Gardening : IN THE GARDEN : Vegetable Gardeners: Relax, But Not Too Much : During summer, keep up with watering, harvesting and worm-control chores.

<i> Sidnam has written garden columns and features for The Times since 1975. </i>

Summer presents a time to relax and enjoy your vegetable garden, especially the summer harvest. Red, sun-ripened tomatoes, garden-fresh green beans, shiny green, yellow and red peppers, tender young squash, luscious melons with their marvelous aroma, succulent sweet corn, crisp cucumbers and glossy purple eggplant form a colorful cornucopia of good eating.

But don’t relax too much. Hot weather makes heavy demands on vegetables; they need extra care this time of the year. And if you are going on vacation, it is absolutely essential to have someone take care of your garden while you’re away. Here are some suggestions to help you maintain a healthy garden and a prolonged harvest.

Watering: You must never neglect irrigation chores during the summer months. Vegetables generally have higher water requirements than ornamentals, and you can easily lose vegetable plants that are water-stressed.

It is best to water early in the morning. Overhead watering is to be discouraged as it promotes mildew on many vegetable plants. How much water should you apply? Irrigate your plants deeply at least once a week. The moisture should penetrate at least 6 inches into the soil; tomatoes require much deeper watering.


Frequent Harvesting

Keep in mind that vegetables grown in containers require far more frequent irrigation. Never let the soil dry out completely as you can lose container-grown vegetable plants in a matter of hours if they become water-stressed.

Harvest frequently: Warm-season vegetables mature at an incredibly rapid pace during periods of hot weather and require frequent harvesting. Check summer squash and cucumbers daily, as oversized fruit will limit new production and affect quality.

Beans, in particular, will produce over longer periods if picked often. Don’t allow melons to spoil because they are hiding under foliage--search the plants thoroughly.


Control weeds: Weeds compete with vegetables for moisture and sunshine. The expression “grows like a weed” is doubly true during hot weather. Weeding is a dull, tedious task, but you must force yourself to keep at it on a weekly basis.

You can help lessen drudgery by using mulches around your vegetable plants. Black plastic mulch is especially effective in controlling weed growth.

Worm Control Needed

Control worms: Now is the peak season for tomato and cabbage worms. Everyone who has grown tomatoes knows what the big ugly tomato hornworm looks like and the destruction it can do in a short period of time. Although cabbage and other cool-season crops are not in production now, cabbage worms can cause a lot of damage to other vegetables, particularly beans.


You can easily control both tomato and cabbage worms by spraying every 10 days with a product containing the biological control Bacillus thuringiensis. The products include Dipel, Attack and Thuricide.

These products will not harm warm-blooded animals, birds, bees or other beneficial insects, but are highly effective in destroying harmful caterpillars. Don’t wait until the insects appear--spray routinely every 10 days during the growing season.