With recent rains, 2009 may be an excellent year for local vegetable gardens.
Because of the increase in soil moisture weeds may be a problem, but I would much rather have weeds and rain than dry weather. It’s not too late to follow a few tips to insure your garden is a success.
• Do not use tobacco products such as cigarettes or cigars when working in the garden. Tomatoes, pepper and eggplant are susceptible to a mosaic virus disease common in tobacco and may be spread by your hands.
• Remove infected leaves from diseased plants as soon as you observe them.
• Dispose of severely diseased plants before they contaminate others.
• Clean up crop refuse as soon as you are finished harvesting.
• Staking tomatoes or planting them in wire cages prevents the fruit from coming in contact with the soil. This also helps prevent fruit rots.
• Place boards or light mulch, such as wheat straw, beneath melons lying on the ground to prevent rotting. Wheat straw around bell peppers and tomatoes will reduce weeds and watering.
• Time plantings in such a way that the majority of your crop will avoid the peak of insect infestations. For example, plant squash as early as possible to avoid borers, which lay eggs in July.
• Keep watermelon and cantaloupe well-watered when growing, but on the dry side when fruit is ripening.
• After your vegetable garden is well established, it is best to water it thoroughly once a week rather than giving it a light watering everyday. That way, a deeper root system is encouraged that will help the plants tolerate dry weather.
Generally, an application of one inch of water to the surface will wet the soil to six or eight inches deep. Remember if it has rained in recent days you may not need to water.
• Avoid side dressing tomatoes, eggplants and peppers with fertilizer until they have set their first fruit.
• In most cases, blossom-end rot on tomatoes, peppers, squash and watermelons may be prevented by maintaining uniform soil moisture by mulching and watering correctly, planting in well-drained soil and not cultivating deeper than one inch within one foot of the plant.
Remember the Dawson County Produce Market starts around late June and will be open early every Wednesday and Saturday. The market is located at the old library building in Dawsonville at 298 Academy Avenue. Additional produce market information will follow.
For additional information on vegetable gardens, contact the Dawson County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.
Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent.