The local cantaloupe harvest has started in our region, and the growing season is closing in on us already!

So how can you make the most of the remaining days of summer? If your cantaloupe are smaller than golf balls, pinch them off. Also, pinch back the growing points on any of the vines over the next couple of weeks. This will give the plant more energy to develop and ripen the fruits that are already on the vine.

Watermelon — same pruning procedure. However, pinch off golf-ball size fruit for small types of melons, (often called ‘icebox’ size) and softball size or less for larger melons such as Crimson Sweet, which grow to 25 pounds.

If you leave all of the fruits on, the plant will attempt to develop and ripen all of the fruits, many of which will never mature and ripen. This diverts valuable nutrients and water away from the fruits that have time to mature. I’ll freely admit, this is great advice that I seldom follow and get done, so I get what I get!

Tomato plants that are indeterminate types will continue to grow more plant material as long as conditions are favorable. Tomatoes ripen quicker than melons, so I wouldn’t pick any fruits off yet. You can, however, pinch back the top of indeterminate types that continue to grow throughout the season.

Winter squash and pumpkins will also benefit from a little pruning on the end of the ever-growing vine. Prune off the vine next to the fruit that still has time to develop and ripen.

Last fall the first frost was very late. Typically you can count on mid-September for our first frost. With one month of veggie growing left, I am wondering how big my jungle of tomato plants will get. It is always amazing in the spring how those 8-inch plants seem so tiny and far apart in the garden … and now I can’t tell where one plant starts and the other ends.

So sweet

Sweet corn is everywhere this time of year as well. How about some sweet corn fun facts!

  • Did you know corn always has an even number of rows, usually about 16?
  • A cob of sweet corn averages 800 kernels and each piece of silk is attached to a kernel of corn.
  • There are only 1-2 salable ears per plant, which helps to explain the price.
  • Some newer varieties of sweetcorn can be around 30% or more sugar.
  • Now some field corn facts:
  • The United States grows 40% of the worlds’ corn.
  • Corn is America’s largest single crop and is 90% of all feed grains used for livestock and poultry.
  • In the days of the settlers, corn was so important it was traded as money.
  • Native Americans planted corn, beans and squash together and it was known as the Three Sisters. The beans benefited the corn as bean plants fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. The corn provides support for the beans to grow on, and the canopy of the squash helps shade the soil, cutting down on weed growth and with soil moisture retention.
  • Corn and its by-products are found in these non-food items: dyes, cosmetics, fireworks, soap, aspirin, shoe polish, detergents, rust preventative, glue and plastics.

Disease, death

Late summer is when diseases in the garden and yard become more evident and often overlooked until in the late stages.

Fungal Rust is a turf issue that can be present in late summer. The first signs may be a rust color on your shoes after walking in the grass. Fungal Rust is a sign of stressed-out turf that needs some help. One way to bring relief is to aerate the soil, as healthy grass is less susceptible to any health issues.

Also, check for a thatch build up, and bag your clippings if possible until the rust issue is gone. Keep your turf at a moderate height — three to four inches.

Mowing too short or scalping your lawn not only allows for better weed growth but stresses the grass plants. Avoid watering at night when it takes longer for the grass to dry off. Moisture is the vehicle for spores! Applying a nitrogen fertilizer in the spring is also helpful. The rust is not harmful to humans or pets and seldom kills the grass.

The Mankato Farmers’ Market is now open for 2019, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Best Buy parking lot in Mankato. The Tuesday market is held 3:30-6 p.m. at Best Buy. The Thursday market will be held 3:30-6 p.m. at the Food Hub in Old Town, 512 N. Riverfront Drive.

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Features Editor, Mankato Free Press Associate Editor, Mankato Magazine

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