Yes, you can grow summer vegetables during a drought. As long as the soil retains some moisture, plants feel happy – and keep producing.
The key is consistency. A blanket of mulch under veggies helps keep the soil cooler and slows evaporation. Avoid problems by not letting the soil dry out completely.
The sure sign that your veggies aren’t getting enough water: blossom end rot. A brown or black spot forms opposite the stem on unripe tomatoes, eggplant or peppers. It’s a side effect of lack of water in the soil as those crops form and ripen. Those affected veggies are still edible – just cut away the bad spot – and remember to check your soil moisture.
Meanwhile, harvest tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers and eggplants to prompt plants to keep producing.
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If possible, give your plants a deep watering twice a week. Also, give summer vegetables a boost with phosphate-rich fertilizer to help fruiting. Always water before feeding.
Get started on the fall vegetable garden. Plant seeds for beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, head lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas and turnips.
Watch out for caterpillars and hornworms in the vegetable garden; they can strip a plant bare in one day. Hand-pick them off plants in early morning or late afternoon.
When fighting caterpillars, make a game of bug hunting. Let youngsters collect them in a jar. Identify the beneficial butterflies-to-be (and relocate them to somewhere else in the garden where they won’t munch on vegetables), then dispose of the others. To identify the good bugs from the freeloaders, visit www.bugguide.net and www.butterflywebsite.com.