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Skaggs: Plant now for second crop

POSTED: July 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.

It's midsummer in Georgia, but it could be spring all over again for vegetables. We generally plant summer vegetable crops in April and wind them up about this time of year, but we can grow two summer crops in Georgia.

While the growing season starts in spring, it doesn't have to end until the first frost of fall. This usually happens around mid-October in Northeast Georgia.

This means we can plant crops like tomatoes, pepper, squash, sweet corn, southern peas, snap beans, cantaloupe and eggplant all over again. Cooler-season fall crops can be planted a little later.

Some folks may plant at intervals from spring through midsummer, which is fine. Others may carry out harvests on tomatoes, squash and the like throughout the summer. However, rather than trying to keep the same plants producing indefinitely, you often get a better harvest by making a fresh start.

Tomatoes, pepper and eggplant should be transplanted just as you did in the spring. For crops like squash, cantaloupe and cucumbers, however, seeding them directly into the ground will work just as well if not better. Snap beans and southern peas are generally directly seeded.

Don't plant the same crop back in the same place. Rotate your space so you can reduce potential disease problems. If you planted squash there this spring, plant peppers there for the second crop.

Rotate families of crops. Plant peppers, tomatoes or eggplant where you had squash, cucumbers or cantaloupe. But don't plant cucumbers on the same ground where you had squash.

Getting a crop established will be more of a challenge than it was in the spring. Because of the intense heat, you'll need to keep the garden watered enough to reduce heat and drought stress.

From late July until frost will be roughly 100 days, so crops that mature in three months or less will usually make it before frost, barring an early fall.

However, the longer you wait, the longer it will take your second crop to mature as days get shorter and the weather cools off (eventually). So start these crops by mid-August. Some fast-maturing crops like snap beans, cucumbers and squash can still produce if planted by early September.

Be diligent on the watering, and don't let the summer heat cheat you out of the rewards of your second harvest.

Remember, irrigation of personal food gardens is exempt from all watering restrictions, as is use of reclaimed water (e.g. rain water, air conditioner condensation, bath water or dishwater).

For more information, check out UGA Extension's Vegetable Garden Calendar.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County Extension Coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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