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Elinor Teague

Welcome Elinor Teague

Elinor Teague
A note from Elinor Teague to the readers:  After writing gardening columns for the Fresno Bee for 18 years, it is a pleasure to be able to continue to offer readers gardening advice and tips here on the Fresno County Master Gardeners’ website. 

Readers’ questions and comments are always welcome.  Call the Fresno County Master Gardeners helpline (559) 241-7534 with your questions or bring samples into the Master Gardener office at UCCE office at 550 E. Shaw Ave. in Fresno, M-F, 9-12.

August 2020 Master Gardener website column

Summer Hot
It’s still too hot to sow seeds directly into the soil but Central Valley gardeners can buy and start seeds for transplants of cool-season crops in August for planting into the garden in six to eight weeks or in late September and early October.  We can also plant seeds of cucumbers and beans now for a second shot at a good crop of these two favorite summer vegetables. 

Cucumbers and beans drop their flowers when temperatures are above 90 degrees.  Because our Central Valley temperatures rarely fall below 90 degrees from May until September, beans of all types and cucumbers usually stop producing new fruit here in mid-May.  Flowerless cucumber vines can often be nursed through the summer and will start to set flowers again in mid-September.  Cucumber seeds can also be sown into garden beds or started in pots as transplants in late August. The fruit of cucumber varieties requiring fewer ‘days to maturity’ (typically 50 to 55 days) will ripen in late October and early November.  Like other cucurbits (melons, squash), most cucumber varieties are pollinated only by bees so make sure that your flowering bee-friendly plants are well-watered, deadheaded and fertilized to continue to attract bees and other pollinators into your garden.  There are some cucumbers that are parthenocarpic or self-pollinating and seedless.  Parthenocarpic cucurbits are a good bet if your garden does not host a large bee population.

Many bean varieties suffer greatly from heat stress; stressed bean plants attract aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, mites and other pest insects some of which carry diseases including mosaic virus that will kill the plants.  A fall crop of beans can be sown from seed in mid to late August which allows at least 60 days before the first frost in mid to late November knocks down the vines.

Excessive nitrogen will cause bean plants to fail to set pods.  Fertilize beans monthly with a low-nitrogen granular fertilizer such as a 4-6-2 formulation.  Because tomatoes are also sensitive to high levels of nitrogen in the soil and beans fix nitrogen into the soil, avoid planting tomatoes next year where beans were planted this year.  Bush beans set pods for two to three weeks; pole beans have a longer three to four week flower production period.  Sow a second or third crop of bean seeds every two weeks for an extended harvest.

Seeds for vegetables were in short supply this spring as home gardeners began to grow their own crops to supplement their food sources.  Support our remaining local nurseries by shopping there first for seeds and, later in the growing season, for transplants.  We can sow seeds for leafy greens including spinach, arugula, chards and lettuces in early September if those seeds are labelled “slow to bolt”; they’ll be less likely to set flowers and turn bitter in the fall heat.   Root crops such as carrots, beets, radishes are heat-sensitive.  Wait until early October to sow root vegetable seeds.

Start transplants in August of brassica crops such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cabbages for planting into the garden in mid to late October when daytime temperatures will be much cooler. 

Read Elinor's past articles for this year