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Now is a good time to take stock of what you still need to do to get the best harvest from this gardening season. Photo: <a href="">Nedra</a>, Creative Commons, Some rights reserved
Now is a good time to take stock of what you still need to do to get the best harvest from this gardening season. Photo: Nedra, Creative Commons, Some rights reserved

Looking ahead, and taking stock of the garden

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By the calendar, and by the thermometer, we're entering the last weeks of summer. Gardeners can make some decisions about what vegetables are on the wane, and which ones need more encouragement. Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy has tips on squash and cucumbers, and the tomato-eggplant-pepper family in her weekly conversation with Martha Foley.

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Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Powdery Mildew and Squash:

Powdery mildew is common every year in this region. It appears as a white powder on various plants, such as bee balm and phlox in the flower garden, or on the lilacs. In the vegetable garden it gets on the pumpkins and the cucumbers pretty badly. You can spray for it as a home gardner but it’s difficult, and not very effective. The best thing you can do for powdery mildew is (next year) choose powdery mildew resistant varieties.


Of all of the cucurbits (the squash, melons, pumpkins, cucumbers) cucumbers are the most delicate. They often don’t make it through the whole season. If you have single vines that are wilting down, that could be bacterial wilt, spread by a cucumber beetle. You can’t do anything about that; just cut out that vine and then hope that the other vines aren’t affected. Different varieties have different resistances and different reactions. Usually by having a couple different varieties you can kind of get something that will go through to harvest.

Peppers, Eggplants, Tomatoes:

We’ve had temperatures in the 40s several times this summer, which is harmful to these plants. Basically, if you don’t have fruit on your eggplant right now, you’re not going to. All the warm season cucurbits are very sensitive to the cold. Peppers, tomatoes and eggplants are all related, so they all have similar preferences,and none of them like those cold nights.

Is it time to take the suckers off the tomato plants?

The first week in August is the time to remove the suckers. When you take the suckers off of tomato plants and cut the new flower clusters off the plant, it can then send more energy to the fruit that’s already there. Anything that is a tomato flower is not going to be able to make a fruit, except (possibly) for cherry tomatoes. A slicing tomato is not going to have time to set the fruit and ripen it before things get chilly in September. Tomatoes are a warm season plant. They want it to be no colder than 60 at night and they would love it to be in the 80s during the day.

Temperature and Plants:

Cold temperatures are really hard on the plants, especially warm season crops that need to produce and ripen fruit. It takes a lot of energy in a short period of time. Growers can put low hoops over crops to give them some temperature protection.


All peppers start out green. And then as they become fully ripe they’ll turn the color that they’re meant to turn, whether it’s red, yellow, orange, purple--there’s even like a chocolate-colored pepper--butt all are technically the ripe version of a green pepper. You can eat them when they’re green--common here because of our shorter season--but where people can give them a good head start, or give them some protection with a low cover--they can get that color to build up. Peppers will taste sweeter when they’ve turned color and fully ripened.

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