These late-spring gardening duties will guarantee contemporary summer time produce


Ariel Whitely-Noll
| Especially for the capital journal

In May, most of the vegetable gardens started all of the summer planting, often with spring fruits still producing and growing. This transition period of the year offers the vegetable gardener many tasks to ensure a summer full of fresh produce and healthy plants.

Sweet corn

Sweet corn is a delicious addition to the summer table, but freshly picked corn on the cob taste best when consumed within a few days of being picked. To extend the time you can enjoy the harvest, postpone planting so that the resulting harvest time is also staggered. Since corn is heavily influenced by the weather, it is best to plant part of your crop and wait for the plants to appear rather than stepping off a calendar. When new plants are about an inch tall, plant the next group. At harvest time, you have corn ready to eat on a regular basis so you always eat the freshest, sweetest corn!

Cabbage worms

In late spring we often see feeding damage from cabbage worms. The imported cabbage worm, the cabbage grinder and the diamond-backed moth are all grouped together in the “cabbage worm” category and can attack broccoli, cauliflower and other members of this family of plants. All three types of worms, which are actually caterpillars, are light green and slightly fuzzy. They may sound like easy to spot, but they usually blend in with the host plant, which makes scouting a challenge. The holes that are left behind when you feed them are much easier to spot.

As soon as you start to see damage from the cabbage worm, the inspection should begin. BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) and Spinosad (Monterey Garden Insect Spray, Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew) are effective organic products that can be used to treat cabbage worms. Make sure you spray BT on a cloudy day or afternoon as sunlight can deactivate the product. The product should also be applied to the undersides of the leaves, as the caterpillars often feed in these areas.

There are inorganic products that can also be used but should not be used first as they also kill beneficial insects that can help control cabbage worm. These products are carbaryl (sevin dust), malathion and methoxychlor.

Cucumbers and melons

It’s time to plant cucumbers and melons! Both plants will spread out over a large area, so plan their expansion with vertical or horizontal space. Trellises are a good option, but make sure you use a sturdy material like cattle panels as the fruit can be extremely heavy. As soon as new vines start to grow, you need to train them on the trellis to get them up and running.


Irish potatoes were planted back in March, but now it’s time to hill them up. When mounding your potatoes add small amounts of soil so that the row you planted forms a mound. As potatoes grow, they develop their tubers (the part we eat) over the piece that has been planted.

By slowing down the addition of soil to the rows, the plant will stay in the sunlight and eventually create an 8 to 10 inch mound on which the new tubers can develop. For every three to four inches of plant growth, add another three to four inches of soil to your row so that the plant always protrudes just above the row. A burst of fertilizer now also helps the plants grow faster before the weather gets hot.


In the cool spring weeks, tomato plants can turn a purple color and just sit in the ground and not grow at all. When the weather warms up, the plants turn dark green and begin to grow quickly. A starter fertilizer will help them grow, but most of the time they need some time to adapt to nature after spending the spring in greenhouses and window sills. Smaller tomato plants usually adapt faster than the larger ones. If you haven’t planted any plants yet, you can choose a small plant.

Ariel Whitely-Noll is the horticultural agent for Shawnee County Research and Extension. She can be reached at