Tomatoes, beans and squash like a sunny location and warm soil, at least 180C, in order to germinate properly. Plant or transplant around the third week of May, depending on the forecast. Be prepared to cover if frost is predicted!
These veggies like a rich soil with a layer of compost worked into the top 6” of the soil bed. Be prepared to water weekly, depending on rain. One method of getting water to the roots of tomatoes or squash is to insert cans with holes in the bottom close to the plant, filling the can with water as needed.
Apply 2 inches of mulch to reduce surface evaporation. The best mulch is semi-decomposed shredded leaves.
Observe your plants frequently and act if foliage is attacked by slugs, aphids, blight, or rust. Pick slugs, use organic pesticides on aphids, and remove foliage infected by blight, rust, or mildew, and place in your landfill garbage.
Do not apply nitrogen fertilizer on tomatoes or beans; they will grow lots of leaves and few pods or tomatoes.
The tomato is a favourite. Grow Roma for sauces, larger ones such as beefsteak or Manitoba for slicing or salads, or a cherry type for popping in your mouth.
Tomatoes produce ripe fruit in 60 to 80 days, depending on the variety. Check the seed packet or a garden market staff for the number of days to maturity.
There are two types of tomatoes: indeterminate or vine, and determinate or bush. The vine type must be staked or grown up a rope. Use a tomato cage on the bush varieties. Determinate plants produce most of their fruit all at once. Vine types will grow up and up and produce until frost occurs.
When transplanting tomato seedlings, dig a hole deep enough to set the seedlings down to the first set of leaves. The tomato stalk hairs develop roots, developing a more vigorous fruit bearing plant. Add pulverized egg shells and a handful of bone meal to the hole and mix well to protect the tender rootlets. Egg shell calcium helps to prevent blossom rot and promote vigorous growth. Water the hole before placing the seedlings, then tamp firmly around the roots and stem.
The most common types of beans grown by urban gardeners are pole and bush. Pole beans need at least seven-foot vertical supports. Bush beans need no supports. Beneficial bacteria that live in nodules on the bean roots provide nitrogen to the plants and soil. When removing the plants, cut them off at the soil surface to maximize the amount of nitrogen left in the soil.
Plant in rows 12 inches apart, spacing each seed approximately 6 inches apart. Keep the soil surface moist until the seeds germinate.
Most of your beans will be eaten pod and seed. Harvest when the seeds in the pods are small. Frequent harvesting, even daily, results in the plants producing more bean pods. If you want dried beans, let them grow and die on the plant.
There are three types of squash: summer, winter, and bush. Zucchini is a summer type. Pumpkin, acorn, spaghetti, or butternut are winter and vine types. Zucchini and Golden Nugget are bush types.
Squash can use a shot of nitrogen when starting to grow and when they start to blossom. Use organic blood meal.
Plant in mounds, spaced 4 feet apart. Plant winter squash early and cover during a cold spell.
Male flowers appear first, the females a week or two later. Female flowers have a swelling at the base of the flower. You can help fertilize a female flower by transferring pollen from a male flower with a small paint brush.
Pick zucchini when small, six inches or less, when the seeds are soft and palatable. Eat them quickly. Larger zucchinis keep longer and may also be eaten after removing the centre pulp and seeds from the middle.
Charles Schroder gardens in the Edmonton area.