Whether you planted a full garden of summer veggies or are growing a cover crop, summertime in Los Angeles County is a time for harvesting in the Learning Garden. Here we have some tips for making the best the of the long harvest window as well as keeping your garden healthy and strong through the summer months.
Crops planted in May will start being harvestable in July. During this peak harvest period, it is important to harvest frequently to ensure a larger crop. Per the LA County Cooperative Extension (LACCE), vegetables that “aren’t harvested soon enough will produce a chemical that inhibits further blossoming,” leading to less fruit. LACCE recommends checking plants at least every other day during the summer. High temperatures limit plants’ ability to photosynthesize and discourages the plant to fruit. Only after a few days of cool weather will the plant begin to fruit again. So, even if your plants don’t seem to be fruiting due to high heat, continue to water until the temperature drops a bit.
Summer is also a time when pests and diseases spread. To prevent fungi and other disease in the garden, water in the morning. This will allow the garden to dry out a bit throughout the day, and not be left damp over night when fungi or disease can take hold. Make sure fruiting plants such as tomatoes and eggplants are upright and off the soil to prevent fruits from rotting. If you notice bite marks in plant leaves and can’t find the culprit, check under the leaves or close to the soil in the mornings—insects prefer getting busy when it’s cool out!
For information on aphids and powdery mildew, the pest and disease most common to Los Angeles gardens, refer to our previous blog post.
And as always, water is vital to keeping the summer garden thriving. Gardens should be watered deeply every day to every other day to keep plants producing!
Resources for the summer gardener:
- The Los Angeles Summer Garden Plan: see planting and harvesting information within the garden plan.
- Spring & Summer Gardening Basics for Los Angeles County:
Cover Crop Gardens
California cowpeas, if watered over the summer, can be harvested to eat! For fresh consumption, the young, tender bean pods can be picked as soon as they start to swell, about 50-60 days. For dried cowpeas, wait until pods are at least partially dry, about 70-80 days, and harvest dry peas from the pod to plant next year or to cook into a yummy soup or dish of black eyed peas. Young leaves of the cowpea plant can also be consumed, and are best prepared as a green like spinach or swiss chard.
As a reminder, do not remove the cowpea plants until the fall. Garden educators will provide you with information on how to use this beneficial crop as green manure to improve the quality of your soil for the next growing season!