In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2010
Regional Report

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Raise melons onto pots to help them ripen and escape soil pests.

Harvesting Tips

Now that our summer warmth- I can't say we've had any real "heat"- is more consistently with us, harvesting of summer crops continues, although not with great gusto. I'm not overwhelmed with any veggies, but they all keep ripening but by bit, which is more enjoyable than having to deal with a glut.

Harvest fruits and vegetables as early in the day as possible, especially if they are not to be eaten that day or will be refrigerated. Research at the University of California, Davis, has found that the six hours before sunrise is the best time to harvest. It's coolest then, and as the dawn warms up and the sun hits the fruits or vegetables, the pulp temperature begins to rise. Even shading the fruits will not delay the temperature rise for long. Each five degrees lower temperature when the fruit is picked will extend shelf-life for another three days. Tomatoes, in particular, develop more chilling injury- that telltale graininess and mushiness- when they are cooled after being harvested when thoroughly warm. This is why it's important to not refrigerate tomatoes prior to eating them fresh.

Continue to keep vine vegetables (especially beans, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes) picked, whether or not you will use the harvest that day. If many fruits are allowed to become overmature on the plant, production will slow and then cease.

Lift melons off the soil surface get them away from moist soil and crawling pests. Boards, cans or plastic baskets from strawberries or cherry tomatoes serve well. Stop watering plants the week before they're ripe to allow the sweetness to concentrate and to minimize fruit-cracking problems.

As vine crops reach the tops of their trellises, pinch off the lead vine; the side shoots will take over the major growth and food production.
Prune vegetable plants of their leaves that have become ragged from age, disease, or insect attacks. Then water plants well. Healthy new leaves and blossoms will appear, and fruit set will begin again. This is especially effective with beans, cucumbers, and squash.

Early next month, pinch off the last blossoms of eggplants, peppers, melons, squashes and tomatoes. Plant energy will then be spent maturing fruit that's already set, instead of setting more fruit that won't ripen sufficiently before fall cold (yes, it's coming!).


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