Father’s Day, graduation ceremonies, vacations, fun in the water, and backyard barbecues are right around the corner. But before you plant your summer veggies, take a few moments to prepare for the latter part of the year. That warmer and drier part of summer is the time when the benefits of spring planning really pay off.

Lillian's Yellow Heirloom tomato - Illustration by Helen KrayenhoffWe like to remind gardeners of the importance of not only selecting the right varieties, but of proper spacing and irrigating. Far and away the most popular homegrown produce are tomatoes, and if you are like most urban gardeners, you’ll be tempted to try your luck with a few plants grown in pots. No problem with this, just make sure that you choose DETERMINATE varieties, otherwise your plants will outgrow their containers by July. And, when planting larger varieties in the ground, take time to rig up a support system before your plants are 6 feet tall.

Both tomatoes and cucurbits (squashes, cucumbers, melons) need ample CALCIUM for proper fruit development, and now is the best time to make sure you’re covered. Every year around July, we see a steady stream of customers holding deformed fruits with a soft, brownish indentation on the flower end: Blossom End Rot (BER). You can add calcium to the soil now, or use a foliar spray later, but neither of these is as important as keeping the soil steadily moist but not wet. BER is most common early in the season as plants are rapidly growing, and it also seems to be more of a problem on paste tomato varieties.

Things you can do now to minimize BER are to set up an automatic watering system to avoid fluctuations in soil moisture, mulch the soil surface, and avoid high nitrogen fertilizers. Later in the summer it is OK to allow your plants to dry-out a little, which may even enhance their flavor, but for now give them some extra TLC in order to avoid unnecessary stress.