Bob Beyfuss: A second chance for garden transplants | Things to do
For those of you who have lost some or all of your first garden transplants due to our weird spring weather, the good news is that there is still plenty of time to start all over again.
Last year, at the end of May, there were little or no transplants of vegetables, herbs or annuals available at local garden centers due to the increased demand resulting from the pandemic. This year, I am happy to say that many garden centers have significantly increased their inventory.
Recently, I was able to buy more Brussels sprouts from Story’s nursery and noticed that they still had a large selection of almost every other veg and herb to choose from. You can still manage seed crops like beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, corn, and even summer squash, like zucchini or yellow summer squash, right now. They will all produce a normal crop later this season.
This is actually the optimal time to plant beans, squash, and sweet corn, as the soil temperature reaches 75 degrees or more. You can plant an early corn variety that matures in 65-75 days along with a late variety that matures in 90 days without fear of cross-pollination.
Some varieties of “super sweet” corn are susceptible to cross pollination. I don’t really like the texture of the super sweet corn varieties “enriched with sweet genes” because the kernels are harder, but they are definitely sweet! They will also retain that super sweetness for up to two weeks after harvest. I already see some on sale in supermarkets. I will be expecting more local corn myself!
However, these “super sweet” corn varieties are NOT genetically modified (GMO) varieties. As far as I know, there are no GMO varieties of corn sold for home gardens. Of course, if you live near a farmer who grows field corn, chances are it’s a GM variety unless it’s certified organic. Perhaps 90% of all field corn grown in America today is GMO. No organic certification agency authorizes the planting of GMO seeds. The most common GMO is modified to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. Previously it was known as “RR” (Roundup Ready) corn, but glyphosate is no longer only available as Roundup. The pollen from this corn can “theoretically” travel up to half a mile in a few minutes with a wind of 15 mph, but in reality 99% of the pollen travels much less than 500 feet.
Neighbors who have already planted zucchini will soon be overgrown with them and they will give you as much as you want or more than you want. Plants sown directly now will produce in late July or August, when theirs is dead and you can repay the favor. It doesn’t take long to get your fill of zucchini. Neighbors are notorious for locking their doors, lowering blinds, and hiding when they see you approaching with another bushel of zucchini. I think some gardeners are happy when their zucchini die from squash borers or squash bugs. It takes a lot of courage in gardening to say “ENOUGH” and simply pull up the bushes that produce about 50 pounds of zucchini a day.
On the other hand, some of you who are already anxiously awaiting the first harvest may be disappointed to find that very little fruit actually forms from the first flowers. Squash plants produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant, so they can self-pollinate, but sometimes they only produce male flowers for a while. It is easy to distinguish the male flowers from the female flowers. Female flowers have a small fruit at the bottom of the flower, already formed when the flower opens. Sometimes this fruit begins to grow, only to rot when it is a few inches long. This is because it has not been properly pollinated.
If you see both male and female flowers, you can transfer the yellow pollen from the male flower to the female, using an artist’s brush. Or, you can possibly wait for bees or other pollinators to do it for you. I haven’t seen a honey bee on my property this spring yet, but I do have a lot of bumblebees of several different species. Please avoid spraying any flowering plant, tree, shrub or vegetable with any type of insecticide, organic or chemical, to avoid killing bees or other pollinators.
Finally, if you pinch the first flowers of peppers and tomatoes before they fruit, or even if they have formed fruit, you will get a much higher yield later this season.
Bob Beyfuss lives and gardens in Schoharie County. Email him at email@example.com.