Sunday, June 28, 2015

July Garden Planner


Sunday, June 28, 2015

The summer garden is in full swing.  This is the time of year for harvesting the heat lovers like tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, green beans, green beans, all types of peppers, garlic, basil, along with other Mediterranean herbs.

The spring greens have bolted, but there are summer greens that are robust during the hot days of summer.  My favorites are salad burnet, Swiss chard, collards, Malabar spinach, mustard greens, New Zealand spinach, orach, sorrel, sprouting broccoli and cultivated dandelions.

The spring lettuce has gone to seed.  When you see the white fuzzies, they are ready to save.  I just pull the seed heads, break apart, put in a ziplock freezer bag, label with type and date, and store in the refrigerator.  I also re-seeded our self watering pots with some of the seeds.  I had a few small volunteer lettuce plants elsewhere in the garden that I transplanted to the pots as well.  The lettuce seeds I planted last month have sprouted and are ready to transplant.

There are even a select few varieties of lettuce that can stand up to summer heat:
Leaf lettuce-”New Red Fire”, “Simpson Elite”
Butterhead-”Optima”, “Winter Density:
Romaine-”Jericho”, ”Green Towers”
Batavian-”Magenta”, “Nevada”
If you haven't already, now is the time to plant these heat champions.

The pole green beans are putting out beans consistently.  Harvest them to keep them producing.  I keep a quart bag in the freezer and add mature green beans as they are ready for picking.  The other legume, my snow peas, have finished producing for the season.  I love to eat them right off the vine.  Not many of these beauties made it to the kitchen!

The first round of garlic is almost ready for harvesting, including the elephant garlic.  I love elephant garlic as the cloves are as their name suggests, they are huge!  When pulled, I will harden both types in the shade outdoors for two weeks before storing indoors.  Hardening is critical for the garlic to not rot when stored.  Save the biggest cloves for replanting in the fall.

Our basil has been slow to get started but is now off to the races.  The trick to keeping the plants from getting woody is to make sure to harvest down to the first few sets of leaves before the plants go in to full flower.  It will regrow to give me at least one more good harvest before fall.

Oregano, mint, and catnip is in full bloom.  The bees love the small lavendar flowers!  It could be cut and dried now, but I love the flowers, too, and will wait until fall.

I fertilized all the pots again as well as the basil to keep it growing.  Pots lose nutrients at a much higher rate than garden beds.  I am using a foliar spray on all the plants at least every other week and using a solid fertilizer monthly around each plant.  I like Espoma.  I use their tomato fertilizer for all fruit producing plants and their general purpose vegetable fertilizer for all other veggie and herb plants.

I have started using a mineral supplement for my plants this year.  Right now I am using a foliar spray.  So many soils are low in minerals.  Your plants can't absorb what the soil does not have.  Adding minerals to the plants and soil will significantly increase the minerals in the plant itself, giving you minerals in the veggies you eat.

A key to keeping the garden productive this time of year is to keep even moisture to all the beds and containers.  Water the beds weekly and deeply.  During hot, dry periods, your containers may need watering every other day.  Self-watering pots with reservoirs in the bottom are the trick to extending watering duties.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pizza garden for the kids



Friday, June 26, 2015

A proven way to get the kids interested in gardening and the outdoors is to grow a pizza garden.  Engage the little ones in choosing what their favorite pizza ingredients are and grow a garden with those in them.  

It is amazing how many children will swear they don’t like a vegetable until it is in their backyard!  Have them help you plant the seeds or plants, monitor the seedlings, water, and harvest.  You will likely catch them picking green tomatoes to sample because they are so excited about eating what they have helped grow.

You can even throw a few other healthy ingredients in the mix as everything tastes better when you grow it yourself.

So, what are some ideas for pizza ingredients?  
Tomatoes-any you can’t eat, you can easily freeze for winter pizzas
Basil, oregano, chives, garlic for seasoning (very easy to dry any extra)
Onions-you can grow Egyptian walking onions in a pot and they are perennials to boot
Spinach, kale, arugula, broccoli and peas for spring and fall pizza toppings (easy to freeze for later)
Green peppers, eggplant, zucchini for summer pizzas (maybe some hot peppers for the adults)

You can make tomato sauce or pesto based pizzas.  Three basil plants will provide lots of fresh basil for pizzas as well as enough to make pesto sauces.  Basil is a tender herb so be sure to plant after all danger of frost has past or give it protection.  Oregano and chives are perennials so they can be planted as soon as they show up at the garden center and all the way to fall.

Garlic is typically planted in the fall to get the largest bulbs, but you can also plant in the spring as well.  If you plant the hardneck varieties, you can use the garlic scape (its flower) to flavor pizzas, sauces or salads.

For those that are real adventuresome, you can get mushroom kits to grow mushrooms indoors.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Compact tomato plants for small spaces



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tomatoes are the favorite vegetable to grow in the US.  There is nothing like a fresh off the vine tomato!  Luckily, if you have not grown your own, you can stop by your local farmers market and pick up a fresh tomato.

If you do not have much space, but would still love to grow your own, here is the list of compact tomatoes you can grow in a small space or in a big pot.

Balcony, Black Pearl, BushSteak, Bush Early Girl, Early Girl Hybrid, Italian Ice, Honeybunch, Sweetheart of the Patio, Patio Princess, Tumbling Tom, Cherry Punch, Cherry Cascade, Elfin, Micro-Tom, Patio-F, Red Robin, Sprite, Tiny Tim, Tumbling Tiger, Cordova, Nova, Lizzano.

Look for descriptions like "bush", "compact", "patio", "container" in the description on the seed packet or tags of transplants.  There are new varieties that come out every year.  Burpee also has a little picture on their seed packet of a clay pot with a checkmark in it to denote that this variety can be grown in a pot.

When you plant, plant deeply, be sure to add compost, a complete fertilizer and bone meal (combats blossom end rot).  If growing in a pot, you will have to water more often than in the garden.  I love the self watering pots that have a built in reservoir in the bottom, lengthening time between waterings.

For more detailed information on growing tomatoes, see my previous blog:  
Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Edible Shade Garden



Sunday, June 21, 2015

If you don’t get the 6-12 hours of full sun that many vegetables and herbs thrive in, doesn’t mean you can’t grow any vegetables or herbs.  They may not get as big or full as those grown in full sun, but they will grow!

Here is a list of herbs and vegetables that can grow in different levels of sunlight.  
2-4 hours of sun herbs
*Anise hyssop
*Basil
*Chives
*Cilantro
*Lemon balm
*Marjoram
*Mint
*Oregano
*Parsley
*Rosemary
*Sage
*Shiso
*Spicebush
*Sweet woodruff
*Thyme
*Wild ginger

2-4 hours of sun vegetables
*Arugula
*Asian greens such as bok choy and tatsoi
*Kale
*Lettuce
*Mesclun greens
*Mustard greens
*Snap peas
*Spinach
*Swiss chard

4-5 hours of sun vegetables
*Beans-bush and dwarf types
*Beets
*Carrots
*Celery
*Eggplant
*Green onions
*Micro greens
*Potted lemon
*Peas-bush and dwarf types
*Potatoes
*Radishes
*Alpine strawberries
*Turnips
*Tomatoes

Watch how the sun travels through your garden and plant in the areas that get the most full sun and dappled sun.  To increase the light that your plants get, trim up trees, plant against a white wall, use reflective mulch.  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Growing fabulous lettuce and greens


Sprouting broccoli


Saturday, June 6, 2015

We love eating a salad every day.  It is fresh, crunchy, and delicious.  You can dress it up in so many different ways.  The variety available for the greens themselves is phenomenal.  When I was growing up, it seemed the only salad green in the store was iceberg lettuce.  Now, you can get numerous varieties of lettuces, kale, fiddle leaf ferns, purslane, wheat grass, pea shoots, spinach, amaranth, chives, arugula, endive, radicchio; the list goes on.

As the variety has increased in the stores, it has ballooned in seed catalogues.  There are hundreds of different lettuces, greens, and salad herbs available out there.
Red sails lettuce

Greens all have something in common.  They are fed by nitrogen (stimulates green growth) and stay sweetest in cool temperatures with consistent moisture.  Like most vegetables, greens do best in a fertile soil, rich in organic matter.

You can accomplish this through adding compost to your garden bed or container with a balanced fertilizer and blanketed with a mulch covering.  Planting or positioning your container in a spot where it gets some sun, but good afternoon shade to keep the plant cool will prolong the sweetness of the leaves.  You can also use a shade cover to keep the plant and soil temperature down.  Greens do not need much sun in the summer since there is so much reflected light available to the plant.

You also don’t want the soil to dry completely out.  This will stress the plant and stimulate it to go to flower, or bolt as they call it.  Keep the soil moist.
Swiss chard

With the advent of so many gardening today, the demand for seeds has continued to rise.  You can now choose varieties bred specifically to tolerate the conditions of each season.  There are cold hardy varieties and heat resistant varieties.  You would plant the cold hardy varieties in early spring and fall.  The heat resistant varieties you would plant in late spring and successively every 3 weeks through the summer.  Look for “bolt resistance” and “heat tolerant” varieties. 

You can also look for greens that actually thrive during the dog days of summer.  Varieties like amaranth, chard, collards, kale, Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, orach, salad burnet, sorrel, sprouting broccoli (one of our favorite summer greens), sweet potato leaves, purslane, radacchio, and cultivated dandelions.  The new leaves are the sweetest.  Herbs like chives, parsley, tarragon, and celery leaves add an unique twist on the summer salad.
Blood veined sorrel

Pick the youngest leaves for salads and use the more mature leaves of chard, radicchio and sorrel for cooked greens.  Picking right after a rain or first thing in the morning also gives the sweetest, plumpest leaves.


To wrap it up:
  1. Plant in rich soil.
  2. Use a natural fertilizer high in nitrogen (coffee grinds work well) each time you seed or plant.
  3. Keep the soil evenly moist; don’t allow to dry out completely.  Planting in self-watering pots and applying mulch can help.
  4. Successive sowing of lettuce and spinach seeds.
  5. Sow varieties adapted to the season.
  6. Keep the plants in a cool, shady location to extend the harvest in the summertime.
  7. Supplement the salad bowl with sprouting broccoli leaves, perennial greens, tropical greens, and herbs when it gets hot.