A trip to the nursery will reveal a good supply of warm season veggies and herb starts pumped up and ready to plant. Many varieties of tomato, basil, pepper, eggplant and melon are popular summer crops. For inland gardens, where the days are typically sunny and well above 70 degrees, it is a good time to plant. Cool coastal gardens offer a bit of a challenge when growing warm-season vegetables. If the weather is too cool and foggy, starts will just sit and refuse to grow. Fortunately, there are a few tricks to warm things up a bit.
Wait: It is tempting to plant when seeds and starts are available at the nursery these days. However, waiting until the end of May or first of June assures better rooting and quicker growth. If the soil is too cold, and the nights as well, seeds will not sprout and transplants will languish.
Warm the soil: Warm soil is key to good, deep rooting. Biodegradable black plastic mulch works wonders. Covering crops with row cover will help warm things up, too.
Protect from wind: When the coastal north winds that frequently kick up during summer afternoons chill heat-loving vegetables, growth and production slows. If your vegetable garden is in a wind-prone area, consider growing in low grow tunnels covered with row cover or greenhouse plastic. Just a few degrees make a big difference.
Feed: Getting warm-season vegetables get off to a quick start assures success. Mix in a 4-4-4 all-purpose natural fertilizer to the root zone at planting time. Then, top dress with the same. Within four to six weeks, top dress with 4-4-4 again.
Water: Summer coastal winds, though chilly, will quickly dry out a vegetable patch. Water deeply at least twice a week in wind prone areas.
Terry Kramer is the site manager for the Humboldt Botanical Garden and a trained horticulturist and journalist. She has been writing a garden column for the Times-Standard since 1982. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.