The dog days of summer are approaching, and there is much to do in the garden. Gardening is a great activity to get in daily exercise, clear one’s mind after a long day of work, grow nutritious food and just be at peace in nature. When taking care of your plants and enjoying the outdoors, remember to take care of yourself. Intense summer heat can quickly lead to dehydration. Drink plenty of water while gardening, wear a hat and sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s rays and take small breaks, especially if you have a large garden. Adding a bench or a lawn chair to the garden area will remind you to sit back, relax and take a break from the heat.
Many crops are harvested and planted in June, July and August. In mid-June, plant a summer crop of heat-set tomatoes. Planting heat-set tomatoes is very important. These have been bred to set fruit during high nighttime temperatures, whereas other cultivars will not. If managed correctly, heat-set tomatoes will produce fruit through October. Preferred varieties include Florida 91, Solar set, Sun Master, Phoenix and others. Heat-set tomatoes can be planted again in late July for fall tomato production.
Collard greens, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, okra, southern peas, pumpkins and summer squash can all be direct seeded into the garden during June. Start transplants of eggplants, peppers and sweet potato slips during June as well.
Be sure to properly prepare the soil. The best type of soil allows for roots to develop quickly and spread. Tilling helps break up the soil so nutrients and water can spread throughout the soil. Before you till, check to see if there are utility lines on your property to avoid damage. You may also prepare your garden soil by adding organic material like fruit and vegetable skins, eggs or mulch to provide more nutrients for the soil.