Saturday, May 23, 2020

Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden

Potted Black Beauty eggplant with petunias
Saturday, May 23, 2020

Eggplant is easy to grow in our Midwest garden.  It is happy in a pot or the ground.  There is an amazing array of varieties of eggplant.  I thought for years that eggplant only came in the large, dark purple Black Beauty so popular in Italian cuisine.  In fact, there are long, skinny fruits, apple sized fruits, hourglass shaped fruits, and yellow, orange, white, green, purple, red, lavender colored fruits.  The fruits can be grilled, smoked, chopped and roasted, or stuffed.

Eggplant is a staple in Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, and many Asian cuisines.  This fruiting vegetable originated in India and has been cultivated there for thousands of years.  It had made its way to the Mediterranean region by the Middle Ages.  It is used as a substitute for meat in many dishes like eggplant parmesan we see so often in our local Italian restaurants.  
The variety in eggplants
Eggplant contains fiber, antioxidants, vitamins C, K, folate and minerals potassium and manganese.  For more details on the health benefits, check out eggplant nutritional info

Eggplant should be started indoors 6-8 weeks prior to the last frost date (for Zone 7, this is end of Feb/first of March).  Or you can buy plants and transplant after all danger of frost has passed 18-24” apart in full sun.  

They are heat loving veggies that require a long growing season so it is important to get seedlings started indoors or purchase them as plants.  Fertilize when transplanted with a balanced fertilizer and then monthly after first blooms appear.  Being part of the nightshade family, tomato fertilizer works well for eggplants as well.  The only pest issues I have had when growing eggplant are flea beetles.  You can grow nasturtiums to lure them away from your eggplants.  

Eggplants grow every well in pots.  The soil in pots warms up quicker in early summer and stays warmer than garden soil, giving these heat lovers an early boost.  When planting in pots, look for dwarfs or patio types like Casper, Listada de Gandia, White Egg or Fairytale or use a large container.  Decorative container gardening for edibles

We have also grown the Rosa Bianca and Black Beauty in a large pot and both did well.  When growing in pots, keep in a sunny location, fertilize every other week and keep soil moist.  Our summers get really hot and humid here in the Midwest.  White eggplants seem to stay sweet and skins tender in our garden even in July and August.  Summer garden tips
Turkish Orange eggplant in a container
A tip when growing eggplant is to harvest when the fruits are young.  As they stay on the vine, they produce more seeds, their skin becomes tougher, and the fruit more bitter.  In addition to loss of taste, you will also have loss of productivity.  Harvesting often keeps the plant focused on producing more fruits.  My favorite ways to preserve the extras are freezing and drying.  Be sure to blanch your eggplant before freezing so it maintains fresh taste and texture.

Eggplant can be smoked, baked, steamed or grilled.  My two favorites are stuffing them with sausage with my homemade tomato sauce and baking or brushing on olive oil, seasoning with sea salt and grilling.  Our favorite varieties so far have been the smaller white eggplants andTurkish orange for grilling and Black Beauty for stuffing.

I have also used eggplant slices in place of lasagna noodles for a low carb, high nutrition dish.  Here is a recipe for a couple of options in this blog.  Just substitute eggplant for zucchini.  They are both great!  How to use all your zucchini-really

This year, I am going to try smoking some fruits and making into baba ghanoush.  We had this in a Turkish restaurant with pita bread and it was quite tasty.

Since eggplant is a tropical perennial, you can bring it indoors at the end of the season to overwinter.  This gives you a 6-8 week head start on harvests next year.  My luck on this has been 50/50 when overwintering in the garage.  You can also save the seed from your best fruits to use next season.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Peppers are for every taste and garden

Sunday, May 17, 2020

No matter your taste buds, your style of cooking or the type of food you love, there is a pepper for you!  Besides that, peppers are pest free, come in beautiful colors, are easy to grow, and look great on the patio.
There are hot peppers, there are sweet peppers, there are smokey peppers.  There are peppers of a multitude of colors-white, yellow, orange, red, purple, brown, black, green.  They come in all shapes from the size of a blueberry to 12”, straight, crooked, puckered.

Peppers originated in South America.  Their use goes back to at least 7500 BCE and were domesticated at least 8000 years ago.  

Pepper’s heat is measured in Scoville heat units.  Some of the hottest peppers measured was a Trinidad Scorpion Butch T at 1,463,700 and a Naga Viper, at 1,382,118 SHU’s.  Now that is smokin’ hot!

Quick reference Scoville values:
*0 Sweet peppers like the classic bell and Italian sweet peppers.  
*100-900 Mild peppers such as pimento, banana and pepperoncini peppers
*1,000-2,500 Anaheim, Poblano, Peppadew peppers
*3,500-8,000 Jalapeño, Anaheim peppers
*10,000-23,000 Serrano, Peter peppers
*30,000-50,000 Tabasco, Cayenne peppers
*100,000-350,000 Habanero/Scotch bonnet peppers

One thing to keep in mind, peppers are natural plants and their heat can vary widely based on growing conditions and their pepper neighbor in the garden.  If you place a hot pepper and a sweet pepper next to each other, the sweet pepper can become a spicy pepper through cross pollination.

Once you get in the range of cayenne peppers, you should use gloves when handling.  Washing your hands with water after handling the pepper does not wash away the heat!  Transferring some of the pepper’s heat to the eyes can be extremely painful!  The best way to cool the heat is to use whole milk.  

The center of a pepper’s heat is in its seeds and ribs.  If you want a milder dish, clean the seeds and ribs from the pepper before using.

We typically grow our hot peppers in pots as they seem to do best in a container.  I try to grow enough peppers to last us all winter for salads, chili, salsa, and pepper seasonings.  The hot peppers like Jalapeños and Cayenne are prolific in pots.  One plant of the hot, smaller varieties is all we need.  We have found that the smaller sweet pepper plants like banana peppers and Nikita did equally well in pots.  The large sweet peppers like California bell and Pimento seemed to do better in the garden bed.

For planting in the pots, we just use a good organic potting soil purchased from our local garden center and place one plant per pot along with a petunia or nasturtium for additional color.  To help maintain moisture, I mulch around the peppers after planted in the pot.  I water them once/week in the summer.  Converting your favorite pot to a self watering container really helps in cutting down how often watering is required.  Decorative container gardening for edibles

If you want to give your pepper plants an extra boost, they favor phosphorous (bulb food or bone meal works well), sulfur (a book of matches in the hole does the trick), calcium to prevent blossom end rot (a half dozen crushed egg shells works well), and magnesium (which is contained in epson salts, a diluted spray when the flowers appear).  Some say if the leaves pucker, this is a sign that phosphorous is needed.  Tomato fertilizer is also good for peppers as both are fruiting plants.

You should put out pepper plants after it is nice and warm.  Peppers are in the nightshade family with tomatoes and eggplant.  They should be planted outside when night time temps are above 55 and daytime temps in the 70’s consistently.  If you buy pepper plants with peppers already on them, remove them before planting so the plant can focus its energy on developing a strong root system. 

If you are going to grow your peppers from seeds, start them indoors 6-8 weeks before you will transplant outside.  You can get unusual varieties not at your local nursery in seed catalogues.  Baker Creek Heirloom Seed company has some very unique varieties from around the world.  Although the spectrum available today in stores is quite nice.  You can also order plants as well from most seed catalogues.

Surprisingly, peppers don’t like extremely hot weather.  They get sunburned when the temps get into the 90’s consistently.  Their sunburn looks like dark spots on the exposed fruits.  If you can, move them into the shade when temps are extreme.  They won’t croak, but they are stressed during periods of high heat.  

Almost all veggies love fertile soil and consistent watering.  Peppers are no exception.  Some swear that stressing the plant will increase the heat of the pepper.  Now, a recent Guinness winner thinks the secret to getting the world’s hottest pepper was run off from a worm farm.  Summer garden tips

Peppers will get flowers on them that, if pollinated, will grow into a pepper.  If you look into the center of a flower, you can see the emerging baby pepper.
Pepper flower with baby pepper forming
Anything that produces a seed or fruit needs a visit from a friendly pollinator, like the honey bee, mason bee, bumble bee, predatory wasps, hover flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, and many other insects.  It is important to not use insecticides as they kill the pollinators along with the bad bugs or to use very sparingly and not on the flowers themselves.

I plant the peppers in a pot with nasturtium or petunias to attract the pollinators and to look good on the patio.
Pepper plant with petunias
This year I am growing several peppers:
*Purple sweet peppers for the salsa and snacking
*Cayenne for salsa and making hot sauce
*Jalapeno for salsa.  You can also smoke them to make chipotle seasoning
*Pimento peppers to add dice and add to salads
*Poblano to dry for chili powder  
*Two I have grown in the past is Pasilla bajio for mole sauces (also called chile negro because of its black color) and Pablano for chili powder (the dried pepper is called ancho).  I have enough of both preserved for another year.
                                  Pimento at top, jalapeño on bottom      Red and green cayennes

I have a Chipetin pepper I overwinter in the garage that is already producing small, very hot peppers.  Some are ready to eat size!  Peppers are a tropical perennial so can be overwintered in the garage or house to get a jump start on the next season.  Plus, if you have a pepper plant that was just outstanding the previous year, you know you will get a repeat show.

Peppers all start out green.  It is as they ripen that they turn colors.  Jalapeño will turn red if left to ripen on the vine.  The sweet peppers I am growing from seed this year will turn chocolate, red or orange.  They can be eaten either when green or after they have turned.  Their flavor, and heat, will intensify as they ripen.

The trick to keeping the pepper crop going is to harvest often.  It’s like the plant knows when it has its quota of peppers.  The blossoms will fall off until more are picked.  Save the seeds from your best pepper.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Here are some ways to preserve your pepper harvest if you have more than you can eat  Preserving peppers

Peppers have many great nutritional benefits.  They contain high amounts of vitamins C, A (carotene), K, potassium, manganese, B6 as well as a good source of fiber.  Its antioxidants help the body combat free radicals.  For more details, SELF magazine has a nice compilation of nutritional information of fruits and vegetables:  pepper nutritional info

The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains.  A tablespoon of ground chili pepper would contain between 0.8 to 480 mg of capsaicin.  In Ayurvedic medicine, capsaicin is used for digestive and circulatory health support. 

Peppers come in so many different flavors and heat intensity.  There is a pepper out there for everyone.  Combined with their carefree horticulture, they make a great plant to add to your garden this year.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Tomatoes are Americans favorite vegetable to grow.  There really is no comparison between a home grown tomato and a store bought tomato.  There are just a few tricks to know about growing great tasting tomatoes. 

The first is knowing what type of tomato to purchase
There are two types of tomatoes-indeterminate and determinate.  Determinate grow to a set height and the fruit sets all at once.  These can be a great candidate for canning if you would like to get your tomato canning done all at once.  Indeterminate continue to grow and yield fruits (yes, the tomato is actually a fruit) until frost.  These are the best for fresh tomatoes all season long.
Choosing which tomatoes to grow

I grow only indeterminates.  For what we don’t eat, I freeze whole in quart freezer bags for chili and salsa until fall.  Come fall, I start canning the surplus.  I like growing a variety of tomatoes, with different colors, salad tomatoes, slicers, and paste tomatoes.  I like adding paste tomatoes to each freezer bag as they give a silky sauce.  And colors are just fun!  I always have red and purple tomatoes in the garden.
The Power of Purple

Right before the first frost, I pick all the tomatoes left on the vine and put in a dark place for them to ripen.  We have fresh tomatoes into December.  They are definitely not the same as summer tomatoes, but better than anything you can buy in the store!  For more tips on preserving the tomato harvest:  Preserving the tomato harvest

There are "storage" tomato varieties.  You can pick these at frost and they will keep for up to 4 weeks longer than typical tomatoes.  One option is Red October.  The downside is they are a hybrid so will not come back true to the parent with seeds from this year's crop.
Tomatoes kept in pantry at Christmas
All tomatoes are chock full of antioxidants and lycopene.  They contain vitamins A, C, E, K, and B-complex as well as potassium, manganese, and copper.  For a full listing of nutrition, SELF magazine has an informative nutritional database:  tomato nutrition

Tomato supports/cages
With indeterminate tomatoes, they definitely need something to help them grow upwards (although not required, it does make harvesting much easier and takes up less garden space).  A very sturdy pole can be used and the plant tied onto it as it grows.  The more popular option is a “tomato cage” that the tomato grows up in to.  This is what we use.  It is important to get the cage on while the plants are small or severe damage may ensue when you try to force the gangly plant into it’s cage.  Be sure to get a strong cage for large tomato plants.  I also add a stake to the really big tomatoes to give extra support.

If you grow dwarf or patio tomatoes, they may not need any support at all.  I did end up using a stake for each plant as they put on large tomatoes which caused the plant to lean when I grow the patio types.  
Staked dwarf tomato
Tips when planting
Tomatoes are susceptible to blossom-end rot and fungal diseases.  End rot is typically caused by not having enough calcium in the soil.  Fungal diseases remain the soil.  It is important to rotate vegetable plants and not plant them in the same spot every year.  This year I am using organic fungicides.  I sprayed when I transplanted my seedlings and will spray every couple of weeks.  Organic fungicides are preventative so you have to keep the fungus from growing to start with.  Hopefully, this will greatly increase yields in late summer.  

Another preventative of disease is to provide the right fertilizer and nutrients when planting.  In each planting hole, I add a handful of worm castings, balanced fertilizer, and dusted the roots with mycorrhizal life support which contains mycorrhizal, vitamins and minerals.  This blend improves soil fertility and the plants ability to take in the nutrition it needs.  It is not all about just the big 3-nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.  They are important but vitamins, minerals, and particularly living soil makes a huge difference in how healthy and lush the plants become.  I use fertilizer made specifically for tomatoes so that they get the calcium they need.  As your plants take up minerals, you will get these minerals when you eat your garden produce.
The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

When you plant your tomato, make sure to plant it deeply.  I take off all the limbs except the top couple and bury the plant up to these stems.  Roots will grow from where the removed and buried limbs were.  This gives the plants a much stronger root system to support growth.

I also like to plant early in the season and then again in the middle of the summer.  When the new plants come on strong, the early planted ones are slowing down.  It keeps the harvest going strong.

Pruning tips
Now that your plants have the right start, pruning is the next step.  To get the highest yields, some say it is important to prune your tomatoes.  You want no branches below 12” (some recommend 18”).  You also want to prune the plant to only 2 branches, the center stalk and one side stalk.  You want to keep the “suckers” cut or pinched off as well as the tomato grows.

The amount of pruning is controversial among tomato growing connoisseurs.  Some swear by pruning, others say it makes no difference.  If you live further south, keeping the greenery helps protect the fruits from sun scald.  If your plants seem to get fungal diseases, doing some pruning to open up the plant for air circulation can be beneficial.  For plants up north, increased greenery helps the plant have more energy going to its fruits.  I have tried both and for my garden, very limited pruning has worked the best.

Watering and fertilizing
Now, to on-going watering and fertilizing.  Many think more is better when it comes to watering and fertilizing.  Not so for tomatoes!  What you end up with are tons of greenery, mushy tomatoes, and very few of them.  Some tomato afficiados recommend a deep watering and fertilizer at planting, then again at flowering, and that is it.  I do water when there is a long dry spell.  Overwatering or erratic watering can also cause the fruits to crack.  

For the tomatoes in the garden, I fertilize when planting, again when the first flowers appear, and monthly thereafter.  If growing in containers, I fertilize every other week with a liquid fertilizer when flowering.  I also add either kelp meal or Azomite every season to make sure the plants are getting all the trace minerals they need.  The first time I added Azomite, my plants seemed to grow and bush out within a few days.  If they respond favorably, then they really needed those nutrients.

If your plant will not flower and fruit with lush green foliage, quit fertilizing and watering.  A little stress should jump start it into producing flowers and fruits.

Although tomatoes love hot weather (they will not flower until night time temps get above 55), they also don’t like it too hot.  If daytime temps get above 90 and nighttime temps above 76, the plant will drop its flowers.  Not to worry, as soon as temps come back down, your plants will begin flowering again.
 Summer garden tips

Growing in containers
If you want to grow tomatoes in a container, you need to either have a really big container for full size tomatoes (5 gallon) or plant varieties that are adapted for containers. Tomatoes for containers would be labelled as dwarf, patio, container.  Some varieties that fit this bill:  BushSteak, Patio Princess, Bush Early Girl, Tumbler, Bush Big Boy, Baxter’s Bush Cherry, Lizzano, Sweetheart of the Patio, Tumbling Tom Yellow or Red, Bush Better Bush, Balcony (look for bush/patio/container types), Husky Bush.
Compact tomatoes for small spaces and pots

If you grow in containers, you will need to water weekly or maybe even more depending on the container and plant size combo used.  For more on container gardening and types to purchase for pots, Decorative container gardening for edibles

Seed saving
If you are growing open pollinated or heirloom tomatoes, you can save the seed from the best fruits and plants to grow for next season.  If you are growing hybrids, the seed will not produce a plant like the parent.  Why save seed?  Saving seed from the plants that produce the best fruits year on year will give you plants acclimated to your garden conditions and the best producers.  Save seed from plants that have the characteristics you want in future plants.  The ones with the best fruit, the largest fruit, the best tasting fruit, the earliest producer, the latest producer or the best producer.  You get to choose what you want in your future tomato plants.
Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Sunday, May 10, 2020

May 2020 Edible Garden Planner

Sunday, May 10, 2020

May Day is when the old timers say is the best time to plant your summer garden in the Midwest.  Prior to May 1, there is still a good chance of poor weather, chilly temps, and frost in our Zone 6/7 gardens.  This can be catastrophic for tomatoes, eggplants, basil and other heat lovers.  This year we got frost the day before Mother's Day in our garden.

At least today, we have the added advantage of the 15 day forecast!  Check out your 15 day forecast to know if it looks safe to plant those tender summer veggies as it is possible to have chilly temps even into May.  If direct planting seeds, chilly and rainy conditions can cause the seeds to rot.  Warm, moist conditions are the best for seed success!

This year I planted out our summer veggies that I started from seed indoors on May 1 and 2.  Then, they lowered the temperatures in our extended forecast.  What's a gardener to do?  Give them a jacket!  We covered the tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash I had planted out.  This morning, I removed all the covers and everything came through just fine.  For more on protection for plants, see Starting the garden earlier, outwitting Jack Frost... 
Cloches to the left and row cover on the right

Spring has had fairly normal, cool temperatures so the garden is growing quickly.  The greens that love the cool weather are doing great!  You just don't want to plant the summer lovers too early as they don't like being cold and you can lose them to frost.  If you do, have a plan for how to protect them if you get some surprising frost.  Earlier is not always better.

May is the time to sow summer lover's seed Outdoor seed starting tips and plant warm season plants you have grown indoors or purchased.  The cold crops are at their peak at the beginning of the month with many bolting and going to seed by month's end like spinach, cilantro, lettuce, chard, kale, sprouting broccoli, and onions.  To preserve greens while they are still at their peak is quick and easy.  Freezing the extras for winter  The only green that is not frozen?  Lettuce.  I keep lettuce going in the garden by planting new seed every 3 weeks.

Lettuce, spinach and cilantro all go to bolting as soon as the temps hit the 80's in our garden.  You can let them go to seed and either save the seed to plant or let the seed fall where it may to give you new lettuce, spinach and cilantro.  An added bonus is that the bees love their small flowers.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver
Mid-May garden
So, what are we planting this year?  Of course, we planted the number one veggie in the USA-tomatoes!   This year, I am growing them all from seed.  You could also just buy plants as there is a great selection of heirlooms at local nurseries, hardware stores and big box stores these days.  We are planting a variety of heirloom, chocolate types, paste tomatoes, small and large tomatoes and a couple of new varieties.  Choosing which tomatoes to grow  Loving the purple tomatoes with all their fantastic antioxidants!  Different colors in tomatoes give different nutrition

The tomatoes I started from seed: Cherokee Purple which always does well in our garden, Italian Red Pear paste, a chocolate cherry type, a large chocolate tomato from a store bought tomato, Black Krim, Gezahnte, and Chocolate Pear.  Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes  These should be more than enough for all our needs.  I did spray the seedlings with an organic fungicide before planting.  I am going to spray every week or so this year to see if it boosts the tomato harvest later in the season.  We have such hot, humid conditions that fungus grows well here!  I looked at the chemical fungicides but they contain cancer causing chemicals so I'll stick with the ones approved for organic growing.

If you have limited space, look for the dwarf/bush types like Bush Early Girl (only 54 days till ripe tomatoes), Patio Princess, Husky Red, Lizzano, Little Napoli, Front Runner, Tumbling Tom among many others. Typically, you can expect to have your first ripe tomatoes around the 4th of July.  The earliest tomato bearing variety I have grown is Yellow Tumbling Tom that gave me tomatoes in June.  They grow great in the garden or pots.  Compact tomato plants for small spaces

I planted snow pea seeds in a few pots a month ago.  They have nice vines on them now.  They have grown enough that I can add their leaves to salads.  I am growing beans this year.  I do have several quarts still in the freezer so will plant just a few vines.  Now is a great time to get them planted.  Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer  

For peppers, I am growing a couple of sweet peppers, a "Long Thin Cayenne" for drying to make into Cayenne powder, and "Super Red Pimento" which I dice and freeze for salads.  I have plenty of frozen hot and sweet peppers for making salsa in the freezer and lots of chili powder from the Pablano Ancho peppers last year.  I also use cayennes for making hot sauce, which I still have lots in the cupboard.  Homemade hot sauce wings with homegrown celery  Quick, homemade salsa  Preserving peppers

I overwintered an ancient hot pepper in the garage called Chipetin.  It is thought to be the ancestor of all hot peppers.  This is its fourth winter and it did great.  It produces very small, very hot round red peppers.  I dry them and use them in my grilling spice mix.  Using herbs, flowers and fruit for flavored sugars and salts

Lastly, there are the sweet peppers to snack on and for salsa. The ones I grew last year were very sweet, crunchy and prolific, so I saved the seed and am growing these again.  This year I am going to plant all my peppers in pots.  It just seems that my peppers do better in a pot than in the ground.  I just refreshed the potting soil and fertilized them well.  Re-energize your potting soil!   Peppers are for every taste and garden
I am growing just one eggplant, "White".  Our summers get so hot here that eggplant skins can get tough and the fruits bitter so I always look for the varieties that are good for our temps.  White eggplants seem to stay sweet and the skins thin even in our hot summers.  Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden

I have 2 kinds of summer squash that I have planted-Bush Zucchini and Early Prolific Straight Neck.  They are susceptible to being killed by the squash vine borer if planted before June 1.  You can protect the vine to keep the insect from boring into the vine by wrapping the vine or just replant if they do get infected.  Zucchini grows fast!  Growing zucchini and summer squash  This may seem like overkill on the zucchini as one plant produces as much as a typical family needs during the summer.  I found some great ways to use and preserve zucchini that any extra will be stored for many new ways of using.  What to do with all that zucchini?!  I really liked shredding the zucchini and using in place of spaghetti.  I'll shred and put into freezer bags so I have a low carb, nutritious option anytime for spaghetti and slice lengthwise for lasagna noodle substitute.

Baby zucchini in summer garden
I am also planting 2 winter squash-Spaghetti and Acorn squash.  Spaghetti squash is a low carb substitute for spaghetti, too.  These vines don't produce many fruits, so I will plant a few vines.  I am going to train them up a trellis to maximize my garden space.  I grew them last year and they did really well.  They also kept into February indoors, just sitting on the counter.

  I planted cucumber, spinach, and lettuce this year for salads and to make green smoothies.  Grow your own juice garden  All are planted in the garden.  I am growing the cucumber onto a trellis as well.    Cucumber info and tips for growing  I have plenty of volunteer celery, cilantro, parsley, mustard, purple orach, kale, and sprouting broccoli in the garden so no planting needed for them.

Other veggies I planted were Slo Bolt cilantro to extend its harvest, tyron and New Zealand spinach for summer greens, aspargus, Radish Dragon's Tail, Regina and Mignonette Alpine strawberries, Bulls Blood and Gourmet Blend beets, Icicle radishes, Red Burgundy okra, Bush Sugar Baby watermelon, corn salad, Chinese cabbage, broccoli raab, and Black Magic kale for its fun color, and to eat.  

For herbs, I added several to the garden this year.  I transplanted stevia and rosemary.  I overwintered our bay plants in the unheated garage.  Both are doing great and have many new leaves.  I started chervil from seed.  I love adding dried chervil leaves and lavender to add fragrance to body oil.  Make your own fragrant herbal body oil  I started borage, marjoram, white sage and 3 kinds of basil from seed-Wild, Cardinal and sweet basil.  I have all my seedlings either planted or hardening off on the covered deck.  I had several herbs overwinter-tarragon, chives, onions, oregano, thyme, fennel, mint, lavender, and garlic.  For more on herbs, see  Start a kitchen herb garden!

It was also time for another round of greens.  Resowing every 3 weeks will keep us in salads all through the summer and fall.  Want continuous harvests? Succession planting!  I'll look for greens that stand up to the heat for this next round of planting.  I'll start them in pots and then transplant to the garden when they are big enough. 

For lettuce,  I used seeds from Red Romaine, Buttercrunch, Red Sails, Paris Island Cos Romaine, Red and Green Oakleaf, and Buttercrunch.  For the next round of lettuce sowings, I'll go with the more heat resistant varieties like Jericho Romaine which has been tested to last 3 months before bolting as well as Red Sails loose leaf lettuce which stays sweet after bolting.   Look for varieties that have heat tolerant in the descriptor.  Here are some varieties that are proven to do well in the summer   Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces

Lettuce and spinach aren't the only greens you can use for salads, see more at  Growing summer salads
Potted lettuce and arugula
We mulched at the end of March for the first garden bed and did the second bed just a week ago.  When planting, I like to powder the roots of each plant with plant starter as well as dig in some fertilizer in each hole.  Plant starter has mycorrhizal microbes which fixes nitrogen to the roots of the plant, helping it to grow sturdier, bigger and faster.  Once you have the microbes in the soil, they will stay year after year.

I add Azomite around each of my transplants under the mulch twice last year so I should be good for this season.  During the growing season, you should fertilize monthly.  Azomite contains many minerals which can result in significantly improved growth for your plants and more minerals in your harvested plants for a healthier you.  A win-win for your garden and your family.  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

Before you send your new transplants into the garden, insure they have been sufficiently "hardened off."  If you started your own seeds indoors, take your plants out daily over a week or so into a partially shady spot, letting them get used to the strong sun and wind.  I put mine out on the deck to get used to the sun and wind for several days before planting out.  "Hardening off" seedlings

If you purchased your transplants and they were already outdoors, they are ready to be plopped into the ground or pot and grow!

Iris in background and celosia in foreground interplanted with lettuce and sorrel
I always interplant my garden with flowers.  This year, I am using zinnias, marigolds, petunias, red flowering Hummingbird Vine, Blue morning glory flowering vine, heirloom sunflowers, and "Love, Lies Bleeding" amaranth for annuals.  I also am trying to start Spider Queen and Pride of Madeira from seed.  For perennials, there are pink Fairy lilies, white flowering jasmine vine, delphiniums, hollyhocks in a variety of colors-Summer Carnival, Red and Peach, red hot poker, day-lilies, irises, and gladiolas.

May is an exciting time in the garden.  Every day you go out, you can see things growing.  The spring vegetables are in their prime, the summer veggies are just starting, and there are so many herbs ready for seasoning your favorite salads or dishes.  Just be sure to keep ahead of the weeds and provide even watering.