A fairly common gardening issue each summer is vegetables getting sunscald. With our bright summer days, if your vegetable plants don’t have enough foliage, the fruit can get a sunburn. This is common with tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, but can happen with other vegetables. A discussion with a colleague brought up research on shading vegetables with shade cloth. It’s common for locally sold shade cloth to provide about 75 percent shade, but for shading vegetables it’s best to use shade cloth in the 30 percent shade range. This allows plenty of light so growth isn’t inhibited while shading just enough that vegetables without sufficient foliage cover don’t get burned.
It happens that I love shade cloth and use it quite extensively around the house and so I bought some to shade my tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. I must say I am quite happy with the result, which was no leaf scorch or sunburn on the vegetables, and as an added benefit the ground stayed a bit cooler and the soil surface moisture evaporation was slower. Next year I plan to cover my raised beds knowing it will easily pay for itself with improved plant growth.
A common pest many bemoan is the squash bug. Due to their lack of desire to deal with this insect, many people don’t grow squash and this is one insect that really annoys me since I love squash. The best way to control it is to regularly scout or check under the leaves and around the stems. This initially should be done daily once the squash get of some size, and it does take time but really works if you stay at it. That said, many feel it’s hard to find the insects. A process that helps is to lightly spray or pour a little water around the base of the plant and along the stem.
Apparently, squash bugs don’t like to get wet and they will climb up the stems. At that point, it’s pretty easy to grab them and dispose of them. If you don’t like the smell of squashed squash bugs, consider keeping a mason jar with a little water and vegetable oil in it around the plants and drop the insects in it, and at the end of the season get rid of them. I used this approach this year and had a much more extended squash growing season with limited eggs and squash bug babies.
A last pointer concerns spider mites. They love hot and dry weather, especially dusty hot and dry weather that makes them love Grand County. While spider mites can get on all types of ornamental plants, in the vegetable garden they seem to love tomatoes. The leaves become speckled and look a bit odd when numbers are high. If you spray your plants with water every few days, that alone can make all the difference. You do need to start doing this by early to mid-June and keep it up, so it is a bit late for this year. I have seen yards that had this as a reoccurring issue, but when gardeners started doing this, they no longer had them as a problem.
So keep up the good gardening and enjoy the rest of the season.
Previous articles can be found on The Times-Independent website. If you have a topic you would like to know more about call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Johnson is an associate professor at Utah State University Extension in Grand County.