Ben: Kale, peppers, potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic are keeping us busy. Garlic is the one we can't get enough of - packaged garlic from the stores doesn't even compete with the flavour of fresh, home grown. You can also add garlic to just about any recipe.
Mark: Why is it important to pick 'fruiting' crops like peppers and tomatoes as they ripen?
Ben: For yield! Fruiting requires a lot of energy, and as long as the produce is on the plant it is drawing on a lot of the plant's resources.
Mark: What is the biggest challenge to growing extraordinary veggies this time of year?
Ben: This year, we've had a wet summer where we are, so the most important thing for now is getting some heat for those hot crops to encourage fruiting and managing the insects and disease that are thriving in these conditions. Powdery mildew is taking hold on some squash and cucumber, which will be treated with Bordo copper spray and by watering from below, to avoid getting the leaves wet.
Mark: My pears always mature before I get to eat them. Any advice?
Ben: Make sure you're keeping an eye on them! While it might not feel like it, things happen fast in the garden! Especially when we get a spell of warm weather - keep an eye on fruiting plants as they start to explode with their bounty.
Mark: If it gets dry enough that I have to water my tomatoes, what is the best way to do that?
Ben: Go right to the base of the plant and water by hand, to avoid dampening the foliage. Wet leaves are a host for early blight, which is something you want to avoid as much as possible.
Mark: Should I fertilize my veggies this time of year?
Ben: Absolutely! They are busy putting out fruit and getting hungry - this is a perfect time of year to apply an organic granular fertilizer.
Mark: There are signs for when certain veggies are 'ready' - what are some of the most common?
Ben: Onions are the drama queens - they will fall over when they are ready for harvest. Potatoes have a similar performance, and will collapse after blooming in a final, exasperated act before harvest. For carrots and beets, you will see the "shoulders" of the vegetable itself starting to appear above the surface of the soil, and peppers are ready quite simply when they look ready. It's okay to pick tomatoes a little before their peak, as they can ripen off the plant somewhat which will increase their shelf life.
Mark: Garlic, the most 'counter intuitive' veggie of all. Well, it is really a herb. I will dig mine next week. Then what?
Ben: For garlic to last through the winter until your next crop, dry them for 10 days in a cool, dry place such as a potting shed or garage before you bring them into the kitchen.
Mark: And finally Ben, what does your list of 'things to do in the food garden' look like right now?
Ben: Knock down the weeds and remove 'spent plants'. Spent plants are those which are done fruiting or never really 'made it'. Getting them out of the way will make more space available for the healthier plants to produce and thrive, as well as improving airflow which can help reduce the risk of fungal diseases setting in (especially when it's wet). And of course - harvest! Now is the time to start enjoying the fruits of your labour.