July: tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini

Summer vegetables love July in the Planty Garden. They start growing like crazy. 

Here are a few tips for your tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchinis so you can get even more out of your summer harvest:

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Summer vegetables getting bigger and bigger
In July, summer vegetables — like zucchinis, tomatoes, and cucumbers — have a major growth spurt. They love the sun and heat.

Now's a great time to check in on them and make sure they're strong and healthy.

Add extra nutrients

Zucchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes, and pumpkins have one thing in common: they need a lot of nutrients. They are big plants after all. And they stay in the same spot for a long time.

So give their soil mix a boost by adding some extra plant food.

Here's how:
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Sprinkle extra MM-Plantfood at the foot of your plant
Carefully loosen up the soil mix at the foot of the plant with a garden claw - like our MM-harkje - or a fork. Then toss in 2 tablespoons of nutrients. Add water. Gently mix it in. That's it.

Now let's check in on each of the summer vegetables:

Tomatoes

Tall tomatoes - like the Sweety variety in our climber seed pack - produce a lot of side shoots. These grow between leaves and the main stem. These side shoots are called suckers. No wonder: they drain energy from the rest of the plant. So, it's best to remove them as soon as possible.

Small suckers are easy to snap off by hand:
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Breaking off little suckers is a snap
Use scissors if they're too big:
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Big suckers? Use scissors
Check regularly for new suckers and remove them right away. Otherwise, they'll grow into huge side branches before you know it. 

Check the places you pruned before. Sometimes suckers grow back in the same spot. 

And while you're at it, cut back any ugly-looking leaves:
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A pile of suckers and yellowed leaves
In dry weather, water your plants a little every day. Regular and even watering does the trick. And be careful: tomatoes that are (almost) ripe quickly burst open if they absorb a lot of water all at once.

Fun fact: You don't need to remove suckers from low-growing tomatoes like the yellomato. You want them to get nice and bushy.

When can you harvest tomatoes?

Usually in August, if you've started early. Pick our cherry tomatoes when they're red and round.

The yellomatoes are best harvested when they've just turned yellow and feel nice and firm. Yum.

Cucumbers

Right around now, I get a lot of questions about cucumber side shoots. 

A cucumber plant quickly becomes a tangle of stems, leaves, and side shoots with flowers and cucumbers growing all over.
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The glorious Iznik Cucumber- full of cucumbers
Cucumber side shoots aren't like tomato suckers. So, don't remove them right away. They can actually help you get a bigger harvest.

Let them grow for a while, wait for the first flowers and cucumbers to appear, and then cut the rest of the side shoot off.

Here, visual aides should help explain it:
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See the side shoot forming on the right?
That little side shoot will just keep growing and growing. 

When it gets to be 10-20 cm long, it'll have a few flowers and tiny cucumber fruits. So, first, locate the first two cucumbers. Then remove the rest of the side shoot:
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Leave two cucumber fruits on the side shoot and cut off the rest
When do you harvest cucumbers?
 
Right away. Our Iznik snack cucumbers are delicious when they're 12-15 cm long. Smaller than that is good too, but any bigger and they won't taste their absolute best.
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Harvesting right on time
Traditional cucumbers, like the Marketmore, grow to be much bigger. Harvest those when they're about 20 cm long. 

Just don't let your cucumbers hang too long. That slows the plant's growth and most cucumber varieties get bitter with age. 

Zucchini

Our climbing zucchini plants get HUGE.

At first, it looks just like an ordinary zucchini. That's because it takes a while for the stem to grow. But once it gets going, it won't stop 😉

Once it reaches the trellis, be sure to guide it upward. If you wait too long, it'll be too late to coax it up the trellis and the stem may snap.

So, keep an eye on your plant and help it grow tall. You can attach it to the trellis using string or plant ties. Add a bamboo stick for extra support.
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Bamboo can help guide your young plant up the trellis

You'll see: in the next month or two, your plant might be taller than you are.

Big leaves getting in your way or putting your other plants in the shade? Cut them off. Just be sure to leave a good number of healthy leaves. That's how your zucchini gets a lot of its nutrients.

When do you harvest zucchini?

When they're still pretty small — about 20 cm long. The fruits of the zucchini plant grow quickly — just like cucumbers. So, one week it'll be puny. The next, you get this:
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Oh yeah, time to harvest 😉

A little goes a long way

Do you need to spend a lot of time caring for summer vegetables? Not at all. Just do it during your daily round of watering. Or when you go into your vegetable garden to harvest something.

Because that's what we do it for, right? The mighty harvest 🙂

By giving your plants a little extra attention now, you'll harvest longer, and harvest more.

Enjoy!
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