Saturday, August 19, 2017

Make your own "Herbes de Provence"

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Herbes de Provence, just about everyone has heard it and it sounds really fancy, but is actually very easy to make from your own kitchen herb garden.  The origin is simply a mix of herbs that were typically grown in a French kitchen garden called a potager.  

You get a huge amount of herb from each plant.  It is so simple to dry them and make your own special herb mix.  You'll find that you actually get enough from only one herb plant of each kind that you will have enough for year round cooking and to make Christmas presents for the entire family!

“Herbes de Provence” contains herbs that are typical of the Provence region of southern France and are grown in French potagers (kitchen gardens).  These are the herbs typically used in cooking by the French in this region:

The French gardeners didn't actually mix them all together into a spice mix.  This was the idea of a spice company in France and has spread throughout the world.  Today, these spice mixes aren't actually grown and processed in France, but in central/eastern Europe, Africa and China.

You can easily grow these herbs and make your own spice mix.  All are perennial herbs with the exception of basil and rosemary in northern climes.  You can keep rosemary and basil n a pot and bring them indoors to overwinter.

Herbs are the easiest thing to grow in the edible garden and how I got my start.  For more on growing herbs, click here  Start a kitchen herb garden!


Purple lavender
White lavender

Some mixes also contain lavender flowers.  Lavender is not actually used in southern French cooking, but can be a fun addition to the spice mix.

I save my lavender to use as potpourri and scented oils.  Lavender is also great to put in closets to make them smell fabulous and to deter moths.

Another fun way to use dried lavender is mixing with sugar.  
Using herbs, flowers and fruit for flavored sugars and salts


Creeping thyme
English thyme
Thyme comes in many forms and flavors.  You can grow variegated (leaves are green and white) lemon thyme, creeping thyme, orange thyme, English, German, or French thyme.

The leaves are best when in bloom.

Thyme is used in many dishes.  Suits food particularly well that are cooked in wine.  If using fresh, a little goes a long way.  

Thyme is a key ingredient in poultry seasoning as well.  Make poultry seasoning with your own garden herbs

Oregano/marjoram are of the same family.  Oregano and marjoram are cold sensitive perennials.  I have been growing my oregano in Zone 6 for 5 years and it comes back faithfully.  Oregano is also called wild marjoram and marjoram is also called sweet marjoram.  They are very similar in form and taste.  The pollinators love oregano’s tall purple blooms.  For preserving, gather just before the flowers open.
Common rosemary is a tender perennial and does not survive the winter in our Zone 6 garden.  There are hardier varieties of rosemary that you can get like ARP and Barbecue.  They are said to be hardy to Zone 5.  I keep trying them in our Zone 6/7 garden but so far have only been able to get them to survive one winter at best.  I am trying ARP and a new hardy variety this year Tuscan Blue.  Eventually, I will find one that likes my garden well enough to stay permanently.

You can always keep your rosemary in a pot and bring indoors to over winter.  If you live in warmer zones of 8 or above, rosemary can become a very large bush reaching 5 feet tall!
Young rosemary plant
There are two types of savory-winter and summer.  Winter savory is a perennial and summer savory an annual.  The leaves for drying should be picked just as the flower buds are formed.
Winter savory
Everyone is familiar with basil.  Basil is used in so many dishes.  One of our favorites is pesto.  It is great in tomato sauces, as an infusion for oils or vinegars, or in salads.  Basil was found to be growing around Christ’s tomb after the resurrection so is used by some to prepare holy water.  Pick leaves when young.  The more you pick, the bushier the plant becomes.   Pick often!  
Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

Basil in August

Tarragon is a less common herb here.  There are two varieties-Russian and French.  The French has a more “refined” flavor, but is not as hardy.  The Russian is hardy and the flavor improves the longer it grows in one place.  Tarragon spreads underground like mint so it can be a good one to grow in a pot.  It grows 2-3’.  Tarragon can be harvested anytime.  Don’t cut more than two thirds at a time.  I like to add tarragon to salads.  It is also popular as an infusion for oils and vinegars, to flavor chicken and is a key ingredient in BĂ©arnaise sauce.

Sage is a perennial and comes in a variety of flavors and colors-clara, pineapple, purple, tricolor, gold variegated, prostate, and purple variegated to name a few.  They are a required ingredient in my mother-in-laws stuffing.  Use your own herbs for your Thanksgiving dinner    Sage smells wonderful too to add to potpourri, as a tea or all by itself.  Make your own teas!

Tricolor variegated sage

Since these herbs naturalized in the Mediterranean region, they enjoy dry conditions so they do not need to be coddled.  They grow easily under any conditions, except wet.  They hate wet feet so err to the side of dryness.

Fall is a great time to start any perennial, including herbs.  Many big box stores are carrying herbs and fall plants so you don't have to wait to next spring to start your own herb garden!  Many grow easily from seed, too.  It is fine to start plants this time of year and plant out in the garden.  Just be sure to harden off for the heat as you would for the cold in the spring and keep moist.

How to dry your herbs?  I do my harvesting this time of year into the fall.  I cut them back and place the stems loosely in paper bags to dry.  Hanging the bags so they get good air flow.  You can also place on screens or tie the stems together and hang to dry.  However you choose to dry your herbs they only thing to remember is to not put too many together.  If there is not enough air circulation the herbs will mold.  

After drying, I strip the leaves from the stem and store in an airtight container out of the sun.  I use either ziplock bags or quart canning jars.  Once processed, I take equal parts of each herb and mix together to make my seasoning mix.  I use my seasoning mix on and in all kinds of dishes-for grilling meat and veggies, salad dressings, pasta sauces, roasted chicken, seafood.  For more on harvesting herbs:  Harvesting and drying herbs

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Seed saving has been going on for thousands of years.  Seed saving is easy.  Always save the seed from the best vegetable you grew! Or the tastiest you buy at the farmers market or store.  

Pick the fruit or plant that has the characteristics you want to grow next year.  The one that was the biggest or had the best taste or produced the most or produced the longest or gave you harvests the earliest or was the most drought or pest resistant.  

Lettuce flower buds
One caveat, you cannot get true to parent plants from hybrids.  If they grow, they will often be totally different than the parent or could get weaker with each generation.  You need “open pollinated” or heirloom vegetables for the seed to produce a baby like the parent.

I grew sweet banana peppers and saved the seed.  This year I grew out the seeds from the yellow banana peppers.  I got a larger red and orange pepper plants from the seed.  They are quite tasty and prolific.  I have saved the seed to grow out again next year.

There is also another pepper plant that produced prolifically a purple meaty sweet pepper.  I have saved the seed from this plant to grow them again next year.

I have finally found/grown two kinds of sweet peppers that produce well.  I'll keep saving the seed and growing them out.  They are now a mainstay for my garden.

It doesn't cost a thing to save seeds from store bought veggies or fruits you like and you can end up with some great plants for your garden!
For garlic, you save the best, biggest cloves.  You divide up the garlic head into individual cloves and plant them in the fall when it cools off.  Typically, sometime in October.  Most store garlic has been treated to prevent them from sprouting so you may or may not have luck using the ones from the grocery store.  Your farmers market is a great place to get garlic well suited for your area.
In our garden, seeds can be saved from tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, broccoli, cilantro, dill, celery, borage, salad burnet, garlic, okra, Egyptian walking onions (bulblets), basil.  I had many zinnia and basil "volunteers" in the garden this year from seeds dropped by the plant last fall.

Lettuce flower seeds
For peppers, squash and tomatoes, just scoop out the seeds, lay them on a paper towel on a plate and let them dry completely.  Some suggest for tomato seed to put them in water and let them ferment a bit.  The ones that sink are the ones you want to keep for planting, not the ones that float.  After drying, I put in plastic baggies and keep in the frig to prolong seed life.

Many greens, like chard, parsley, lettuce, broccoli, will shoot a large stalk up then flower.  This is called "bolting."  The easiest thing to do is to let the seeds form, cut the stalk, then put the stalks with seed heads attached into a paper bag.  Let them dry thoroughly, then shake the seeds out.  Some may require that you roll the seed heads between your fingers to free the seed.  

You can actually resow seeds from cool season crops like lettuce, cilantro, parsley, chard, chives and get a second fall/winter harvest!  I have been doing this about every other week.  I have lettuce sprouting from the last two sowings.  When it cools down a bit, I will separate and transplant into pots and the garden.  Right now, I am keeping them in a long starter pot on the covered deck to keep them from bolting in the hot sun.
I put my dried seeds in labelled ziplock bags and store them in the crisper, include the seed type, descriptor and date.  A picture of the plant can be helpful to remember the plant the seed belongs to.  Fun gift to give, too.  The seeds last for years this way!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer garden tips

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The dog days of summer see thriving warm season crops-tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, sweet potatoes, peppers and Mediterranean herbs.  To keep your harvests at their peak, there are few simple things you can do for your garden.
  1. Harvest frequently!  Plants are in the business of reproducing.  Their entire life is dedicated to giving the best chance possible of maintaining more plants for the future.  The more you harvest, the more babies the plant will produce.  I have noticed that my cucumber plant can only support one large cucumber on each vine.  As soon as I pick the big one, you can see one of the small ones jump in size by the very next day!  Harvest in the morning for peak juiciness.
  2. Mulch your beds. The mulch keeps the moisture from evaporating, allowing more infrequent watering.  It also moderates the temperature of the soil so it doesn’t get baking hot.  I use mulch in both my garden beds and pots.
  3. Water consistently.  The cause of cracked fruits is inconsistent water.   The plant gets used to very little water and when deluged the fruit’s skin can’t expand fast enough and the fruit cracks.  Over watering can also be a problem.  Too much water will cause your fruits to be tasteless and mushy.  If in the ground, your plants need either a good soaking rain each week or a good watering.  I use soaker hoses in my mulched garden beds.  It is best to water in the morning; you get maximum absorption (biggest bang for your water buck).  For pots, you will likely need to water 3 times per week during the height of summer heat.  I like pots with a water reservoir built in the bottom. 
  4. Do not water the foliage of your nightshade plants!  They are very susceptible to fungal diseases and water on their leaves encourages fungal growth.  
  5. Fertilize monthly with side dressing of compost.  It is also a good idea to add minerals to the soil.  You can purchase minerals just for gardening.  You can also use kelp or seaweed as a fertilizer that also adds other nutrients.  If your plants have more minerals, their fruits will too!  
  6. Pick insects off daily.  Keep a close eye on your plants to you can stop an infestation before it gets started.  If I do get an really bad infestation, I will use diacotomus earth.  It is organic and not a chemical.  Some people even eat it!  It works by scratching the exoskeleton of the insects which leads to dehydration and death.  Be careful, though, as it will kill good bugs too.  I use it very sparingly and only if desperate.  A few bugs don’t eat much :  )  Another option is the use of light covers to keep the bugs from your plants or insecticidal soap.
  7. Keep any diseased leaves groomed from your plants and do not compost them.  Diseases can be killed if your compost pile is hot enough.  I haven’t progressed far enough yet in my composting skills to trust I am getting the pile hot enough and I don’t want to spread diseases to all my plants.
  8. Compost.  For all the trimmings from the garden and the kitchen, start a compost pile or get an indoor composter.  I have both.  My husband built me a fencing ring outside that I throw the big stuff.  I have an indoor Naturemill electric composter in the garage for all the kitchen scraps.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

What's happening in the early August edible garden

Pic of edible garden this morning
Sunday, August 6, 2017

August sees the full swing of the summer, warm season garden harvests.  Late sweet corn (plant corn in succession and different varieties to lengthen the harvest), summer squashes (like zucchini), peppers of all types (sweet to hot, hot), tomatoes, Mediterranean herbs, cucumbers, okra, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, beans, melons, figs, eggplant, honey, artichokes, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, onion, and fennel are all in season in the Midwest.  

If you are not growing these in your own garden, your local farmers market is a great place to pick up these seasonal veggies to either eat or preserve.  The best buy and taste on any fruit or vegetable is when it is in season.  You can get even better deals on any produce that has a few blemishes which have no effect on the flavor.  If you are going to can, freeze or dry them, just be sure to remove any blemishes first.  Preservation garden

I pick what to have in our garden based on the harvest per foot of garden space needed.  Our garden is incorporated into the flower garden mulch bed and in pots so we have to be choiceful on what to grow.  Grow what you love to eat, too.  It won't be a lot of fun to have a bumper crop of veggies you don't really like.  How to decide what to plant for small spaces?

In pots, we have great luck with  Egyptian walking onions (which can be harvested year round), peppers, eggplant, greens, sweet bay, and celery.

Since we have expanded our mulched flower beds, I am growing more in the ground.  I do use vertical space for the green beans and cucumbers, growing pole types on trellises.  You can also use trellises for squash or grow bush types that stay compact.

So, what is doing not so well in the garden this summer?  I have lost a zucchini and 2 cucumbers to wilt.  This happens when they are bitten by a cucumber beetle that transmits the bacteria to the plant.  It is a good idea to plan to replant new zucchini plants in mid-summer.  I have small plants ready to put into the garden today.  I'll direct sow more cucumber seed as well this week.  They are quick growers so will be producing within a month or so.
Newly sprouted zucchini, ready to be transplanted

Most of my tomato plants are not doing great this year either.  I have several that have many branches that have shriveled and died.  My neighboring gardeners are seeing the same.  I planted many tomato plants and even had extras in pots to plant out in case something like this happened.  I planted these out last week.  

It is likely a soil borne fungus causing the issue.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash are all susceptible to fungi.  I am still getting plenty of tomatoes from my collection, but it is not going to be a bumper crop year!  To keep soil born diseases to a minimum is to practice crop rotation.  

Peppers, eggplant, green beans and okra are doing great this year.  It is my first time growing okra.  They are a cool looking plant.  I got the red variety which makes a very pretty plant and fruit.  Their flowers are like creamy hibiscus blooms.

I have been trying many different types of sweet peppers to find some that produce as well as hot peppers.  Hot peppers are really prolific.  So far, I am pleased with my sweet pepper varieties. 

The flea beetles are having a field day with my eggplants.  They love to eat holes in the plant's leaves.  I go out and squish them regularly.  They don't eat the fruits, but with the damage to the leaves stunts the plants ability to produce fruits.  We have orange, purple and white fruit varieties this year.  Err on the side of picking early versus late.  Leaving the fruits on too long makes the skins taste on the bitter side.

The bean vines are super happy this year.  They had been doing fantastic until the last week.  We had a heat wave for a couple of weeks that crimped the plants bean production.  They say you don't need to fertilize beans after they are planted unless their leaves start yellowing.  Growing beans  I fertilized them all this week end to give them a boost.  Too much fertilizer will cause them to focus on greenery versus fruits.  This is true for all fruiting plants.  More is not better.
Beans on trellis
I planted brussel sprouts this year first the first time in several years.  They are in the same family as broccoli.  I am having pest problems with them just like the broccoli.  I need to not plant anything in the broccoli family for a year or two.  Without a favorite food source, they will die off.  Meanwhile, I have been picking them off and spraying with insecticidal soap for this year's plants.

The lettuce and spinach bolted long ago.  It was not a banner year for the lettuce, but the spinach did great!  I made sure to fertilize both well.  They are heavy nitrogen users.  I always use natural organic fertilizers like Espoma or for an extra boost of nitrogen, blood meal or bat guana.

A quick reminder, save the seeds from your best performers to plant next year!  You can replant seeds from any heirlooms or open pollinated plants.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?  Not only does it save you money, but it also gives you the plants that do the best under your garden and zone conditions.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Preserving peppers

Potted pepper plant
Saturday, August 5, 2017

For preserving the pepper harvest, you have some options-drying, freezing, pickling. I have also seen creative pepper jelly and preserve recipes for canning.  They sound really fun.  I may have to try a couple of them this fall.  Canning is much nicer to do when it has cooled off.  Peppers keep producing until a hard frost so there is lots of time left to experiment with preservation options!

Peppers love summer warmth.  Surprisingly, when it gets too hot (in the 90’s) they can start to drop flowers and get sunburned.  So, don’t be surprised when they are not as perky as earlier in the season.  They will come back when the temperatures get out of the stratosphere.  During extreme heat waves, they appreciate some shade.
Sweet pepper plant in the garden
If you have your peppers in pots, you can just roll them into a spot that gives some relief.  If they are in the ground, you can use a shade cloth, or a piece of picket fence or screen on the south or west side of the plant.  Or just wait for nature to take its course.
I have tried peppers in the ground and in pots.  They seem to do the best in a pot.  All the hot peppers I have ever tried are much more prolific than any sweet pepper I have tried.  I keep trying new types of sweet peppers, looking for a type that loves my garden conditions.  In the meantime, I plant a lot more sweet pepper plants than hot pepper plants.  
The small hot pepper that I overwinter is doing well.  It is the oldest form of capsicum annum species and is very hot.  These tiny hot peppers, I just put on the counter to dry.    When completely dry, I will put in a jar.  I use these peppers in the grilling mix I make. 
I gave a boost to all our garden plants with bat guano, feather meal, and kelp meal last week end.  Potted plants should be fertilized a couple of times a month and garden bed veggies, once a month.  I also use a natural, organic balanced fertilizer by Espoma.

Ancho/poblano pepper
Peppers dry easily.  The quickest way is to put in a dehydrator.  Just slice in half and pop in.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use your oven on its lowest setting.  This year, I have just been leaving them on the window sill and they appear to be drying just fine.  You can also put on a screen in the sun or hang in a dry place.  The watchout for drying outside is the level of humidity.  In high moisture, they may spoil versus dry.
Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies

I am growing Ancho peppers for chili pepper.  My hubby loves lots of chili pepper in his chili.  They are just starting to turn red.

The bigger hot peppers I freeze whole to use in salsa throughout the winter and spring.  Quick, homemade salsa  I chop and freeze the pimentos to use in salad.  It is a key ingredient in the salad we love from the Pasta House restaurant.  Homemade salad dressing recipes with garden herbs  Typically, any food gets soft when thawed.  The Pimentos I have chopped and frozen retain their firmness after thawing.

I also make hot sauce from the hot peppers.  It is super easy by slicing and placing in apple cider vinegar.

If you have a pepper plant that did great this year.  There are a couple ways to make sure you have them in your garden next season.  You can save seeds from your favorite peppers for next year's garden.  Just dry them and put them in a freezer bag in the frig.  Peppers are perennials that you can bring in to the house or garage to overwinter.  It gives them a jump on next season.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Natural, organic pest strategies and how to make your own bug sprays

Cucumber beetle
Sunday, July 30, 2017

There are good bugs and then there are the bugs that eat up your harvest or give your plants diseases.  You have to be extremely careful in applying any insecticides (bug killers) as they will kill off the beneficial insects (like bees) that pollinate your veggies and increase your harvests.

The best approach is to let nature take its course.  If you have bad bugs, the good bugs will quickly follow and provide equilibrium in the garden.  When I went organic, there was significant reductions in bad bug pressure by the second year.  I did several things to help accelerate the balance.  I purchased good bugs to release in the garden, planted flowers that deter bad bugs and attract pollinators, applied milky spore strategically, attracted birds to the garden, and used natural sprays and powders judiciously as a last resort judiciously.

You can purchase beneficial insects via mail order or some nurseries carry them.  If you go this route, be sure to release them immediately.  If ordering on line, be sure that you will be at home when they are delivered so that you can get them released that day.
Edible garden filled with returning zinnias and sunflowers
You can encourage good bugs by planting flowers either around your vegetable patch or actually with your vegetables.  I have my vegetable garden actually in my flower garden.  Marigolds are a bad bug deterrent so I added these all around the flower beds.  My flower garden is in bloom from spring all the way through fall.  Many varieties are also edible like the day-lilies, borage, and roses. 
Flowers that are edible

To encourage birds to your yard plant trees, shrubs and flowers that attract birds.  Keeping a bird bath with shrubs nearby so the birds can hide in the shrubs is a great way to get birds into your yard.  We also have a bird feeder that keeps a steady stream of birds at the edge of our garden.  We get an occasional peck on the tomatoes, but this is minor compared to the entertainment of watching the birds and their help in pest control!
Chickens free ranging
This year we also got chicks in April and keets in June.  We let the chickens free range in the evening.  We tried letting them go on their own, but they quickly discovered the garden and how tasty squash and tomatoes were!  Now we only let them out when we can watch them.  The guineas are not yet old enough to let free range.  They are reported to not touch the veggies and love insects so we will give them a try in about another month.
Using a garden hose to dose down the insects can be a good strategy; just make sure that you are not watering a plant’s leaves that are susceptible to fungal diseases such as tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, roses or peonies.  

Manual removal of bad bugs can be very effective.  Just go insect and catepillar hunting and pull off the insects and throw them into a bowl with soap and water.

For Japanese beetles, I use an attractor that is quite a distance from the vegetable garden.  They love roses so I go hunting for them on our roses every day.  We also applied milky spore to keep the grub population down around the roses so we have fewer adults in the summer.  Milky spore is a microscopic bacteria that takes a couple of years to be effective so get started today.  I saw a huge difference in the Japanese beetle population by applying milky spore around my roses.  I am not seeing many Japanese beetles in my garden now so I am not using an attractor.

For ants, you have to control the aphids.  A recipe for catching the ants and aphids:  2 cups of vinegar, 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water in a gallon jug with a lid.  Drill 3 small holes in the lid, large enough for the ants and aphids, but too small for a little bee.  Place in trouble areas.

One non-chemical approach I really like is diatomaceous earth.  It is a white powder of tiny aquatic fossils.  The fossils have tiny rough edges that we cannot feel or see, but cut the insects outer "skin" causing dehydration and killing the insect.  Again, DE doesn't know a good from bad bug so use carefully.  I would use DE only sparingly and not on any flowering plants to spare the bees.

If you are unfortunate enough to have grasshoppers, DE is a good option.  Here is a link to other strategies for these ancient pests  Natural control of grasshoppers

Lately, I have had extensive caterpillar pressure on my sprouting broccoli plants (last year they were also very happy on all my broccoli plants).  I tried the "let my garden come into balance" but that hasn't yielded results.  I have tried the caterpillar hunting, but am still seeing my sprouting broccoli be ravished.  The best thing to have done was to not grow any broccoli plants this year so that their favorite food would not be around.  These plants came back in their pots this year from last year.  Crop rotation is key to keeping pests at a minimum!  Crop rotation made easy for small gardens

For caterpillars, BT dust is a good option.  The caterpillars ingest it as they are eating the plant and they eventually die.  This is my next move!  Make sure to dust the undersides of leaves so that first rain or dew wash off the dust.  You can get a "puffer" that you can put powder in to dust the undersides.  You just fill it up and compress the container and it "puffs" out the dust.  Much easier than turning each leaf upside down to dust!  I bought mine on Amazon and it was called "pest pistol mini duster".  I imagine it is going to take a few rounds to get them under control.

Here are some make your own insect deterrents.  Make sure you test on a few leaves to insure that it won’t adversely affect the plant you are trying to protect.
All purpose spray.  1 garlic bulb, 1 onion, 1 teas dry cayenne pepper, 1 teas liquid soap, 1 quart of water.  Mix water, garlic, pepper and onion together in a food processer, let steep an hour or so, drain through cheesecloth, add liquid soap and you are ready to spray away!
Hot pepper spray.  Good for repelling insects, squirrels, rabbits, and other curious mammals.  1 cup of hot peppers in a quart of water.  Mix in food processor, strain through a cheesecloth and you are ready to use.  Be careful to not get the liquid on your hands and then touch your eyes or mouth.  It will burn.
Tomato-leaf spray.  This is toxic to soft bodied insects like aphids.  It also attracts beneficial wasps.  Take the leaves off the bottom of your tomato plant, 2 cups.  Put in food processor with 1.5 quarts of water.  Let steep overnight, strain out leaves.  Spray on affected leaves, especially the undersides where they like to hide.

If you are just overrun with the bad bugs, you can look on OMRI web site to see what the organic insecticides are:  I use Safer Insecticidal Soap, Neem Oil, and Bt for my indoor plants.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

August 2017 Edible Garden Planner

August bounty
Saturday, July 29, 2017

August sees the full production of the summer garden harvests.  Late sweet corn (plant corn in succession and different varieties to lengthen the harvest), summer squashes (like zucchini and straightneck), peppers of all types (sweet to hot, hot), tomatoes, Mediterranean herbs, cucumbers, okra, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, beans, melons, figs, eggplant, honey, artichokes, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, onion, tomatillos, and fennel are all in season right now.  

A secret to maximizing your peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, tomatillos, and zucchinis is to harvest them continously.  A plant’s driving force is to reproduce so by continuing to harvest, it causes the plant to put on more fruits.  There are many options to preserve the extras: Freezing the extras for winter, drying Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies, canning Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty, and pickling Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix.

Continue to fertilize with a natural, organic fertilizer every month for veggies in the ground and semiweekly for those in containers.  When fertilizing, scratch the fertilizer into the soil around the plant.  If you leave the fertilizer on top of the ground, you will need twice as much as the nitrogen will off gas into the atmosphere if not covered.

Keeping consistent moisture to your plants is key.  Irregular watering causes tomatoes to crack.  Make sure your garden is getting water weekly either from rain or watering, being sure to water deeply at the base of the plant and not on the leaves.  Many warm weather lovers like squash, tomatoes and cucumbers are susceptible to fungal diseases.

If you had any lettuce from early planting, they will have bolted by now.  Take the flower heads off and save the seed.  You can shake the seeds into your self watering pots to get your fall lettuce growing.

Planting for fall and winter vegetables
I know it sounds crazy, but now is the time to plant for fall and winter harvests.  You need to plant early enough for your veggies to be full size when frosts hit.  Add 14 days to the days to maturity listed on the seed packet and back it up from your last frost date.  

Daylight hours determine the growth rate of plants.  Since the days are getting shorter, it will take longer for the plants to come to full maturity in the waning daylight hours of fall than the lengthening hours of spring.  By the first of November, all growth has come to a full standstill until the beginning of January.

If you can't pick up transplants like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kale, and herbs at big box stores or a local nursery, you can get transplants from on line nurseries.  Farmers markets may also have them.

Fall planting guide for cool season crops
August is the month for the rest of the greens (arugula, corn salad, lettuce, miner’s lettuce, spinach, mustard, endive), kohlrabi, onions, scallions, cabbage plants, radishes, peas, fava beans and turnips.  

In September, plant more greens, carrots, and radishes.  October is the month to plant garlic for next year’s harvest.  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

For more details on varieties to plant, Time to plant for fall and winter harvests!

Caring for your new seeds and transplants
Like in the spring, newly sown seeds need moisture to sprout.  Keep seeds and transplants moist until they get their first real set of leaves and are well established.  Then water as needed.

Many crops you can harvest into December and beyond, depending on how cold fall is.  Some get sweeter with some frost, like carrots, chard, and lettuce.  With cover, you can harvest all the way through winter!

A quick reminder, save the seeds from your best performers to plant next year.  You can replant seeds from any heirlooms or open pollinated plants.  Not only does it save you money, but it also gives you the plants that do the best under your garden and zone conditions.