Bright red ‘Supersweet 100’ tomatoes ripen in pots next to flats of multicolored greens at Quality Gardens in Adams, Butler County.
“There‘s still plenty of time to plant,” said owner Tom McMeekin.
Local garden centers are overflowing with deep green peppers and other plants looking for a home.
Digging with Doug: Stroll through the 'Garden of Sharon'
Jim Elias, who describes himself as a "self-taught garden biker," opens the door to his "Garden of Sharon," maintained in memory of his late girlfriend, Sharon Irvine. (Video by Doug Oster and Pam Panchak; 7/5/2014)
Like many nurseries, Quality Gardens marks down vegetables and other plants in early July.
“We’re at half price right now,” Mr. McMeekin said. “We’ve done all the hard work, and now all you have to do is stick them in the ground and you’ll have a crop practically overnight.“
It might seem strange to be talking about starting or adding to the vegetable garden in the middle of summer. But the heat actually accelerates the growth of plants and seeds.
“Things that would take 10 days, two weeks to come up in the early spring will sprout in three or four days this time of the year,” he said.
Any crop that will reach fruition in 80 days or so can be planted from seed now. Bush beans, beets, carrots, spinach, cucumbers and more will be ready by fall. There are lots of plants to get in the ground, too. Squash, cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes and peppers all benefit from summer planting.
One trick that Mr. McMeekin has for older tomatoes that become leggy is to plant them horizontally. Here’s how:
Remove the lower leaves from the plant and dig a long shallow trench. Gently lay the plant in the trench on its side. Once the stem is covered with soil, it will grow roots. Because they are close to the surface, the new roots can enjoy the warmth of the sun and easily access water and fertilizer.
Certain vegetables do well in containers, even when planted late. Some tomatoes have been bred to grow in small pots such as hanging baskets.
”They produce prolifically, and they are very, very tasty,” Mr. McMeekin said.
He also suggests getting an early cucumber or squash growing in a pot up a trellis. Over the years, he’s learned to add a little topsoil to each pot on top of the planting mix. It improves the flavor of the harvest, he said.
For gardeners who didn’t get started in May, he suggests doing a small garden. It’s easier to weed, water and maintain than a large plot. “You don’t have to have the biggest garden on the block, just the nicest,” he said with a smile.
In Murrysville Karen Tribou and her son, Micah, run Plumline Nursery. They have sold all their tomatoes, but there are plenty of other edibles waiting to be planted.
Mrs. Tribou‘s vegetable garden consists of tomatoes, peppers and her favorite herbs planted in decorative containers.
“Depending on the size of the pot, you can mix up the herbs and have your own kitchen garden,” she said.
Her herb garden contains lemon balm, oregano, thyme and more.
“I can’t stress enough how great herbs are. They look pretty, and they are easy to grow,” she said, adding that she also uses thyme in the landscape as an aromatic ground cover.
She amends the soil in her containers with a slow-release granular fertilizer. “Plants tend to tell you when they are thirsty. When they start wilting, give them lots of water.” If the slow-release product wasn’t added first, she recommends feeding them every week with a liquid fertilizer.
‘Super Chili’ peppers at the nursery are loaded with fruit, some of which are turning bright red. Mrs. Tribou also recommends tomatillos.
“They are fun to grow and super easy,” she said.
Right next to the peppers are blueberry bushes, something else that could find a home in the garden right now.
“They‘re a pretty shrub,” she said. “‘Pink Lemondade’ is an interesting variety. Our employees eat them off the branches all day long.”
Doug Oster: email@example.com or 412-779-5861. He blogs at www.post-gazette.com/gardeningwithdoug.