Sunday, June 24, 2018

How to grow cucumbers-in pots or in the garden

Cucumber vines on trellis in the August garden
Sunday, June 24,  2018

Cucumbers are a tropical plant and love heat.  They should be started indoors 4 weeks prior to the last frost (mid March in our Zone 6) and transplanted outside after all danger of frost has passed.  They can also be directly sown into the garden in the summer.  You can plant into July and have fruits from August to frost.

Cucumbers have been around for thousands of years and originally from India.  The cucumber arrived in Europe at least 2000 years ago.  The Romans loved them.  Christopher Columbus brought the cucumber with him to Haiti in the 1400‘s and was likely aboard the first ships in Virginia in the 1600’s.

Cucumbers are a good source of potassium, antioxidants like beta carotene, lutein, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K.  It also has a diuretic properties.  Cucumber nutritional info  Cucumbers have a sweet, refreshing taste. 

Cucumbers should be planted in full sun with rich soil and consistent moisture.  Cucumbers can be grown in pots or in the garden bed.   You can let them run or train them to grow on a trellis.  If growing in soil, plant 4 seeds in hills 3-4‘ apart and thin to the strongest two.  I plant mine around a trellis to use the vertical space.  

If growing green varieties, harvest before the fruits turn yellow.  Early fruits have less seeds.  Frequent harvesting also encourages the vine to grow more fruits.  Follow the seed packet instructions for harvesting of other colors of cucumbers.

If growing in pots, look for patio, dwarf, bush, or compact in the description.  Some small varieties include Lemon, Suyo, Salad Bush, Fanfare, Sweet Success.  One vine of Salad Bush was all we needed to have enough cucumbers to make pickles for the year for my husband and for salads for me.  I also love adding cukes to my smoothies.  
Grow your own smoothie and juice garden
Decorative container gardening for edibles
Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix

I started my seedlings in coir pods at the end of May this year.  I planted them out into the garden a couple of weeks ago.   I planted seeds for a yellow that can weigh up to 5 pounds (Jaune Dickfleishige), a red (Hmong Red), and 1 white cucumber into the garden around a trellis.  The white is a small fruit which is great for a single salad or smoothie.  My vines started flowering last week so it won't be long before I am harvesting cucumbers.

Fertilize regularly and keep evenly moist.  Do not let soil completely dry out.  This will result in bitter or hollow fruits.  Each plant produces both male and female flowers.  The first flowers will likely be males.  Don’t be surprised or worried when the first flowers fall off without fruiting.  When the female flowers appear, you will get baby fruits.
Summer garden tips

Don't forget to save seeds from your best producer for next year's garden!
Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Saturday, June 23, 2018

It is not too late to start a garden in June!

June garden
Saturday, June 23, 2018

You can start a garden at any time in spring, summer or fall.  If you are deciding to start your garden in the summer, there are a few techniques to use to figure out what to plant and help your plants survive and flourish. 

Step 1-I think the best way is to make a list of what you like to eat, then see which of your favorites are best to start right now in your garden!  This is the time of year of the heat lovers like eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers.  There is no time like the present to get moving on your gardening dreams.
Planning for a four season garden  Time to plant summer veggies!  Start a kitchen herb garden!  
Summer garden veggies
Step 2-Now that you have your list, take a look at your garden, patio, deck, porch, front yard to see how much space you have that gets 6 hours of sun a day.  There are so many dwarf varieties of every kind of vegetable to grow in pots or small spaces that you should not be put off thinking you don’t have enough space!
Get the most from your space-plant intensively!  
How to decide what to plant for small spaces? 
Companion planting tips    Edible shade gardens shine in summer

Step 3-Buy your supplies for your garden bed or pot.  Pots are easy-just buy some organic potting soil and the decorative pot.  Most potting soils come with fertilizer already mixed in.   You do not want to use garden soil as it is too dense for pots.  Make sure you buy the right size pot for the vegetable you are growing.
Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer  Re-energize your potting soil!
Decorative container gardening for edibles  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds  

Step 4-Buy your plants.  I prefer to buy plants that are raised without chemicals so I look for an organic nursery to see if they have what I want.  The brand carried at many big box stores started carrying organic this year.  My next stop is my local nursery or big box hardware store.  Choose the plants that are green and look sturdy.  If they already have blooms, be sure to remove them.  You want all the energy of your plants going into good roots initially.  The heat lovers like tomatoes, beans, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and eggplant will also sprout from seed easily this time of year.  I have pepper and tomato seeds started in the deck in a pot right now.  They sprout in just a few days.  I transplanted the sprouts into larger pots to give them room to grow sturdy.  I'll transplant them into the garden when they are around 5" tall.
Newly started seeds
Step 5-Plant!  Water each plant well before planting.  The best time to plant is before a rain or cloudy days.  Gives the plants a little time to get their roots jump started.  I add plant starter and fertilizer to each hole, mix with the soil and then place the plant.  Water again after planting.

For potted veggie or herbs, fill the pot with organic potting soil, water to get the potting soil settled, plant the veggie, and water again.  You can top with mulch to keep lengthen the time between waterings.  I also plant flowers in my pots to add color and attract beneficial insects.
Decorative container gardening for edibles

If planting in your flower bed or garden, the best thing to do is a soil test (you can buy a kit or take it to your local co-op extension office).  If this just seems too much trouble, buy an organic balanced fertilizer and compost.  Pull back your existing mulch, apply a 2” thick layer of compost, top with the fertilizer (following the label’s directions), plant your new veggie or herb, readjust your mulch back around your plants, and water.
The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

I like to put a handful of worm castings into each hole with the new plant along with a balanced organic fertilizer like Espoma.  Worm castings have lots of beneficial microbes in them that helps the plants absorb nutrients from the soil.

Newly planted pepper plant started from seed

Step 6-Monitor and water.  Keep an eye on your plants.  They may look sad the first week if it is really hot when they first go into the ground.  Consistent water is the key for success.  Like a lawn or flowers, the best time to water is in the mornings.  When you water your flowers, water your veggies and herbs.

One watch out on watering, many summer crops are susceptible to leaf fungus, like cucumbers, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes.  Be sure to water at the base of the plant and not the leaves.

Here are a couple of garden ideas:

If you have a picky eater, try the kid’s pizza garden.  If they grow it, they want to eat it!
Tomatoes-any you can’t eat, you can easily freeze for winter pizzas
Basil, oregano, chives, garlic for seasoning
Onions-you can grow Egyptian walking onions in a pot or ground and they are perennials to boot
Kale, arugula, and sprouting broccoli for a little green in your pizza toppings (easy to freeze for later)
Green peppers, eggplant, zucchini for summer pizzas (maybe some hot peppers for the adults)
For those that are real adventuresome, you can get mushroom kits to grow mushrooms.

Or if you want a culinary garden, here is an Italian/Sicilian garden that you can grow in as little as a 6’ x 6’ space:
Herbs (1 each)-thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and flat leaf parsley
3 basil plants (for pesto and seasoning)
2 tomatoes-1 Roma type for sauces and 1 slicer type for salads
2 sweet pepper plants
1 zucchini
1 eggplant
8 red onions (you can substitute Egyptian walking onions for a summer garden)
8 garlic plants (planted in the fall for summer harvest)
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sown

It is great fun, a time saver, and nutritious to grow your own food in your yard!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Top 10 Tomato Myths (And Some Truths)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Tomatoes are by far the most popular vegetable to grow in the United States. There is nothing like a tomato ripe from the vine! Many people started gardening by way of the tomato. They were the very first vegetable we grew. Many gardeners have the techniques they swear by to get the biggest and best tomatoes. Here are some tales that are not necessarily true.

Tomato Growing Myths (and Some Truths)
  1. Tomatoes love as much sun as possible! This depends on where you live. In very hot climates, 6-8 hours is plenty. Your tomatoes can actually scald in intense sun and heat. For hot climates, plant your tomatoes in a north to south row so each side gets some shade each day.
  2. You should prune your tomatoes for the best harvests. This again depends on your climate. If you live in a hot climate with intense sun and heat, you want to keep the leaves to help protect the tomatoes from sun scald. If you live in a damp area, you want to prune the tomato plant to allow good air circulation and sunlight.
  3. Tomatoes love fertilizer! Actually, you only want to fertilize when you plant and again when the plant flowers. Too much nitrogen encourages leaf growth. Some that really sock the fertilizer to the plant end up with a giant green plant with no tomatoes. To help with flowering, fruiting and blossom end rot, be sure to get a fertilizer with plenty of phosphorous and calcium or one specifically for tomatoes.
  4. Tomatoes can’t be grown in pots. Tomatoes can be grown in pots, but not the big tomato plants or you have to grow them in a huge container like a whiskey barrel. Look for dwarf, pot, or patio types. You will need to put in a large pot and be prepared to water often.
  5. Tomatoes need to be watered a lot. Actually, if you water your tomatoes a lot, you can end up with fungal diseases and mushy fruit. The trick with tomatoes is to keep their moisture even. Letting the ground crack and then drowning the plant will result in cracked fruit. In the hot times of the summer with no rain, you will likely need to water at least weekly. Be sure to not water the leaves, but the root.
  6. When you see leaves dropping, something is wrong. This is a natural progression of the plant. As fruits begin to form, there is less energy for the leaves and some leaves will turn yellow and die.
  7. A spindly tomato transplant is an unhealthy one. Actually the nodes on the stems can easily be transformed into roots. I take my transplants and remove the bottom leaves and plant on its side with only the top 4 leaves above ground.  Roots will grown all along the stem buried in the soil.  This gives the plant a good root system.
  8. You can only transplant in early summer. Actually, if your tomato plants are starting to fade in mid summer, you can put out new transplants that will give you fruit until the first frost.
  9. When you make sauce, the skins and seeds have to be removed. I put whole tomatoes into the food processor. Some say that the skin and seeds can impart a bitter flavor. With the many types of tomatoes I have raised, this has never been a problem for me.
  10. Only paste tomatoes can be used for sauce. I use all my tomatoes for sauce. The best for sauce for me are the most prolific tomato plants. These have been smaller tomatoes and Cherokee Purple for us. I would ask your neighbors which ones give the most fruit if you are looking to put up by freezing or canning.    

The last tip: Tomatoes are susceptible to fungal diseases. Do try to not plant your tomatoes in the same spot for four years. Fungal diseases stay in the soil and take a while to die out. The same goes for a pot. A way around it for a pot is to use new soil and disinfect the pot each year.  Also, do not water the foliage as this will encourage fungal diseases.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Heirloom Sicilian kitchen garden

My mom and cousin in Termini, Sicily

Saturday, June 12, 2018

I became interested in what would be grown in an heirloom Sicilian garden after my mom, cousin and sister’s trip to Sicily this summer.  My grandpa immigrated as a child from Termini, Sicily.  He loved cooking with his mom in the kitchen and kept the Sicilian cooking traditions alive in the family.  Although we are no longer blessed with him in person, we have many memories and recipes we keep alive.

Sicily is a unique blend of many cultures having been conquered by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish, and finally unified with Italy in 1860 and was given the status of an autonomous region of Italy in 1946.

Greek influences include olives, broad beans, and pistachios.  From the Arabs came apricots, citrus, sweet melons, pine nuts, aromatic herbs like saffron, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, raisins, and sugar.  They also introduced tuna fishing.  The Spanish introduced New World natives like chocolate, corn, tomatoes, and peppers.  Being an island, fresh fish is a intricate part of the food, particularly anchovies and sardines.

Even with the diverse background of many cultures having made Sicily home through the ages, Sicilian cuisine preparation is simple with just a few ingredients, letting the flavors of each shine through.  Fresh vegetables are used prominently.

An organic Italian kitchen garden is called l’orto biologico.  For the heirloom varieties, I did a lot of searching on the internet and Sicilian cookbooks.  It was hard to find!  

As with all Italian gardens, Mediterranean herbs play a big role.  Thyme, Salina and Pantelleria capers, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, basil, wild fennel, garlic, sage, bay, geranium, lemon verbena, lavender, parsley (Gigante D’Italia, Castalogno) and mint, particularly spearmint, have featured prominently in Sicilian gardens for centuries.  Ispica sesame seeds are also a local heirloom.

Heirloom fruits:  
Apples-Cipudda, Cirino, and Cola
Bitter Orange
Wild black cherry (Prunus cerasus)
Fig trees (can get hardy figs that can withstand our Midwest winters)
Grapes-Pantelleria Zibibbo
Lemons-Messina Interdonato and Verdello
Mandarin-Ciaculli late-winter
Melons-Alcamo Purceddu and Paceco Cartucciaro
Orange-Ribera Vanilla
Peaches-Bivona, late-harvest Leonforte, and Etna Tabacchiera
White plum-Monreale
Prickly pear
Ragusa Carrubo fruit 
Strawberries-Maletto, Sciacca, and Ribera strawberries
My Sicilian grandpa cooking for a family holiday

Sicilians are big on collecting wild greens which you can also grow in your garden.  These include arugula, aspargus, calamint, plantain, chickweed, Good King Henry, borage, wild mustards (mazzareddi, cavolicelli di vigna, senapa), purslane, dandelions, salad burnet, bitter cress (sparacelli amari), sorrel, shepherds purce, wild chicory, chard (salachi), mallow and wood sorrel (agriduci), and amaranth. 

The nuts that are popular in Sicily include Noto almonds (you can get Midwest hardy almond trees) and Bronte pistachios (there are varieties hardy down to Zone 4).

Veggies typically grown in a Sicilian kitchen garden:
Artichokes and Cardoons-Violetta (hardy to Zone 6 per Territorial Seed Co.) and Monfi Spiny
Broad beans-Sweet Lorane, Windsor, Modica Cottoia, Leonforte
Green Beans-Romano, Roma (bush and pole) like Burro d’Ingegnoli, Garrafal Oro, Trionfo Violetta
Shelling beans-Borletto, Cannelloni types, Polizzi Badda, Scicli Cosaruciaru 
Broccoli- Broccoli di Rape (cime di rape), Haloan Green Sprouting, Calabrese, De Coco, Purple Sprouting, Purple broccoli
Carrots-parsnips used to be the standard
Cauliflower-Sicilian violet
Chard-Argentocta, White stem
Chicories-Radicchio, Endive, Red Treviso, Grumolo, including dandelions
Eggplant-Violetta Lunga, Rosa Bianca, White Italian, Listada de Gandia.  A Sicilian favorite is Tunisian eggplant with its thin skin.
Fennel-Romy, Bronze
Garlic-Nubia Red, Chet’s Italian, White Italian, Early Red Italian, Italian Late
Greens-Broccoli di rape, Rosolini (similar to collard greens), endives
Kale-Lucinato (grown in Tuscany for centuries)
Kohlrabi-Aci trunzu
Lentils-Ustica and Villalba
Lettuce-Romaine, Butterhead, Lolla Rossa, Lollo Biondo, Lolla Rossa, Resisto
Olive-Minuta (not hardy for Midwest winters)
Onions-Cippolini, Italian Red Torpedo, Breme Red, Cipudda Portannisa, Giarratana (large, sweet onion).  Sicily is in a short day onion area.
Peppers-Spicy varieties like Cayenne, De Arbol, Rosso di Sicilia a Mazzetti, and Piccante Calabrese (cherry type).  Sweet varieties like Marconi Giallo, Rosso Dolce Appendere, Corno di Toro (shaped like a bull horn)
Spinach-many varieties, Italian Summer
Squash-Zuchetta or Zucchino Rampicante, Trombocino, Zucchini
Tomatoes-First tomatoes to reach Sicily were yellow and round.  This is where the nickname pomodori (“golden apples”) comes from.  Sicilian Saucer,  Ciliegino cherry tomato, Inciardi (oxheart type) Licatese medium size, Pachino, Bilici Valley Siccagno.  Prinicipe Borghese and Belmonte are favorites in Sicily from the Italian mainland.
Wheat-Timilia durum

For seasoning, you can try Trapani sea salt or a sheep's cheese.  Sheep are much better suited to the island than cows.  A commonly used cheese in Sicily that is not hard to find in the US is pecorino.  Slow Food Ark of Taste Sicilian cheese include Piacentino, Ragusano, Modicana, Madonic Provola, Belice Vastedda, Maiorchino, Nebrodi Provola, Ricotta Moscia, or Sicilian Canestrato.

Types in italic are listed in Slow Food Ark of Taste and/or Presidio for being rare and heirloom to Sicily.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

Worry free flower, fruit and vegetable garden bed
Sunday, June 10, 2018

Want a worry free, weed free, organic matter rich vegetable garden bed?  Wow!  That just sounds fabulous and a little too good to be true................  Actually, it is doable.  How?  Mulch!

Mulch is an amazing thing.  Think about how nature works on its own.  Every fall, trees shed their leaves, blanketing the ground.  The leaves break down over the winter, providing nutrients back into the soil in time for spring when the trees need to power back up again.  And these trees grow to massive heights and widths!  

Using mulch, wood chips, and fallen leaves for your vegetable garden beds provide the same benefits; returning nutrients back to the soil that your vegetable plants need to produce their tasty leaves and fruits during the growing season.  

Mulch also keeps in moisture and absorbs water, significantly reducing your watering needs.  It protects the soil from the winds blowing it away.  To top it off, it keeps the weeds from sprouting and causing you to have to spend hours each week pulling the little suckers.  What’s not to love about that!

A system where you don’t have to bring in outside resources to replenish your garden bed health is referred to as sustainable permaculture.  Permaculture in a Midwest garden and yard  In town, I think we need to look at this as utilizing the resources within our communities.  Many communities have mulch free for the taking.  In some areas, tree removers would be thrilled to give you wood chips for free to get it off of their hands.

When I started our garden bed at our house on the golf course, we were forced to get creative.  I couldn’t plow up the backyard like my grandparents could on their farm; the landscape “police” frowned on that type of thing on the 15th green.  It was my grandmother’s full time spring, summer and fall job to care for the garden.  I already had a full time job.

The solution?  Expand our mulched flower beds and plant veggies and fruiting plants among the flowers and use decorative containers on the patio.

To make the new vegetable/flower beds, we used a sod cutter to cut all the sod.  We then turned the sod upside down, put newspaper over the top and then a 3” thick layer of mulch on top.  We have since learned through experience, the whole sod cutting thing wasn't necessary.  There is a much easier way.  Put in a new garden bed the easy way-really
New fall garden bed, ready for its layer of chopped leaves

You can put in garden beds any time of the year.  We have done it in both fall and spring.  If done in the fall, it gives the entire winter for the grass and mulch to break down into the nutrients your veggie and fruit plants will need for the growing season.  Adding fertilizer in the spring or before planting will give the plants the nutrition they need in any season.  

Our soil was a nice orangish color when we first dug the new beds, indicative of the clay soils in the Midwest.  5 years later, it is a beautiful black color full of earthworms and organic matter.

I can’t say enough good things about mulch!  We don’t have to water nearly as often.  There are very few weeds to pull, and those that do sprout are easier to pull.  And it is a great way to add organic matter and nutrients at the same time.

What have I learned from experience that I would do differently to accelerate the process for a new garden bed?  
*First, make sure you get a soil test to see what nutrients you are deficient in.  The typical that are tested are nitrogen (for green leafy growth), phosphorous (for flowers and fruits), and potassium (for overall plant vigor).  Apply an organic source of the nutrients needed before applying the mulch.  
*Second, you don’t really need to use the sod cutter.  Just putting a layer of cardboard with compost and mulch on top are all that is necessary.
*Third, I would use cardboard instead of newspaper.  Make sure it isn’t shiny with chemical ink and all the tape and staples are removed.  Earthworms love cardboard.  You’ll attract more to your garden bed.  Earthworms "till" the soil for you while adding their own "fertilizer".
*Fourth, I would add a 3” layer of compost on top of the cardboard and an organic all around fertilizer directly onto the soil before the cardboard, compost and mulch.  I found out that nitrogen will leach into the air if not covered.  You lose about 50% of it if you just lay it on top of the ground so you need twice as much for the same benefit.  If you are getting a lot of rain, you'll need to fertilize more often to compensate for the rain leaching the fertilizer away.  Make your own fertilizer, it's all natural and inexpensive
*Fifth, I would have done more like a 6” layer of mulch in the first fall.  The mulch will decompose all fall and winter.  I would also recommend mulch that is from the whole tree (not just bark mulch) and is finer.  Big chunks just take longer to break down and you want that nutrition in your soil as soon as you can get it!

Let’s talk about the basics of what plants need.  In general, plants need the same thing we do-oxygen, food and water.  Their food includes the standard nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium we all hear about, but they need much more than that.  It is kind of like saying all we need are vitamins and minerals so a multivitamin is all we need to eat each day.  

Like us, fruits and vegetables need a wide range of nutrients to be the healthiest and strongest.  It is so true that you are what you eat.  Same principle applies to what your plants “eat.”  And if your fruits and veggies are getting a wide range of nutrients, this means that they will provide you with food chock full of nutrients as well!  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

That thick layer of mulch, wood chips and decomposed leaves every fall gives the organic material a chance to break down over the winter into nutrients that supporting microbes and earthworms need to multiply to give the best support to the plants growth in the spring.  

A strong population of earthworms does two key things you need in a garden-they are nature’s rototiller, loosening the soil for veggie roots to easily expand and grow in to, and nature’s fertilizer, making lots of vermicompost right in your garden bed.  The other key thing a layer of organic matter does is to prevent the weed seeds that are laying on top of the ground from sprouting, eliminating the need for weeding or chemical herbicides.  What can be better than that?!

Microbes thrive where there is an abundance of organic matter.  These microbes nourish plant roots which feed the plant.  You do not want to disturb this flourishing web of life-supporting microbes by tilling up the ground after you have done such a nice job of developing them into a strong support system for your spring plants.  Tilling destroys your microbes.  With a healthy population of earthworms, nature will take care of producing the light, crumbly soil your plants will thrive in.  Adding compost helps supercharge the soil with microbes, while adding organic matter.  

Worms avoid areas that have pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.  It is common sense that anything that has been designed to kill living things is not beneficial to other living things.  I have seen when Round Up has been used, earthworms will not get onto the area that has been sprayed. 
Garden bed in spring prepared with compost, organic fertilizer and mulch

I recently listened to an interview with Paul Gautschi who gets 14” of rain a year on his farm in Oregon and hasn’t fertilized or watered his fruit orchard for 30+ years or his vegetable garden in more than 15 years.  His secret-he looked at his surroundings with new eyes and replicated what nature does.  He started using wood chips which is basically what mulch is.  The wood chips he uses include all the leaves and limbs chopped up.  You need more than just the tree bark in your mulch.    Paul likes to quote the Bible and George Washington Carver for his inspiration on gardening.  As George Washington Carver said, “If it is simple, it must be right.”

He also applies a layer of dirt he gets from his chicken pen which he feeds only organic and as much fresh vegetable scraps as possible.  We can get the same affect by the application of compost and an all around organic fertilizer (the one we buy is based on composted chicken manure, Re-Vita or Espoma).

A recent soil test in Paul’s garden revealed these results:  
“Listen to these numbers,” Paul says. “On the test, you get two lines – the desired level that you want, and your lab results. The nitrates: the desired level was 40; my lab result was 120. Phosphorous, the desired level is 174; mine is 2,345. Potassium, the desired level is 167; mine is 1,154. Coming down to the smaller numbers: zinc, the desired level is 1.6; mine 21.5. What I love about this is I didn’t do anything!”

Ruth Stout promoted this same approach in the '50's.  She had been waiting for her husband to till her garden when she decided to try planting in the spoiled hay she had covered the garden with for the winter.  To her surprise, her garden did great!  She never went back to the tilled garden approach again.  You can read about her gardening adventures in her book "No-work Garden

When you plant seeds in the spring, be sure to move the mulch out of the way.  The mulch’s hard top crust is impossible for seedlings to break through.  Once they have sprouted, you can pull the mulch back around the plant.  Outdoor seed sowing seed starting times

The other thing about healthy plants is that they are not bothered by insects.  If you have a plant that is being attacked, the plant itself is likely not healthy.  Nature is telling us that we have a “sick” plant or a bio system that is not in balance.  If you are just moving to an organic approach with no pesticides, it may take a season or two for the “good” and “bad” bugs to come into balance.  

Think very hard before you start spraying the “bad” bugs; those pesticides/insecticides don’t know the difference between a beneficial insect (like bees) and a “bad” bug (like grasshoppers).  I put on gloves and go bug hunting for the “bad” bugs.  I pick them off and squish them.  If that is too harsh for you, you can pick them off and throw them in a bowl with soapy water.  Controlling bugs the natural, organic way  Natural control of grasshoppers

Having trees and bushes near by also encourages birds to look for bug snacks in your garden.  Birds don’t usually eat vegetables.  They do love berries, though!  You can put a light net over your berries to protect them.  Spring and fall are great to plant trees and bushes.  If planting in spring, be sure to give them moisture during the dry days of summer.  Summer garden tips

I tried doing a really thick layer of leaves and then putting mulch on top.  The leaf layer was too thick to decompose over the winter.  I am putting decomposed leaf compost on the bed this year.  I also mix the decomposing leaves in with the greens in my composter.  Leaves are the browns in your compost recipe.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors

For more tips on sustainable yards, 10 Easy Ways to a Sustainable Yard  5 Tips for a More Productive Garden

Saturday, June 9, 2018

What's happening in the early June edible garden

Early June edible garden

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The heat is on in our area!  It has been in the 90's for a few weeks now.  Cool season crops have bolted while summer crops are just starting to produce in early June.

Chives in bloom
Herbs are in full swing.  The best time to harvest aromatic herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano is in the afternoon when the oils are most concentrated.  Harvest herbs like parsley, cilantro and dill in the cooler part of the day.

Most of the lettuce I planted end of April have bolted.  I planted more lettuce seed 3 weeks ago and the plants are big enough for "cut and come again" harvesting.  I'll transplant some into other pots and eat some as well.  The spinach went to seed a couple of weeks ago.  I left the spinach in the pot and the fallen seeds are now sprouting so we will have another crop soon.  Never ending salad from one packet of seeds  

To add to salads, there are cultivated dandelion greens, sprouting broccoli leaves, chives, tarragon, salad burnet, Rat's Tail, mustard leaves and arugula for a peppery bite, celery, sorrel leaves, chickweed and strawberries from the garden.  Growing summer salads

Cabbage heads have formed so harvest is close for them.  Be sure to keep consistent moisture to them.   Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow  Don’t worry about insect damage to the leaves on cabbage and broccoli as long as the heads are forming nicely.  A little insect damage will not affect the quality of the head produced.  How to grow broccoli and cabbage 

Overwintered leeks are ready to harvest and garlic is getting close.  Starting to see yellowing of the lower leaves, which is a sign that garlic harvest is near.  Garlic harvest time is near!

I planted the cucumber, zucchini and green beans just in the last couple of weeks so they are still small.  Our pole beans are starting to climb their trellis'.  Growing beans

There are baby tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.  The white eggplant, JalapeƱo, and Ancho pepper plants have fruits big enough to pick and eat.

Now is the time to provide shade for your lettuce and sow bolt resistant varieties like the Summer Crisp Magenta, Green Towers and Jericho Romaine, Simpson Elite leaf.  You can also buy variety pack seeds of summer types to get a variety.  Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces  Seeds come up quickly this time of year.  For lettuce, be sure to keep them in the shade and moist.

You can move your lettuces if in pots to a shadier part of your patio or porch.  Shade cloths can be used for those in the garden.  You can also plant taller veggies on the south and west side of your lettuces so as they grow, they provide shade to the lettuces.  

Baby green tomatoes
With the heat on, it is time to start watering!  With the self-watering pots, your watering duties will be greatly reduced.  Keep consistent moisture to your lettuces to keep taste sweet and your lettuce from bolting.  When your lettuce does bolt, let it go to flower and seed.  The bees and beneficial insects enjoy the flowers and the seeds can easily be saved for fall and next spring planting.  Summer garden tips

The best time to harvest lettuce is mornings or right after a rain; this is when they are the crunchiest, fullest and sweetest.  Harvest in the morning before you go to work and store in the frig for the day.  Everything you need to know about growing lettuce

Inconsistency in watering will also cause tomatoes to crack.  Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow ...  Fertilize all your fruit bearing veggies when the first flowers appear (right now we have flowers on our cucumber, zucchini, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes).  Provide only spray compost tea or kelp the rest of the season.  Too much nitrogen will cause you to grow huge plants with no fruits.  Nitrogen stimulates green growth.

There are many vegetables and herbs that you can still plant right now.   Any of the summer vegetables love these temperatures and sun.  As a matter of fact, this is the best time to plant cucumbers and zucchini to avoid the vine borer.  For a full list of what can be planted now  It is not too late to start a garden in June!