Nicole Hackett, Garden Girl

Plant now to enjoy best of summer veggies

Plant now to enjoy best of summer veggies
If you crave tasty homemade tomato sauce or maybe mouthwatering roasted squash later this year, start planting now.

Nicole Hackett, Garden GirlCONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Mar. 20, 2022) — It’s vegetable and herb planting time.

Tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers can safely be installed now that the evening temperatures have stabilized and are on the rise.

Tomatoes are the most sought-after veggie installation. When advising folks on what types of tomatoes to install, we ask a lot of questions about what they want to do with their tomatoes. Are you looking for the heavy, fleshy varieties? Are you interested in juicy varieties for sandwiches? Do you make sauces, or like to pick and eat straight from the plant?

Early Girl is the most popular selection. It’s early ripening, successful and very tasty. Early Girl gives huge crops of 4-6-ounce tomatoes. They only take 55-65 days after flower sets to ripen, making them some of the earliest tomatoes you’ll enjoy.

San Marzano Roma style tomatoes are for those who love to make tomato sauces. They have meaty flesh, fewer seeds and thinner skin than other selections. They are pear-shaped and bright red when ripe. Plants grow 36 inches tall and wide, and fruit should begin to ripen after 75 days.

Blossom rot

All Roma style tomatoes are susceptible to blossom end rot so you need to work agricultural lime into the soil prior to planting. The lime will increase the calcium and magnesium in the soil, which will curb the blackening at the bottoms of your tomatoes.

For tomato lovers interested in heirloom varieties, Cherokee Purple has been rewarding and productive. The bi-color, purplish-red fruit is sweet and fleshy. Brandywine tomatoes are also a good producer that ripen 90 days after flower. Sun Gold tomatoes are a favorite cherry style tomato. Kellogg’s Breakfast is a gigantic, orange tomato with beefsteak flavors.

People have a passion for pepper plants, too, because they are extremely successful in both beds and containers. Many boast of great yields that last into the early days of fall. Hot pepper favorites are the jalapeno, habanero and Fresno chilis. Sweet favorites include Italian Marconi Red, shishito and banana. Standard pepper installs are the bell pepper family in all its many colors, including the ancho poblano, which is great grilled or stuffed, and the Anaheim, which lends its mild flavor to rice and chicken dishes.

Peppers do not take up that much room in your raised bed, with most reaching 18-24 inches tall and wide. They are also easy to grow in containers.


There’s more to squash than zucchini. Soft-skinned favorites are summer or scallop squash members, yellow straight and crook necks. Hard-shelled squash lasts for months in the pantry and is simple to grow with proper irrigation. Acorn ‘Table Queen,’ Delicata and Butternut squash are impressive looking in your garden, productive yielders and flavorful.

Cucumbers are mysterious in the garden. Some years they are productive and other years they are a bust. However, we keep trying. Lemon and Armenian cucumbers are the two most popular selections. The lemon is a great personal-sized cucumber, and the fruit is mild. The Armenian cucumber is massive. Peel this selection and remove the seeds, and it’s perfect for cucumber salads. Diva is a productive selection of Persian-style cucumbers that is easy to grab and munch.

Install vegetable plants into well-amended, rich, replenished soil. Once planted, work a granular, organic tomato/veggie fertilizer into the soil. Make sure your fertilizer has calcium to prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes and peppers. Use granular fertilizer every six weeks.

Between granular feedings, apply water-soluble fertilizer depending on the plants’ stage. Give young plants something with more nitrogen, while flowering or fruiting plants should have something with a bloom focus.

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with ­questions or comments by email at

Nicole Hackett
Nicole Hackett

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with ­questions or comments by email at