First of all, I’d like to preface this post by saying a rain shower at the end of June in Texas is a true blessing. Downpours on three occasions at my home this week could be considered a miracle!
What prompted me to create this brief article was a text message from my sister a couple of days ago. She planted her first vegetable garden this season using a raised bed. My sister was in a panic because her newly fruiting sweet peppers were suddenly turning black.
I set her fears at ease regarding her peppers and would like to do the same for you, along with perhaps easing fears about a couple of other common conditions that sometimes go hand in hand with excessive rain.
Below are three conditions that occur in summertime vegetable gardens after an unusually large amount of precipitation. I cannot personally explain these conditions scientifically, but, through experience, can say they are usually not problematic.
A large amount of rain will sometimes cause the fruit of many varieties of peppers to quickly turn black. The extent of black coloration on the peppers may vary. I have found this phenomenon does not seem to change the texture or taste of the peppers when harvested. My theory is excessive rain causes the ripening process to accelerate, as peppers will sometimes naturally deepen to black before ultimately turning red, purple or otherwise. There is a bit of nitrogen released during thunderstorms so this makes sense to me. Of course, there are indeed other issues that may cause peppers to turn black such as fungal diseases and sun scald. To distinguish, if the stems and leaves of your plant remain taut and green and the skin of its fruit remains thick, a tinge of black on peppers after frequent rains is nothing to fret about. Just leave the peppers on the vine until the fruit is mature enough to pick. Your peppers may not be uniformly pretty, but they’ll still have that homegrown flavor!
Yellow Leaves at the Base of Tomato Plants
Excessive amounts of rain can turn leaves at the base of tomato plants yellow. As long as the remainder of your plant is healthy and taut and your fruit isn’t experiencing any rot, a few yellow leaves at its base should not alarm you. However, because yellowing leaves could potentially signify a fungal issue, I suggest you gently remove them from the base of the plant to be on the safe side. Once leaves lose their chlorophyll (green color), they aren’t contributing to the growth of the plant anyway and therefore removing them would allow the plant to focus on its healthier sections. One caveat re yellowing leaves: yellow leaves can also signify the opposite – drought – so if the discoloration is occurring during a long dry spell, be sure to increase water to your tomatoes.
Rapid Growth Spurts of Cucurbits (Cucumbers & Squash)
Even one small rain shower in the summertime can cause cucurbits to explode in growth. This is especially true of yellow squash, zucchini and cucumbers. After a day of rain, you should carefully check the fruit of these plants and harvest quickly so that you do not end up with extra large, pithy vegetables. One day can make a difference between harvesting a huge, tasteless vegetable or a juicy, tender one. Cucumbers, in particular, are quite difficult to see among the large leaves of their vining mother plant. Take a little extra time each day to check these squash-related plants after a rain incident to ensure you capture the fruit during its most delicious stage.
I hope the above puts your mind at ease should you see changes in your vegetable garden after an unexpected, but welcomed, summertime rain shower.
Until next time,