In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Corn smut -- huitlacoche -- is a delicacy in Southwestern cuisine
More Planting For More Food
Weeks of perfect transplanting weather and a rainy spring has fostered great development of plants in the garden, establishing them well so they'll produce great crops. Some guidelines for further planting this month:
Choose transplants that aren't rootbound.
Gently loosen the rootballs of transplants before planting them so roots can quickly reach out into surrounding soil to establish themselves. Confined roots can't spread out fast enough, in hot weather to absorb enough moisture and nutrients to survive summer heat, so they wilt frequently or die.
Transplant seedlings close enough so that the leaves of mature plants will shade the soil between the plants. This will keep plant roots cooler, and the sun doesn't bake the soil. There's less evaporation, so you'll have to water less.
When replanting areas where you've just grown vegetables, follow heavy-feeding leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage with nitrogen-replenishing legumes such as peas, beans, and soybeans, or plant a less-demanding root crop.
Manure can be applied as mulch directly onto globe artichokes, asparagus, cabbages and other cole crops, corn, cucumbers, melons, and squashes. But keep it away from beans, beets, carrots, lettuces, peas, sweet and white potatoes, and tomatoes, or it will encourage too much foliage at the expense of the edible parts we want.
Don't fertilize the soil again before succession plantings of beans or carrots, since excess nitrogen results in forked and hairy carrots and lush bean plants with few beans.
Do add some compost before setting out spinach, kale, and lettuce, since you do want lush foliage in these crops.
For greater yields, feed eggplants, peppers, squashes, and tomatoes when they blossom. Assure a plentiful set of peppers and tomatoes by increasing the magnesium available to the plants: dissolve one tablespoon of Epsom salts in one quart of warm water, and spray or sprinkle the solution on the leaves and blossoms. Pour the remainder in a ring around the plant at the dripline. Repeat this several times during the blossoming period.
Fill small planting area gaps with heat-tolerant lettuce or spinach. Keep seed packets of these in the refrigerator for seeds that will germinate quickly in hot weather.
Some vegetables are more efficient than others, producing more food for the amount of garden space they use and the time they require from you. Carrots, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, summer squash, and tomatoes produce the most. Yields of cucumbers, squashes, and tomatoes can be even greater when they are grown on trellises, saving soil space for growing more crops.
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