March was an exciting month in the UH Campus Community Garden! March signals the start of spring, so we were finally able to plant some of our summer crops. We planted banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and okra. It helps to plant these crops early in the spring, so they can get established and strong before the heat sets in. We are still harvesting some of our winter crops like lettuce and greens and have so far donated about 21 pounds of these leafy crops this month!
Last year, we learned that sunflowers serve as companion plants to cucumbers and tomatoes, so we also planted several packages of sunflower seeds. We plant our cucumbers on a trellis in order to maximize our crop yield, but this can result in our cucumbers getting sunburned in the Texas heat. The sunflowers will minimize the risk of sunburn by shading the vegetables.
Last summer, we had issues with stink bugs harming our tomatoes, but we discovered that stink bugs were extremely attracted to sunflowers and thus left the tomatoes alone. In addition to protecting our cucumbers and tomatoes from pests and excess sunlight, the sunflowers will attract pollinators to our garden to increase our productivity. Sunflowers take six to eight weeks to reach their maximum height and another two to three weeks for the blooms to open, so if you plan on growing them this year, now is the time to plant!