Warm-weather tips for planting vegetables

Deciding on planting dates for warm weather veggies is trickier than usual this spring due to strangely unpredictable weather – but sowing runner beans once May starts is normally a safe bet because they withstand colder soil than snap beans.

Runner seed is usually available for pole beans only. They’re a dual purpose crop. You can run them up a trellis as a decorative screen and enjoy their masses of  bright-red flowers. The long, large pods which follow taste good and freeze well.

Snap beans can be planted starting mid May. Unlike runner beans, all snap bean pods are stringless. Like all beans, snap bean plants need rich soil and lots of water. The heirloom Kentucky Wonder is usually available as pole bean seed only, but Blue Lake is available in pole or dwarf. Snap beans can also be found with purple or golden pods. The purple ones turn green when cooked.

It’s useful to mulch all vegetables to hold moisture into the soil during our hot summers. But dwarf snap beans definitely need mulch more than most to avoid mud-splashes on the beans.

Zucchini seed can be sown from mid-May on. Although planting them on a hill of good rich soil is the ideal situation for the most zucchinis possible, lots of gardeners end up with too many that got too big when they weren’t looking.

The crucial points about growing zucchini are: protecting young seedlings from slugs, watering the plants often and checking the crop every day. If (when) you end up with a giant zucchini, pick it anyway and compost it. If you allow it to make seed, your supply of young zucchinis will cease.

Squash seedlings are just as attractive to slugs as zucchinis are. The safest protection of all is copper wraps or copper tape or popping bottomless plastic milk cartons or clear plastic juice containers over the baby plants.

Squash is grown much like zucchini on hills of good soil or compost heaps. The vining plants can also be grown up very sturdy trellises.

An alternative is growing in vegetable gardens guiding the squash runners with wooden pegs to run over beds where vegetables have matured and gone. When the squash plant is removed, garlic or cover crops can go in.

Delicata is one of my favourite squashes. It makes masses of small fruit just big enough for two people and freezes well. But heritage squash is worth trying. It keeps much longer than the newer types and has very rich flavours. It’s not perfect, though. Many are ribbed, have tough skins and are quite heavy. A wonderful crop for people with a cleaver (or a good wood axe) and strong muscles.

Tomatoes are an ideal crop for containers, and production soars if the container is large, at least 40 centimetres across. They need lots of water and good soil laced with compost or tomato food and topped with mulch. They love the warmth of a south or west wall and the shelter of a roof overhang.

The indeterminate types can grow huge and so bushy that tomatoes are hidden and don’t ripen. Head this off at the pass by only letting the first two or three suckers grow. Pinch off the rest.

Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via amarrison@shaw.ca. Include the name of  your city or region.

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