Sunday, June 25, 2017

July 2017 Edible Garden Planner

Zucchini, white cucumbers, tomatoes and green beans from the July garden
Sunday, June 25, 2017

July is the time of year for harvesting the heat lovers like tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, sprouting broccoli, green beans, all types of peppers, garlic, basil with other Mediterranean herbs.

Peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, and green beans are ripe and being harvested.  My tomato plants have many baby tomatoes and are typically ready to start harvesting by the 4th of July.  I'm not sure if they will make it this year.  My eggplants have many flowers, but no fruits so far.  They love this heat and humidity so should be producing within the month.

By the end of the month, there will be more summer veggies than we can eat and we will start preserving the extra.  Preservation garden

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.  Growing summer salads

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.  Never ending salad from one packet of seeds  I'm going to start some more seed to keep the harvest going.  Succession planting is key for keeping lettuce in the heat of the summer.

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.  Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces

Pole green beans on trellis
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.  There was a bumper crop this spring so I have frozen the extras.  Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer

I have already harvested the garlic, including the elephant garlic.  I love elephant garlic as the cloves are as their name suggests, they are huge!  I am hardening 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.  Garlic harvest time is near!

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.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

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.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"

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.  Decorative container gardening for edibles

I have started using a mineral supplement for my plants this year.  Right now I am using Azomite.  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.  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

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.  Summer garden tips

If you are getting higher than normal rainfall, you'll need to fertilize more often as the rain will wash away the nutrients.  Keep an eye on the the growth of your veggies and if they are not growing and producing as expected, they may need some extra food.

The wild blackberries are ripe and ready for picking right now.  You have to get them quickly or the critters will beat you to it.  The Alpine strawberries are producing well.  Giving them a good fertilizer boosts the size of the fruits.  Alpine strawberries are super sweet, but small.  The apples are starting to turn red.  The fig tree is full of small green baby figs.  Looks to be a bumper crop for the figs.  I'd like to dry some this year.

Finally, the summer flowers are going gangbusters.  The zinnias, daylilies, marigolds, sunflowers, echinacea as well as the herbs like oregano, sage, and thyme are all in full bloom.  The hollyhocks, Cock's Comb, Love Lies Bleeding, delphiniums, morning glory, hummingbird vine, sedum are all in bud and will be blooming soon.  The mustard, carrots, broccoli and lettuce have all bolted and are flowering.  The bees just love their tiny flowers!  Flowers are not only beautiful, but attract pollinators making the garden more productive.
A butterfly on zinnias in the edible garden

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

Basil in the foreground

Saturday June 24, 2017


Basil is a native of Africa and other tropical areas of Asia where it has been cultivated for over 5,000 years.  It is a culinary herb that sends cooks into poetic rapture.  It is probably the favorite of the “sweet” herbs and well known from its use in Mediterranean cuisine.  It has a spicy bite when eaten fresh.

Basil contains a chemical that might help inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis called BCP, (E)-beta-caryphliene.  Basil is also great for taking the itch and swelling out of a mosquito bite.  Simply crush a leaf and run onto the bite.  It goes to work immediately while releasing its wonderful aroma at the same time.  For more information on vitamin and mineral content,   basil nutritional info

Basil and cilantro are the only annual herbs I grow.  All the rest of the herbs in the garden are perennials, meaning you plant them once and they come back every year.  I even had some basil "volunteers" return from last year's Cardinal basil.  I just dug them up from where they sprang up and replanted where I wanted them.

Herbs are the easiest to grow and what I started with before growing veggies.  Start a kitchen herb garden!

Harvesting Basil
For basil harvest, the key is to harvest before the basil gets too woody.  The best strategy to accomplish this is to not let the plant go to flower.  Just pinch off the flowers and use the fresh basil in a dish or salad.  

You get multiple harvests from each plant in a season.  I get three harvests in our Zone 6/7 garden.  Cut each stem back to the last 4 leaves. Give each plant a good dose of fish emulsion after harvesting to support quick leaf regrowth.  Bees love basil flowers so I plant Holy Basil and Cardinal Basil just to let them flower and keep the bees happy.

Basil plant after harvested
Basil before harvesting
Preserving Basil
You can freeze, dry, make basil into pesto, basil butter, basil vinegar, or basil oil.  

For freezing, you can freeze chopped leaves into ice cubes to be able to pop into sauces. You can also blanch and freeze.  If you don’t blanch, the frozen herb does not keep its color or flavor.  Blanching is simply throwing the herb leaves in a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds and then quickly plunge them into a bowl or sink of ice water.  Dry the leaves then put the leaves on a cookie sheet, place in the freezer and when frozen, remove and put in quart freezer bags.  Now you can have fresh basil anytime you need it!

Harvested basil stems
For drying, I place the cut stems into a paper bag that I put in a dry, warm place.  You can also tie in bunches and hang upside down to dry.  Be sure to leave lots of open space between stems to discourage any mold.  When completely dry, I remove the leaves and place in canning jars.

I will take all of my dried herbs for the season and make it into "Herbes de Provence" that I use on and in everything!  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"

My favorite way top preserve basil is to make pesto.  Pesto is a mixture of fresh basil, traditionally pine nuts (but I use any kind of nut I have on hand-walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, cashews), parmesan cheese, a few cloves of garlic, and olive oil.  You can add spinach or parsley.  Just throw them all together in a food processor and ta-da pesto!

I use about 8 cups of packed leaves (be sure to not include any tough stems), 1/2 cup nuts, 1 cup of olive oil, 1 and 3/4 cup of Parmesan, 8 cloves of fresh garlic and a teas of salt.  After processing, I put half in a quart freezer bag, lay flat in the freezer until ready to use.  Just thaw and toss with your favorite pasta or add to pizza, bruschetta, sandwiches or sauce for a quick and tasty meal.  



For basil butter, chop the basil and mix 1 Tbl, or to taste, into softened butter.

For basil vinegar, choose a white vinegar so that the taste of the basil shines through.  Place fresh basil leaves into an empty bottle and cover with vinegar.  Place in cool, dark area for a month.  Shake daily.  Strain out leaves and use!  You can accelerate the infusion process by covering the leaves with boiling vinegar.  Your creation will be ready in a week.

For basil flavored oil, chop 1 cup of leaves.  Heat 1 cup of oil on low, add herbs, stirring for 3-4 minutes.  Strain out leaves and keep oil refrigerated.  

Lots of options!

Basil turns black when temps get close to freezing.  Be sure to harvest all leaves when it looks like you are getting a frost.  You can also take the the tips and place in water to grow roots and pot indoors for winter harvests.  You can also dig up the plant and repot to bring indoors.  Be sure to put in a sunny window.  Basil won’t thrive indoors, but you will get enough to use as seasoning in your favorite dishes.


Growing Basil
Basil is easy to grow.  It loves warmth and melts when temps get even close to freezing.  The only watch out is too much water.  You’ll get the best flavor when you are stingy with water.

They don’t require much in the way of fertilizer.  Just fertilize at planting and once/month.  A good organic choice is blood meal.  Nitrogen encourages green growth which is what you are after when it comes to basil.

Basil grows well in pots indoors or out. If growing indoors, be sure to put in a sunny window.

It smells amazing when you brush up against it.  You can place next to a garden path to enjoy its fragrance every time you pass by.  To deter deer, plant fragrant herbs like basil around the perimeter of your garden.  Deer navigate with their sense of smell and avoid areas of strong smells.

When flowers appear, pinch them off.  This will encourage bushy growth and keep your basil from getting woody.  The flowers are edible and great adds to sauces or as a zing to salads.  The bees just love the small flowers.  Harvest any time you need.  Be sure to add to the dish at the very end of cooking to keep the strongest flavor.
Cardinal basil flowers
Sweet basil is used in Mediterranean cooking.  Popular types are Genovese (probably the most famous for Italian cooking), and Mammoth.  Purple Ruffles is more decorative than culinary, but adds fun color as an infusion to vinegar.  Thai, lemon and holy basil are used in Asian cooking.   Cardinal basil has the most beautiful flowers.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Quick, homemade salsa

Mid summer harvest
Sunday, June 18, 2017

Here is our homemade and very quick salsa recipe using everything from the garden.  It is a little on the spicy side, so you may want to cut back on the hot peppers if you like a milder taste. 
I freeze whole cayenne and jalapenos throughout the growing season to use for homemade salsa.  I just thaw a quart of frozen homegrown tomatoes, 1 cayenne, 1 jalapeno, 1 bell pepper and add 1 fresh onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a healthy handful of cilantro.  Throw them all into the food processor and viola!  Fresh, spicy salsa.

All the extra tomatoes that come off the vine, I will slice up and freeze so I can use the rest of the year.  Any frozen from the previous year goes into sauce in the fall.  I wait until it is cooler before I can!  Preserving the tomato harvest

I do the same with sweet and hot peppers, freeze the extras that we can't eat fresh.  I freeze the small ones whole and slice up the larger sweet peppers.  They retain their flavor for a couple of years.  Preserving peppers

As the cilantro goes to seed, I use tarragon as a substitute.  It adds a slightly different taste, but is still quite good.

I haven't had the best of luck with large bulbing onions in the garden, but the Egyptian walking onions do great in the garden or in a pot!  For this salsa recipe, I pull one onion and use both the bulb and the stalk.  Egyptian walking onions

Garlic harvest is here!

Garlic in foreground, starting to die back
Sunday, June 18, 2017

Garlic is rich in lore.  This allium has been around for thousands of years.  It originated in Asia, was cultivated in Egypt and has been a Mediterranean cooking staple for centuries. Over the ages, garlic has been reputed to repel vampires, clear the blood, cure baldness, aid digestion.  

Today’s studies have shown garlic has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral properties. And, it tastes great!  For a breakdown of specific vitamins and minerals, garlic nutritional value  It is easy to grow and has little pest issues.  All you do is put them in the ground in the fall and by early to mid summer, they are ready to harvest.
The clove puts out roots in the fall.  Depending on how warm the winter is, there can be green shoots showing through the cold months.  Garlic will be some of the first greenery to start growing in early spring.  The stems resemble onion greens.  The hard neck garlic flower, or scape, has a cute little curl in it.  They are great in salads.  Harvesting them also gives you bigger bulbs.
For more on fall planting and growing garlic, Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

Soft neck and hard neck garlic are slightly different in telling you when to harvest.  For soft neck garlic, you wait until the tops fall over and die off.  They are ready to harvest about a week later.  Typically this is mid-summer, but ours is ready now.  Hard neck garlic is ready to harvest when about half of their lower leaves have turned brown.  Try digging one up and see if the bulb is large and firm.

                                               Garlic ready to harvest           Freshly harvested garlic
It is best to dig your garlic when the ground is dry.  When you go to dig up your garlic, proceed carefully.  If you cut the bulb, it will not keep and needs to eaten soon.  The garlic should be left in dry shade for 2-3 weeks or brought inside and stored in a cool, dry location with good air circulation.  They can be hung or placed in a perforated bin or paper bag to dry and store.  I keep mine in a paper bag on the covered deck.

After they are hardened, I will cut off the dry stalks above the clove and trim the roots.  I'll keep them in a  bag with good air circulation indoors until I am ready to peel them.

If you planted a combo of elephant garlic (which is actually a type of leek), hard neck and soft neck garlic and are wondering how to tell them apart now.

Leek flower
Garlic scape
You can tell the difference in the two by looking at the flowers.  Leeks have a onion type flower while hard neck garlic has a curly scape flower.

Your soft neck garlic will have a much smaller stem than the elephant garlic does.




For the longest storage, soft neck garlic is the ticket.  It is also the strongest flavored.  Hard necked is milder and easier to peel.  I like elephant garlic because you get so much from each plant.

To preserved my garlic, I peel them and put them in apple cider vinegar with a few hot peppers for pickled garlic.  I keep them in the frig and they have stayed firm for me for two years.  I had tried keeping the dried, fresh cloves in years past, but always lost some.  This way, I don't lose a single clove!

I use my garlic for garlic cheese bread, cooking, and salsa.  Quick, homemade salsa

Everyone knows of garlic in sauces and on cheese bread.  A few years back, we tried roasted garlic.  It dramatically mellows the flavor.  I just put a few heads in a small baking dish, add chicken stock to just about level to the cut heads, and let bake covered at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until soft.  It is a great spread on french bread!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

What's happening in the mid-June garden


Potted pepper plant with blooming nasturtiums

Saturday, June 17, 2017

This is the in-between season in our garden.  The spring veggies have wound down and the summer veggies are just starting to fruit.  The spring flowers are long gone and the summer lovers are just beginning to bloom.

The spring crops like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cilantro, mustard, sorrel, chard, rat's tail, snow peas are at the end of their peak.  The lettuce, spinach, sprouting broccoli, cilantro, sorrel and mustard greens have gone to seed.  You can still pick leaves, but look for the ones at to bottom of the lettuce and cilantro plants where they are still sweet.  For the chard, sorrel, cultivated dandelions, and mustard greens, the new leaves are the sweetest.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

I started a second crop of lettuce a couple of weeks ago.  They are about 2 inches tall right now.  Be sure to sow seeds of heat tolerant varieties; every three weeks is optimal to be able to have continuous lettuce harvests.  Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces  

There are other greens that can be used for salads that thrive in the heat.   Chard harvested first thing in the morning, dandelion greens, sorrel, mustard greens and chick weed are all salad worthy.  You can add herbs for a fresh taste and zing like salad burnet, parsley, basil, dill, onion stalks/tops, chives, thyme, oregano.  For fun, you can add edible flowers.   Growing summer salads

The tomatoes are all flowering and have baby tomatoes on them.  Some have grown into tall, sturdy plants; others are still on the small side.  When tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplants first flower, it is time to give them a boost with fertilizer.  I use a tomato fertilizer on all my fruiting plants as it is designed to boost the fruiting of plants.  I'll watch the plants that are not growing as well and give them another round of fertilizer in a couple of weeks.  With fertilizer on fruiting plants, you don't want to over fertilize or they will grow lots of greenery and not so many veggies.  Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoesI used a combo of Espoma Tomato Tone and Azomite to give the plants the minerals they need.  Minerals in the ground is minerals in the plants and fruits which gives you minerals when you eat them.  I have seen a real difference in plant growth using Azomite.  Another mineral supplement I am going to try is a Sea Mineral supplement to see how that compares. I always put the fertilizer under the mulch to make sure it all goes to the plant and not lose the nitrogen into the air.To keep from having blossom end rot on tomatoes and squash, consistent water is key.  They shouldn't be overwatered.  Over or under will affect the fruit flavor.  They are kind of like Goldilocks; they like it just right.  No worries, though, if you do overwater, the fruit will be fine, just not as flavorful and may crack.

Zucchini plant in bloom

We are harvesting zucchinis both the green Cocozelle and the Early Prolific straighneck yellow ones.   You need to keep a close eye on the zucchinis because they seem to get huge overnight!  The more you pick veggies, the more the plant produces for you.  What to do with all that zucchini?!

Close up of zucchini plant with growing fruits
The winter spaghetti squash had nice sized fruits growing until our chickens ate most of them, but they are still flowering so more will come.  They will not be ready to harvest until late fall.  They also tell you when they are ready.  When the vine dies, the squash is ready.  Growing zucchini and summer squash

The pepper plants have blooms and small peppers.  The Ancient Red sweet peppers are furthest along because they were overwintered.  They are turning red and are ready to eat.  Peppers seem to have a built in counter.  They will drop flowers when the plant has reached its max peppers.  Pick the peppers when green to keep the plant producing. You can ripen on the counter, if you like, or go ahead and enjoy green.    Preserving peppers
Our cucumber vines, which I have growing up a trellis to save space, is giving about a cucumber a week.  One cucumber is enough to make a jar of sandwich pickles.  My husband loves sandwich pickles on his burger.  Any extra I put in salads.  They taste so fresh right off the vine.  Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix
We started pulling the garlic a couple of weeks ago.  Soft neck and hard neck garlic are slightly different in telling you when to harvest.  Soft neck garlic is ready to harvest then the tops fall over and die off.  They are ready to harvest about a week later.  Typically this is mid-summer, but ours is ready now.  Hard neck garlic is ready to harvest when about half of their lower leaves have turned brown.  Try digging one up and see if the bulb is large and firm.  After pulling, keep in a warm shady spot for 2-3 weeks for the bulbs to harden.  Hardening lengthens the storage time.  Save the biggest cloves for planting in the fall.  Garlic harvest is here! 
The snow peas are about done; they don't like the heat.  The beans are all flowering.  The storage beans have actual bean pods on them.  Storage beans will need to stay on the vine until the beans in the pods have reached full size.  Then you take them off to fully dry and hull them.  The green beans you want to harvest much sooner so that they are sweet and pods are not fibrous.  The more you harvest green beans, the more the plants give you.  I plant the vining types.  They will produce until frost.  Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer
Background-potatoes blooming potato box.  Foreground-pepper and snow peas in pot with nasturtiums

All the herbs are going strong.  Many are large enough now to cut and dry for preserving.  Harvesting and drying herbs  The sage has been putting on lots of lavender blue flowers that the bees and butterflies love.  My mother read recently that you can use sage tea to help with hot flashes.  You can have up to 5 cups of tea a day.  Make your own teas from garden grown herbs

We are now into summer temps; most days in the 90's.  The garden will soon need supplemental watering.   Summer garden tips  For veggies I am growing in pots, I am watering them twice a week now.  The best veggie pots are those that have a reservoir in the bottom.  This will allow you to probably get away with watering once a week.  At some point, I'll remember and take the time to add a reservoir to my existing pots over the winter to cut down on the summer watering time!  Decorative container gardening for edibles

The hard part of gardening is over now.  There is minor weeding and occasional fertilizing along with watering.  Most of the time from here out is just harvesting, enjoying and preserving.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

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




Sunday, June 11, 2017

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 help your plants survive and flourish.

You may be wondering how to get started..........  

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!  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!  

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!
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.  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 cucumber, pepper and tomato seeds started in the deck in a pot right now.  They sprout in just a few days.  I'll transplant into larger pots or the garden when they are a few inches tall.

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.

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.  Worm castings have lots of beneficial microbes in them that helps the plants absorb nutrients from the soil.

Step 6-Monitor and water.  Keep an eye on your plants.  They may look sad the first week if it is really not 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
Spinach, kale, arugula, broccoli and peas for spring and fall pizza toppings (also 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)
8 garlic plants
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sown

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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Flowers that are edible

Edible daylilies in bloom edging the vegetable garden

Saturday, June 10, 2017

If you want to add a beautiful touch and taste to a salad, dinner plate or drink, add a flower!  Many common flowers are edible.  These flowers do triple duty-adding beauty to the garden, attracting pollinators to increase harvests, and food.

Herb flowers are edible-like basil, thyme, oregano, calendula/pot marigold, sage, lavender, nasturtium, chamomile, borage, bee balm, garden chives, garlic chives and rosemary.  They add great color and flavor to salads and dishes.  Their flavor is a lighter version of the herb.  Let's not forget saffron; a pricey spice from the stigmas of the saffron crocus.
Edible garlic chives in bloom

Vegetable flowers are edible-like broccoli, cabbage, kale, bean, pea, onion, chives, garlic, zucchini, chicory.    Fried squash blooms are delish!  Just stuff them with a cheese mixture and fry.

Some plants we consider weeds are edible-like chickweed and dandelions flowers as well as their greens and clover flowers.  Chickweed tastes pretty good.  Cultivated dandelions are sweeter in the cool temperatures.  When it gets warmer, harvest the young leaves and flowers for salads and the large for steamed greens.  Full of great nutrition.

Edible lavender flowers in bloom

Then there are the ornamentals that are edible like daylilies, orchids, violets, chrysanthemums, honeysuckle, lilac, roses, dianthus, passion flower, pansies, Johnny Jump Ups, daisies, scented geraniums, snapdragons, tulips, zinnias and sunflowers.  Citrus blooms are, too.

Self sowing edible flowers:
Borage
Calendula
Chamomile
Marigolds
Nasturtiums
Sunflowers
Zinnias
Plant these, allow to go to seed, and they will continue to re-establish themselves year after year.  These are referred to as "volunteers" in the garden.  You can also save their seeds and sow in the spring where you want them to grow.  They do great in garden beds and containers.  This year, I had many self sowing zinnias return in light pink, medium pink and fuchsia. 
Self sustaining gardening appealing? Try the self-seeders!

You can also make beautiful flower sugars to spoon into teas, over berries and desserts.  Or add herbal flowers to sea salt for seasoning dishes.  Using herbs, flowers and fruit for flavored sugars and salts  You can  make flavored vinegars  Make your own flavored vinegars  The flower color will tint the vinegar as well as flavor it.  After straining, add a whole flower for its beauty. You can even make candied flowers!  Or add them to homemade drinks as a garnish  Use herbs for signature desserts and grown up beverages   or main ingredient Homegrown flavored waters and sodas
Homemade herbal sugars and salts
You can quickly look on line to verify that your ornamental is indeed edible which is recommended just to be on the safe side.

Monday, June 5, 2017

June 2017 Edible Garden Planner

Lettuce in foreground, herbs in background

Monday, June 5, 2017

June is a productive time in the garden.  Cool season crops are peaking while summer crops are just starting to produce with herbs in full swing.  Everything is a lush green at the beginning of the month.  As June gets in full swing, it will be time to begin regular watering.  As your fruit producing veggies flower, they will need a boost of fertilizer.  As the rain slows down, consistent ground moisture is key.

What’s growing in the garden right now
Most of the lettuce I planted in March is bolting.  The seeds started in April are transplanted and of a good size.  The resown lettuce from last week are starting to sprout.  I will replant these into larger pots as they grow.  I'll put them in pots so I can keep them in a cool spot as lettuce doesn't like it hot!  Overwintered sprouting broccoli has their small florets for use in salads.  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.

When I get an infestation of caterpillars, I like to use diatomaceous earth (de).  It is made of tiny aquatic fossils from fresh water.  Their hard edges cause scratches on caterpillars and insects resulting in dehydration.  So no chemicals involved.  I use them only on plants that don't flower as de will kill pollinators, too.

Arugula, sorrels, chard and cultivated dandelions are all harvestable.  As it gets hotter, these greens become stronger.  Since they are perennials, they are the first up in the spring for fresh salads.  Harvest the new leaves in summer for the mildest taste.  You can cut them back, too, to get fresh new leaves.  It doesn't hurt them at all.  

I have done two harvests of spinach and frozen them in quart freezer bags.  What is left is starting to bolt.  The leaves are still sweet and great to use in salads.  Another salad addition that is ready to eat are snow peas.  The plants are just covered.  I harvested them this morning.  Usually the snow peas are ready when the lettuce is so they are a tasty addition to salads.  This year, the lettuce was way ahead of the snow peas.  Snow peas are also good steamed and in stir fry.

The cilantro, rosemary, sage, chives, savory, oregano, basil, lavender, dill, tarragon, parsley and thyme are filling out nicely and flowering. The chives have already bloomed with their beautiful lavender flowers.  The flowers are edible, too.  They are fun to use in salads or as a substitute for onions in cooking.  Very pretty to add in baked potatoes and grill.  We slice our potatoes, add some diced onion or chive flowers, butter, seasoning, wrap in foil and throw on the grill.  Yum.

Another great thing about herbs is they are a good deterrent to deer.  Deer do not like strong smells so avoid fragrant herbs.  I plant them all around the garden to keep the pesky critters away.  We now live out in the country and deer will even bed down in the yard.  What has worked to keep them out of the garden is a combination of a pod deer deterrent, WD40 on socks, herbs, and marigolds around the perimeter of the garden bed.  
Flowering chives

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, and squash are all flowering.  Keep an eye out for cucumber beetles and caterpillars.  Just pluck them off and throw into a can of soapy water.  My overwintered pepper plants are full of peppers of harvestable size.
How to control bugs naturally, organically

Overwintered carrots and beets, onions, garlic, and leeks are all flowering, including the Egyptian walking onion.  I am harvesting the walking onion any time I need onions for cooking.  The green stalk is great as a fresh chive, too, for salads or potatoes.

The early strawberries have come and gone.  The Alpine strawberries are ripe for the picking.
Ripe Alpine strawberries
Now is the time to provide shade for your lettuce and sow bolt resistant varieties like Summer Crisp Magenta, Green Towers and Jericho Romaine, Simpson Elite leaf.  The Grand Rapids is doing quite well in the heat.  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.  I move most of my greens around to the northeast, shady side of the house this time of the year to keep them sweet as long as possible.  
Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces

For a spinach substitute, you can grow New Zealand spinach.  It has spinach taste and loves the heat.
Growing summer salads

Best time to harvest
The best time to harvest almost any vegetable is mornings or right after a rain; this is when they are the crunchiest, fullest and sweetest.  Harvest greens in the morning before you go to work and store in the frig for the day.  Just don’t store tomatoes in the frig; this ruins the flavor.

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.

For more tips on preserving the extra, see Preservation garden

Watering & fertilizing tips
With the heat coming, it is time to start watering.  Keep consistent moisture to your lettuces to keep taste sweet and your lettuce from bolting as long as possible.  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.  

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 compost tea or kelp the rest of the season.  Too much nitrogen will cause your plants to grow lush foliage with no fruits.  Nitrogen stimulates green growth.

For more on summer garden care, Summer garden tips

Can I still plant a garden in June-Yes!
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.  Even if you have planted zucchini and tomatoes already, late June is a good time to plant a second crop.  The cucumber seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago rotted so I am re-planting.  Many gardeners have had this happen to them with all the rain we are getting this spring.  

A complete list of all veggies that can be planted in June:
Arugula
Bush beans
Beets
Broccoli
Broccoli raab
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Chard
Collards
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Bulbing fennel
Kale
Leeks
Mediterranean herbs (basil, thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, chives)
Okra
Parsnips
Salsify
Summer squash
Sweet potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnips
Watermelons


Savory, thyme, lettuce, onions with day lilies in the background

Here are a couple of garden ideas

If you have a picky eater, try the kid’s pizza/spaghetti garden.  If they grow it, they want to eat it!
Tomatoes-any you can’t eat, you can easily freeze for winter pizzas, salsa, or sauce
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, broccoli and peas for spring and fall pizza toppings (also 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)
8 garlic plants
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sown

For other garden themes,
Small space French kitchen garden
Different lettuces in a decorative patio container

It is great fun, a time saver, and nutritious to grow your own food in your yard or patio!  For more on small space gardening, 
How to decide what to plant for small spaces? 
Decorative container gardening for edibles 
Get the most from your space-plant intensively! 
You can garden year round in small space 
Start a kitchen herb garden!