Summer vegetables: What grows best, tips for a healthy garden

WASHINGTON — Bins of asparagus and delicate greens at the farmers market are beginning to thin out. Now that it’s nearly June, it’s time for summer vegetables.

Kathy Jentz, editor and publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, shares some of her favorite things to plant, plus tips for maintaining a healthy summer garden.

Fresh-picked tomatoes, cucumbers and other summer garden vegetables are displayed for sale at a farmers market in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The “cool veg” season is winding down and the soil is finally warm enough to start summer vegetables we’re talking tomatoes, squash, melon, cucumbers and more. “This is a great time to make a little mound, stick a couple of seeds in the middle of that little mound and watch them go and give them space,” said Washington Gardener’s Kathy Jentz, who added that a 3-foot circumference for each cucumber or squash vine allows for the perfect amount of growing room. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
A customer checks the firmness of fresh okra at Doris Berry Produce stand in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, July 15, 2015. A recent survey indicates Mississippi adults are last in eating vegetables but they are not alone. Most U.S. adults still aren't eating nearly enough fruits and vegetables with only 13 percent saying they eat the required amount of fruit each day and only 9 percent eating enough vegetables. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Okra In D.C.’s summer climate, Jentz has had a lot of success with okra. “And that’s one of my favorite things to grow, just because it’s a beautiful plant. It has hibiscus-like blooms on it,” she said. “That one takes off in July, and basically, I just have to keep up with going out there every day and snapping off the okra. If you don’t keep up, all of the sudden you’ll have one okra that’s 18 inches long.” Don’t worry about finding recipes for your harvest. Jentz said one of the best ways to eat okra is raw and in the garden. “You can snap it and eat it right off the plant; it tastes just like a green bean,” she said, adding that pickled okra is another favorite snack. (AP/Rogelio V. Solis) (AP/Rogelio V. Solis)
Fresh green beans, tomatoes, okra and other summer garden vegetables are displayed for sale at a farmers market in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Green Beans  Speaking of green beans, the vegetable does very well in mid-Atlantic summers — just make sure you pick the right variety for your needs. Jentz said if you want to can or pickle a bunch of green beans all at once, go with the bush variety. Those who prefer to harvest green beans in small amounts, but over the course of several weeks, should choose pole beans. “(These are) easy to do in containers, just give them a little trellis or something to wind around,” Jentz said about the vining green beans. One word of caution: Bunnies love to eat green bean vines, so keep the plants protected. “The second they emerge from the soil, they’ll eat them down to soil level,” Jentz said. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite - AP Photos)
Heirloom tomatoes are displayed for sale at a farmers market in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, July 28, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Tomatoes Tomatoes are a summer favorite, and Jentz said if you want to enjoy the fruit before fall, grow a few cherry tomato plants, which are “prolific and [are ready] much earlier.” “So by mid-July you’ll be able to snack on Sun Gold or Sweet 100, and you’ll just have them by the handful,” she said. Heirloom tomatoes tend to come about in September. “The plants really need that cooling off period to send their energy into forming big fruit … and we just don’t cool off at night anymore,” Jentz said. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
This photo taken on July 16, 2010 shows Heirloom tomatoes, rear, which can take more than 100 days to ripen, while the smaller cherry tomatoes, foreground, need only 65 days as shown in New Market, Va. Grow both varieties to stagger the dates of your harvest. (AP Photo/Dean Fosdick)
Tomatoes When it comes to caring for tomato plants, Jentz recommends using fertilizer since the plants are “heavy feeders.” (She uses an organic fish fertilizer and mixes in a capful each time she waters.) She also suggests adding extra calcium to the soil to prevent blossom-end rot. When it comes to watering your tomato plant, be sure to do so at the root level, not from the top. “Tomatoes have a lot of fungal disease issues, and splashing up the water onto the leaves doesn’t help,” she said. Instead, mulch around the root to retain more moisture and to prevent water from splashing up on the leaves. (AP/Dean Fosdick) (AP/Dean Fosdick)
Costa Rican farmer Manuel Munoz harvests fresh cilantro to be sold at the local farmer's market on a small plot of land he rents outside San Jose, Costa Rica, Friday, May 9, 2003.  President Able Pacheco has recently promised increased aid for the country's agricultural sector through low intrest loans as one of the main goals of his presidency. Thousands of small scale farmers protested recently against a possible Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Central America, fearing it will leave them unable to compete against cheaply imported agricultural products. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)
Herbs  Jentz said “fleshy-leaf herbs” (basil, cilantro and other soft-stem herbs) do well in the mid-Atlantic climate “because they like our wet springs and don’t mind clay soil too much and are fine container-grown.” Woody herbs — rosemary and lavender — struggle a bit more. “They want to be on a cliff side in the Mediterranean with terrific drainage and just an occasional splash of water, and that would kind of be the opposite of our climate,” Jentz said. (AP/KENT GILBERT) (AP/KENT GILBERT)
Young basil plants grow at the FarmedHere indoor vertical farm in Bedford Park, Ill., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. The farm, in an old warehouse, has crops that include basil, arugula and microgreens, sold at grocery stores in Chicago and its suburbs. Officials at FarmedHere plan to expand growing space to a massive 150,000 square feet by the end of next year. It is currently has about 20 percent of that growing space now. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)
Herbs If you plan to make a few big batches of pesto this summer, Jentz recommends seeding in new basil plants every few weeks. “Then you could do one row of basil or one pot of basil and then start a second a couple weeks later and a third a couple of weeks later, and that way you could not feel guilty about cutting it all back at once,” she said. (AP/Martha Irvine) (AP/Martha Irvine)
**FILE**  ** FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES **  Fresh parsley is shown in this Oct. 7, 2007 file photo. Use fresh parsley as you would basil. Add it to tuna, salads, tabbouleh, pesto, bruschetta, gravy, or use with meat or potatoes.    (AP Photo/Dean Fosdick, FILE)
Herbs  Gathering herbs? Jentz said basil, cilantro, and other similar plants are pretty forgiving. “So you can cut them back at least by a third, if not by a half, and you can just pinch it out with your finger,” she said. However, some of the woody herbs might not regenerate if you go too far back into the stem, and Jentz advises not to take more than a third of the plant at a time. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Dean Fosdick) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Dean Fosdick)
**FILE**  ** FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES **  A basil plant is seen in this Aug. 1, 2007 file photo. Most of us think of basil as a pesto plant. However, its spicy aromatic flavor also makes a surprisingly delicious tea. Of the more than 400 herbs that Jekka McVicar grows, she says "I consider basil my to be my morning cuppa." Also check out the purple-hued holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), which has an aromatic, sweet taste and is revered in Ayurvedic medicine.    (AP Photo/Larry Crowe, FILE)
Herbs  As far as maintenance goes, there’s no need to fertilize or overwater, but you may have to take precautions if you find you have bugs attracted to your cilantro. Jenz said a simple covering can help keep critters away. “You can just use a sheet of gauze or cheesecloth from the kitchen too, if you find that bugs are really decimating your cilantro,” she said. And if you’re growing mint, make sure you give it its own container. “Because it’s a monster and it will take over,” Jentz said. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/LARRY CROWE)
** FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES ** A variety of herbs are shown in this Aug. 20, 2007 photo.  Preserving some of the bounty of fresh herbs now coming in from the garden will keep your home grown efforts available all year. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)
Herbs Cilantro starts to taper off as summer’s heat intensifies. It will even bolt, flower and set seed. “And of course, when cilantro sets seed, that’s coriander, so you can collect those seeds and use them in the kitchen too, and of course save some seeds to plant this fall for our other shoulder cold season,” Jentz said. Basils and the Mediterranean herbs, on the other hand, thrive in the heat. “As long as we don’t get thunderstorm after thunderstorm after thunderstorm, they’re pretty happy here,” Jentz said. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/LARRY CROWE)
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Fresh-picked tomatoes, cucumbers and other summer garden vegetables are displayed for sale at a farmers market in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
A customer checks the firmness of fresh okra at Doris Berry Produce stand in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, July 15, 2015. A recent survey indicates Mississippi adults are last in eating vegetables but they are not alone. Most U.S. adults still aren't eating nearly enough fruits and vegetables with only 13 percent saying they eat the required amount of fruit each day and only 9 percent eating enough vegetables. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Fresh green beans, tomatoes, okra and other summer garden vegetables are displayed for sale at a farmers market in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Heirloom tomatoes are displayed for sale at a farmers market in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, July 28, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
This photo taken on July 16, 2010 shows Heirloom tomatoes, rear, which can take more than 100 days to ripen, while the smaller cherry tomatoes, foreground, need only 65 days as shown in New Market, Va. Grow both varieties to stagger the dates of your harvest. (AP Photo/Dean Fosdick)
Costa Rican farmer Manuel Munoz harvests fresh cilantro to be sold at the local farmer's market on a small plot of land he rents outside San Jose, Costa Rica, Friday, May 9, 2003.  President Able Pacheco has recently promised increased aid for the country's agricultural sector through low intrest loans as one of the main goals of his presidency. Thousands of small scale farmers protested recently against a possible Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Central America, fearing it will leave them unable to compete against cheaply imported agricultural products. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)
Young basil plants grow at the FarmedHere indoor vertical farm in Bedford Park, Ill., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. The farm, in an old warehouse, has crops that include basil, arugula and microgreens, sold at grocery stores in Chicago and its suburbs. Officials at FarmedHere plan to expand growing space to a massive 150,000 square feet by the end of next year. It is currently has about 20 percent of that growing space now. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)
**FILE**  ** FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES **  Fresh parsley is shown in this Oct. 7, 2007 file photo. Use fresh parsley as you would basil. Add it to tuna, salads, tabbouleh, pesto, bruschetta, gravy, or use with meat or potatoes.    (AP Photo/Dean Fosdick, FILE)
**FILE**  ** FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES **  A basil plant is seen in this Aug. 1, 2007 file photo. Most of us think of basil as a pesto plant. However, its spicy aromatic flavor also makes a surprisingly delicious tea. Of the more than 400 herbs that Jekka McVicar grows, she says "I consider basil my to be my morning cuppa." Also check out the purple-hued holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), which has an aromatic, sweet taste and is revered in Ayurvedic medicine.    (AP Photo/Larry Crowe, FILE)
** FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES ** A variety of herbs are shown in this Aug. 20, 2007 photo.  Preserving some of the bounty of fresh herbs now coming in from the garden will keep your home grown efforts available all year. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)


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