After producing an initial big head and then a few side shoots, my broccoli has stopped producing. Shouldn’t I be getting side shoots throughout the rest of the season? And what about cauliflower? Does it produce side shoots?

Not all varieties of broccoli produce side shoots but most of them do. Summer heat will cause the plants to go somewhat dormant and quit producing. It may seem that all is lost but then as the weather cools back down again, the plants start sending out side shoots and can continue up until hard frost. Sometimes my broccoli plants look to be almost dead but then they revive in cooler weather and can even produce quite large side shoots. Be patient and you should be rewarded.

Cauliflower is a different story. Once you get the initial head, you might as well pull the plant. In my 30 years of growing cauliflower, I got a small side shoot only once.

What is the deadline for picking rhubarb and asparagus? And does rhubarb need to be peeled?

Nope, rhubarb does not need to be peeled. You can peel it if you want but that’s usually only necessary with larger stalks that have gotten a bit coarse.

As for the deadline, there is no actual calendar deadline for harvesting. Recommendations for asparagus usually state that you can harvest for about six weeks, but it all depends on the vigor of your plants. If you have a well-established patch which is full of leafy fronds, by all means, go ahead and harvest some of the new spears that come up, taking only enough for one meal at a time. It is essential that you leave plenty of fronds to nourish next season’s harvest.

Around here, they mowed the roadside all the way back in early July, cutting down all the roadside asparagus and the plants just keep coming right back up, year after year. Asparagus is pretty hardy.

As for the rhubarb, I once read an article by a woman who harvested it all season long. She didn’t make huge harvests all at once, even at the beginning of the season, but just continued to take what she needed for immediate use. See http://www.manytracks.com/Garden/Rhubarb.htm. Rhubarb is even hardier than asparagus.

I planted Italian tomatoes this year and plan to make my own tomato sauce. The tomatoes seem to be developing nicely but some of them have dark brown patches on their bottoms. Will they continue to mature and be edible? What is wrong?

This sounds like blossom end rot. These dark sunken spots on your gorgeous tomatoes are heartbreaking, especially since they seem to occur on the first tomatoes of the season. The affected fruits will continue to ripen but little if any of the meat will be edible. The rot continues inside the tomato so pluck those off.

While a shortage of calcium is the prime cause of blossom end rot, most occurrences are due to inconsistent soil moisture. Calcium can’t be properly absorbed without adequate water. In July as tomatoes are beginning to develop, the summer heat can quickly deplete soil moisture. This year we have had so much rain that it is easy to forget that the roots can dry out rather quickly. Keep the ground moist and the plants should be fine. A thick layer of mulch will help maintain even moisture levels. Tomatoes can have surprisingly shallow roots so water and mulch a fairly large perimeter around the base of the plant.

The variety Early Resilience F1 promises lots of round Roma-style tomatoes with strong blossom end rot resistance.

Beverly Carney can be reached at cultivating country@gmail.com.