds, by way of fruit. For tomatoes, harvest them when they have mostly turned color. If you’re dealing with pests, you can harvest your tomatoes slightly early and let them ripen in a paper bag on your counter.  

One thing to consider is that you should also try to pick the entire fruit. For example, clip the stem above the pepper off while it’s still connected to the pepper. Clip the green stem that’s attached to your tomato. If you leave this plant material attached to the fruit, it will ensure that the plant knows it’s being harvested, and it will actually make your fruit last longer on the shelf.  

Did you know that most peppers start out green, and then ripen to shades of red, yellow, orange, purple, white, brown, and more?!  

Closing the Buffet to Save the Garden 

Thinking about what lives in your garden and when is important to your success in growing. When you are dealing with an overwhelming pest problem, often one of the best ways to manage the problem is to remove the food source of these critters. Some insects can feed on many different types of plants, but many of the most common garden pests feed solely on a specific species or family of plants.  

When it comes to our high-production gardens in the Food for All network, we suggest an early to mid July harvesting-out all brassica family plants (kale, collard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and many more) from the garden. These crops are susceptible to infestations of the harlequin bug, which can decimate those crops once established.  

Aim to remove this type of plant two to three weeks before planting your fall crops. This will close the window when harlequin bugs often get established, and insure your garden great success in getting a new round of brassica plants established. Understanding the life cycles and dynamics of pest species will not only attune you to the world around you, but also allow you to better enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Stopped in the act: Noticing signs of the Squash Borer 

Early July is usually when people start to notice their squash and zucchini plants wilting in the mid-day summer. When those large leaves get droopy, it’s a tell-tale sign that you may have a squash borer living in your midst. As soon as you notice this, check the stem at the base of your plant. If there are small holes, and what looks to be sawdust like particles around the base, you can be sure you have a borer larva in the stem of your plant. The adult squash borer lays eggs at the base of your plants, and when those eggs hatch, little grubs burrow into the base of the stem, eating their way through the plant tissues. This prevents the flow of water through the stem, causing your leaves to wilt. If these bugs go unchecked, they will kill your squash plant.  

If you have BT (bacillius thuringiensis) or Spinosad, you can spray or pour these compounds into the holes left behind by the borers. This should take care of your problem within a few days. If you notice that the leaves are still wilting, and the plants look like they’re still struggling you can do an operation.  

Take a sharp knife and create an incision along the stem, through the damaged areas. If you gently pry this incision open, you will likely find a small grub inside the stem, feasting on the innards of you plant. When you remove this critter make sure to destroy it by squishing it, or dropping it in a cup of soapy water. After the grub has been removed, you can gently tie a string around the stem to close the cut, or let it heal naturally, and your plant should recover in no time!  

Photo credit: https://www.almanac.com/pest/squash-vine-borer