Pickings from fruiting and pod-producing vegetables such as beans and tomatoes are coming thick and fast right now, but as summer wanes both the quantity of what you pick and how often you are able to pick it will begin to tail off. So encouraging these productive staples to carry on cropping for longer is the aim of the game. Here, then, are some top tips to keep those pickings coming...
1. Keep on Picking to Keep Plants Producing
The first rule with any fruit or pod-producing vegetable is to keep up with the picking. Leave those courgettes to swell into marrows and you’ll inadvertently slow the initiation of new flowers and fruits. Beans will also stop producing more pods if the existing ones are left to ripen to biological maturity – by forming seeds, the plants will have completed their lifecycle, and will have no reason to continue flowering.
Check plants every couple of days and remove fruits and pods before they get too large or overripe. And if you’re heading away from home for more than a week, encourage your neighbours to harvest them – they’ll get free food and you’ll come home to continued pickings!
2. Keep Watering for Best Fruit Quality
All vegetables need water, but fruit and pod-producing vegetables are particularly thirsty. Water-stressed plants quickly slow down. Aim to water regularly for consistent soil moisture, which will translate into plenty of well-formed fruits and pods, free of problems such as blossom end rot or cracking. It will also avoid the annoyance of fruits splitting, which happens when they have dried out too much then receive a sudden deluge of water.
3. Continue Feeding Plants
Don’t scrimp on feeding your crops. Continue watering a suitable organic liquid fertiliser on to hungry fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and aubergine. Feeding plants costs money but does mean more fruits of better quality, so the investment is well worth it. Or why not make your own liquid feed from fast-growing, nutrient-rich plants such as comfrey?
4. Top Up Mulches for A Nutrient Boost
Mulches of organic material applied earlier in the season may now be looking a little scant. Top up mulches with new material. Straw that’s free of seeds is a great mulch for many fruit-bearing crops, including, of course strawberries. It’s naturally full of potassium, which fruit and pod-bearing plants love. Grass clippings are a ready-to-hand source of instant mulch too, and will help to keep plant roots cool and moist in hot, dry weather.
5. Prune to Let the Sunshine In
Strong growth over the summer months can mean that taller plants cast shade where they didn’t before, compromising crops that need plenty of direct sunlight. Consider cutting back overhanging foliage and act promptly to remove spent crops so that those remaining enjoy plenty of sunshine and good air circulation.
In cooler climates, now may be the time to wash off or remove any greenhouse shading, to trap more of the late summer sunshine.
6. Keep Plants Warm to Extend the Harvest into Autumn
Later on in the season stragglers can be encouraged to keep producing for a week or two longer by adding the thermal comfort of a row cover such as horticultural fleece or plastic. Remove covers during the day to enable pollination, then replace it in the evening to provide a little warmth and protection against lower temperatures.
None of these techniques are exactly rocket science, but by applying each you’ll almost certainly be able to eke out more from your fruiting and pod-producing vegetables – and others for that matter. How do you keep your pickings coming? You can let us know by dropping us a comment below.