Home vegetable growing is back with a vengeance.

Every supplier of seeds and plants is reporting a surge of interest in growing vegies, but that means there’s also a corresponding number of new gardeners who are still on their ‘L’ plates when it comes to vegie gardening.

So here are some tried and true summer vegetable suggestions from old-time gardeners. They are taken from several books, including the New ABC of Australian Vegetable Growing (1943), The Home Vegetable Garden 1950 and, of course, Yates Garden Guide which has been around since 1895.

  • When cucumbers send out runners that don’t produce any fruit, it helps to slice off their ends with a sharp spade. This will encourage branching, and subsequent fruiting.
  • You can tell if a watermelon, pictured, is ripe by turning it over and checking the underside. If the skin has turned from white to a darker colour, it’s a good indication of ripeness. Ripe fruit will also echo with a hollow sound when rapped with the knuckles.
  • Rockmelons are notoriously slow to begin setting fruit early in the season so you can help by hand-pollinating.
  • Plant pumpkins or squash underneath corn plants. They’ll keep the soil cooler.
  • Paper collars placed around the bases of tomatoes will protect young plants from cut worms, the annoying grubs that chomp through the plants at ground level. This helps with snail control, too.
  • January is the most important month for preparing soil for winter vegies.
  • Pick beans regularly to prolong the harvest period. If you let the pods develop mature seeds they’ll stop producing new pods. Hot weather at flowering time can damage pollen (especially on the cool climate varieties like Scarlet Runner).
  • Mites (minute sap suckers) damage beans in summer by discolouring the leaves and causing them to fall prematurely. Treat with a non-toxic insecticidal soap (such as Yates Natrasoap).
  • Test to see if sweet corn is ready to pick by pressing the kernel with a thumbnail. If the liquid inside is milky and the kernel is soft, it’s ready to eat.
  • Trench watering is a technique that was finessed by our forebears, who were adept at saving water. Broad, shallow trenches work best. They can be filled with water, which will then soak into the root area. Trenches are also ideal for collecting rainwater. Best results are obtained when rows (and trenches) are constructed across the slope.
  • The best time to plant or transplant seedlings is on a dull showery day or in the late afternoon or early evening. If the weather is very hot it can be helpful to rig up some temporary shade while the plants adjust. Old umbrellas are good for this job.

© The West Australian

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