Once frost danger has passed, time for warm-season crops
B ecause vegetable-growing season is almost upon us, I thought it would be helpful to create an easy-to-use planting guide for both new and experienced vegetable gardeners. I've compiled 13 crop profiles, each one offering information on how and when to plant a popular crop, as well as tips for harvesting. In last week's column, I featured six cool-season crops that should be planted sometime over the next few weeks. In today's column, I feature seven warm-season crops that should be planted after the danger of frost has passed in mid- to late May.
When to plant: Direct seed into the garden after the danger of frost has passed.
Spacing requirements: Plant seeds three inches apart and separate rows by 18 inches.
When to harvest: Fresh beans should be harvested when pods swell but before they toughen. Dry beans should stay on the plant until completely dried.
Yield: Approximately one bushel for every 400 square feet.
Special considerations: There are hundreds of different bean varieties. Bush varieties require no support and take up less space, while pole beans require a trellis, teepee or sturdy fencing for support.
When to plant: Sow seeds directly into the garden after the danger of frost has passed or sow seeds indoors four weeks before the lastexpected frost.
Spacing requirements: Bush varieties take up less room and can be spaced 10-12 inches apart. Full vining varieties should be spaced 12-18 inches apart.
When to harvest: Mature approximately 60 days from seed.
Yield: Each vine can yield a dozen or so cucumbers. Keep them harvested so they'll continue to produce.
Special considerations: Cucumbers are susceptible to bacterial wilt, which is transmitted by the cucumber beetle. Choose resistant varieties whenever possible.
When to plant: Transplant seedlings into the garden well after the danger of frost has passed and day temperatures have warmed into the 70s.
Spacing requirements: 18-24 inches apart
When to harvest: Harvest when fruit is spongy to the touch, and it springs back when pressed with the pad of your thumb.
Yield: Depending on the variety, each plant will yield three to six fruits.
Special considerations: For something different, try pink, white or striped varieties.
When to plant: Transplant seedlings outdoors after the danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature has reached 60 degrees.
Spacing requirements: Space pepper plants 12-18 inches apart.
When to harvest: Harvest when fruits have reached the appropriate size and coloration, usually 60-70 days from transplant.
Yield: Bell peppers can yield six or more fruits per plant, while smaller types and hot peppers can yield up to several dozen.
Special considerations: Bud drop may occur when nighttime temperatures are above 80 degrees and days reach 90 degrees. Fruit set will not occur again until the temperatures drop below this critical point.
When to plant: Seed potatoes are cut into sections, each containing two or more eyes, and planted anytime from two weeks before your last frost date until early summer.
Spacing requirements: Place seed potatoes 12 inches apart in furrows about 6 inches deep. Space rows two feet apart.
When to harvest: “New” potatoes (young spuds with tender skin) can be dug any time after the plant has come into flower. Mature potatoes should be dug two weeks after the plants have died completely down.
Yield: Average yield weighs about 10 times the amount planted.
Special considerations: When the plants reach a foot in height, mound soil up against the stems to increase the below-ground stem surface area available for potato production.
When to Plant: Sow seeds indoors under li ghts 6-8 weeks before the last expected spring frost and move outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. Or plant nursery-grown transplants when no more frost is expected and soil has warmed.
Spacing requirements: Space plants 2-3 feet apart and allow 4 feet between rows.
When to harvest: Harvest fruits when they reach full coloration and are slightly spongy to the touch.
Yield: Determinate varieties produce all their fruits at once and all the fruits ripen together. Indeterminate varieties continue to grow and produce fruit until the plant is killed by frost at the end of the season.
Special considerations: Plan to stake and/or cage tomato plants to provide support to the growing vines and developing fruit.
When to plant: Summer squash can be se eded directly into the garden when soil temperatures reach 65 degrees and the danger of frost has passed.
Spacing requirements: Sow seeds 1 inch deep and allow 3-4 feet between plants.
When to harvest: Fruits are generally ready to harvest 50-60 days from seed. Baby zucchini are picked young and are most flavorful. Mature squash can measure 5 or more inches across and 18 inches long.
Yield: Just one plant can make up to a dozen-and-a-half zucchini.
Special considerations: Squash-vine borers can be deterred with a shield of aluminum foil wrapped around the base of the stem, starting early in the season.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.