If your vegetable plants look healthy but are providing little or no produce for your kitchen table, you — the gardener — are likely not the culprit.
Low or no production in vegetables more often than not is associated with weather, selection of variety that may not pollinate in this area or pests, such as thrips. Occasionally, the cause is because of excesses or lack of fertility and/or water.
Wind is the key to pollination of tomatoes. While we can’t control the weather, there are things one can do to help. Gently shake or vibrate plants with a broom or gently thump the flowers with your fingers every day or two.
Tomatoes’ ideal temperatures for producing fruit range from 75-85 degrees daytime and below 75 degrees for nighttime. Thus, the blossoms on most traditionally tomato varieties usually fail to set fruit in July and August. Plant breeders have developed some heat-tolerant varieties that should develop fruit when hot temperatures are into the 90s. These varieties are: Heatwave, Spitfire, Sunmaster II, Sun Leaper, Suncherry Extra Sweet, Sungella, Sungold, Sunny Goliath, Sunray, Sunsugar, Surefire, etc.
Peppers, like tomatoes, are sensitive to temperature and will drop their blooms when daytime temperatures get much above 90 degrees. Hot peppers, such as jalapenos, withstand hot weather fairly well and can often produce fruit through the summer in our area.
While excessive fertility can cause beans to bloom profusely but fail to set any pods, high temperature combined with low humidity can also be the cause.
Squash, cucumbers and melons rely on bees and insects for pollination, etc.
Blooms fail to set fruit on tomato, squash, cucumber and eggplants for several reasons, including:
• Wrong variety for this area
• Hot daytime temperatures above 85-92 degrees, with nighttime temperatures above 75 degrees
• Insects (thrips)
• Deficiency of minor elements: iron, zinc and manganese
• Lack of honeybees and other insects to pollinate the female flowers
• Low soil moisture
• Low soil fertility
If gardeners know the best planting time and more adapted varieties for each vegetable crop, they could make wiser choices and expect better production. The date that a vegetable crop is started will be a major factor toward success of production every season in this area.
These are the windows of time and preferred varieties to start a crop of the following vegetables. With adequate fertility, mulch, moisture and average climate, they should develop good produce.
• Squash, summer; now through June 15: Butterbar, Butterstick, Dixie, Goldie, Green Whopper II, Multipik, Straight Neck, Senator Zucchini, Sweet Gourmet Zucchini
• Squash, winter; now through June 15: Table Ace, Acorn, Buttercup, Butternut, Sweet Mama
• Cucumber; now through June 15: Slicers: Diva, Fanfare, Suyo, Sweet Slice, Sweet Success; pickling: Calypso, Carolina, Eureka, Liberty, National
• Eggplant; now through June 10: American: Black Beauty, Black Bell, Florida Market, Green Goddess, Hensel, Marbled, Orlando, Zebra
• Eggplant; now through June 10: Oriental: Antigua, Bambino, Gretel, Ichibon, Machiaw, Ping Tung Long, Tycoon
• Melons; now through June 15: Cantaloupe: Ambrosia, Caravelle, Carole, Magnum-45, Sugar Queen, Super 45, Early Star, Tekos, Honey Dew: Honey Girl, Honey Star, Sweet Delight, TAM Dew
• Watermelon, standard: Allsweet, Charleston Gray, Crimson Sweet, Black Diamond, Jubilee II, Legacy, Mickylee, Sugar Baby, Tendergold; hybrid: Bush Baby II, Diablo, Mini-Jubilee, Sunny’s Pride, Royal Sweet, Sangria, Big Stripe
• Watermelon, seedless: Crimson Jewel, Crimson Trio, King of Hearts, Millionaire, Orange Crisp, Sunny, Sweet Slice
• Watermelon, yellow: Tendersweet, Summer Gold, Willhite’s Tendergold
• Okra; now through June 15: Burgundy, Clemson Spineless, Emerald, Louisiana Green Velvet, Millianaire, Perkin’s Long Pod, Tokyo Gokkadu, Zeebest
• Peas, Southern; now through June 15: Black Eye #5; Purple Hull; TX Pink Eye; Cream: Champion, Cream-40; Crowder: MS Silver, Zipper
• Pepper; now through June 15, Hot: Anaheim, Assam, Big Jim, Garden Salsa, Habanero/O, TAM Jalapeno/R, Mariachi, Picante, Ole’, Serrano/R, Super Chili/R, Super Cayenne II/R
• Pepper; now through June 15, Sweet: Bell Boy/Gn, Big Bertha/Gn, Blushing Beauty/IYOR, Capistrano/Gn, Carmen, Chinese Giant/R, Chocolate, Golden Bell, Golden Summer, Gypsy/YOR, Ivory, Karma/R, Laparie/R, Lilac, Orange Bell, Ori/Y, Red Beauty, Red Marconi, Sweet Banana, Valencia/O
• Pumpkin; now through June 15: Large: Atlantic Giant, Big Max, Connecticut Field; Medium: Aspen, Funny Face, Happy Jack, Jack O’ Lantern; Small: Small Sugar, Spookie; Mini: Baby Bear, Jack-Be-Little, Munchkin