Vegetable crops are mostly doing what they should be doing right now, given our sporadic plantings working around the weather. U of I Extension Master Gardeners have mainly been getting tree, shrub, evergreen and flower questions, and are not hearing about problems in the vegetable garden.
Leafy greens, including Swiss chard, have been doing very well. Harvesting and eating those greens should be a regular part of gardening now. If left until warmer weather, they are going to bolt and go to seed, especially spinach. Other crops, like the chards, can be harvested throughout the summer and into late fall by harvesting the outer leaves, leaving the young ones for later.
Tomatoes and peppers have begun to flower, and some varieties of tomatoes even have half-inch or larger sized “toms” too. If our weather pattern continues, be prepared to pick any nearly ripe tomato before a rain event or you end up with the tomatoes with split skins. Both herbs from seed and those from transplants are holding their own in this weather.
Cucumbers, summer squash and winter squash for some are just looking like they will be “vining” soon. Gardeners who got them out early, and in protected locations and where the soil was warm enough, are likely ahead. As a reminder, vine crops produce male flowers first and towards the interior of the plant, and only when runners develop, will the plant begin to produce female flowers. The male flowers come first and female flowers second, which guarantees plenty of pollen will be available when the insect pollinators start visiting the blooms.
Onions and related crops are doing well out there, having gotten all the rains to keep the bulbs expanding. If we ever get dry weather, be sure to keep the bulbs well-watered. Once they get too dry, bulb expansion quits even if water returns. Eventually you know they are ready for harvest when the tops naturally fall over and turn brown. Leave them in and harvest later as you need them.
Other root crops, like carrots, also need a constant supply of moisture for good growth. A deep, friable soil does not hurt either for those varieties producing beautiful long carrots. A trick for next year is to plant carrots and radishes in the same row. The rapidly developing radishes will mark the row and be harvested long before they interfere with the carrots.
Snap beans should be replanted from seed before the first planting fall off in production. This gives a nice supply we can handle for fresh table use all summer. One harvest tip is to be sure they are picked when you first see the beans swelling in the bean pod for the most tender beans.
• Richard Hentschel is a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Get more garden and yard updates with “This Week in the Garden” on Facebook at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos. The 2017 Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk currently is open from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 630-553-5823 or at email@example.com.