Monday, May 28, 2018

Summer planting by month


Monday, May 28, 2018

Wondering what you can plant each month in the summer?  Here are plantings by month.

May
Basil
Bush beans
Blackeye peas
Beets
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cantaloupe
Carrots
Cilantro
Corn
Cucumber
Eggplant
Spring kale
Lettuce
Okra
Pak choi
Peas
Peppers
Potatoes
Pumpkins
Radishes
Summer squash (like zucchini)
Winter squash (like pumpkins, butternut or  acorn)
Sweet potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnips
Watermelons

June
Basil
Bush beans
Beets
Broccoli
Broccoli raab
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Chard
Collards
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Bulbing fennel
Kale
Leeks
Okra
Parsnips
Salsify
Summer squash
Sweet potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnips
Watermelons

July
Basil
Bush beans
Beets
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chard
Chinese cabbage
Collards
Corn
Endive
Kale
Kohlrabi
Mustard greens
Parsnips
Rutabagas
Salsify
Scallions
Spinach
Tomatoes
Turnips

August
Arugula
Bush beans
Beets
Cabbage
Corn salad
Endive
Kale
Lettuce
Mustard
Radishes
Scallions
Spinach
Turnips

Sunday, May 27, 2018

June 2018 Edible Garden Planner

Lettuce in foreground, herbs in background
Sunday, May 27, 2018

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 and orach I planted in March is bolting.  The spinach is spent. The lettuce seeds started in April are transplanted and of a good size.  The resown lettuce from last week is 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!  Early spring planted sprouting broccoli has their small florets for use in salads.  Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

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.  Broccoli and cauliflower growing tips

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

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.  

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, peppers, and eggplant are all flowering.  Keep an eye out for cucumber beetles and caterpillars.  Just pluck them off and throw into a can of soapy water.  I just started my squash and cucumber seeds indoors a couple of weeks ago.  They are on the deck hardening off.  I'll plant them this week end.  You can also start the seeds directly in the garden or pot if growing a dwarf variety.   

Overwintered carrots, onions, garlic, and leeks are all flowering, including the Egyptian walking onions Egyptian walking onions.  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.  Alpine strawberries are much smaller than regular strawberries but are super sweet and prolific.  Strawberries seem to be pest free in our garden.  You just have to get to the strawberries before the birds do!
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 and small fruits on our 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.  If your seeds don't come up within a week, it is likely that they were either bad or they rotted.  Seeds can rot when the ground is really wet.  It is still a great time to start seeds.  

A 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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

What's happening in the late May garden

Chives and sage in bloom
Sunday, May 20, 2018

In late May, the summer veggies are growing strong and the spring veggies are at the end.  There are still greens for salads or steaming.  Herbs are growing robustly.  By this time of year, we no longer need to purchase produce from the grocery store and can get fresh herbs to add to ordinary dishes that make them taste wonderful.

The greens we are eating-French sorrel, chard, spinach, dandelion greens, salad burnet, corn salad, chick weed, sweet clover, green onions, tyfon, Giant Red mustard, sprouting broccoli leaves, snow peas, turnip greens, kale, cabbage.  Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

Herbs to add to dishes and salads-chives, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, horseradish, overwintered leeks, Egyptian onions, tarragon, sage, dill, young garlic. 
The fruits and veggies-turnips, beets, strawberries, baby carrots.

The flowers that are blooming-irises, spiderwort, marigolds, petunias, roses, snapdragons, alyssum and the herbs and veggies going to seed-white flowers on the cilantro, the sage has beautiful purple flowers, the white, red and pink flowers of thyme, lavender chive flowers.  All veggie and herb flowers are edible.  A fun way to add flavor and beauty to salads or other dishes.

The lettuce is in full bolt so soon there will be the white, yellow and blue flowers from the different kinds of lettuce.  Carrots will bolt, too.  If not pulled, they will have beautiful flowers resembling Queen Ann's Lace, which they are from the same family.  

The tomatoes and peppers have flowers so tiny fruits should be appearing soon!  Peppers typically can be harvested in June and tomatoes around the 4th of July. 

This week end, I'll weed in the garden and pots.  Everything was fertilized when planted.  I'll do another round when the fruits appear on the tomatoes.

There has been an insect feeding on my tomato leaves and something chewing off a few of my transplants at the ground.  I sprinkled diatomaceous earth (de) on and around only the plants that were being bothered.  De is not discriminate between good insects and bad insects so I use sparingly.  I would not use on a plant that is flowering to avoid killing pollinators.  

Once the plants get up to a decent size, they will no longer be at risk of being killed or stunted from being an insect's meal.   Natural, organic pest strategies and how to make your own bug sprays


I have also had a very enterprising mole in the garden over the winter.  The good part of this is that they do a great job of loosening up the soil.  The bad part is that if there tunnels go under your plant, there is a good chance, the plant will die.  I got out the mole deterrent and put it in the garden.  It is just a round metal tube that vibrates and makes a buzzing noise a few times a minute.  Hopefully, it will keep the mole from the garden!

I have been harvesting the extra greens and freezing them to use when needed.  By harvesting, it stimulates the plant to grow even more leaves.  My spinach did much better this year in the pot.  I was very generous with the fertilizer!  Preservation garden

I start seeds indoors and outdoors throughout the season.  I started my squash, tomatoes, peppers, and basil indoors a week ago.  Most came up.  I keep my seeds in the refrigerator for years.  This keeps them fresh enough to germinate even though they are not this year's seed.  I had to replant 3 squash seeds and 3 cardinal basil.  I have the sprouted seedlings on the deck to harden off.  The sun is very intense this time of year so if you start seeds indoors be sure to let them get used to the sun before planting in the garden.  I'll transplant them later this week.

I also put flower seeds in a pot on the deck- red hummingbird vine, blue morning glory and white moonflower to have the red, white and blue flowers trained up the covered deck.  2 of the 3 have come up.  Moonflower can take a while to sprout.

Potted lettuce bolting
On the back patio, I have re-seeded summer lettuces.  Lettuce in general likes cooler temps.  When it gets up in the 80's, they bolt, sending up a stalk that then flowers.  You can let them go to seed and then save seed for re-sowing.  Most lettuces start to get bitter when they bolt.  Red Sails is one of the few that stays fairly sweet even after bolting.  This time of year, re-sow every 3 weeks to keep in lettuce.  Also, sow the most heat tolerant varieties you can find to extend how long you can harvest.  Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces
Lettuce seedlings

Sunday, May 13, 2018

It's summer veggie planting time!

Sage in bloom in mid May garden

Sunday, May 13, 2018

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

Today, we have the added advantage of the 15 day forecast!  I checked out ours and it showed warm temperatures for the next 15 days.  Warm temperatures and weekly rain is the perfect recipe to get the summer lovers off to a good start.  Planting earlier is not necessarily better.  Summer lovers will shiver in their holes in the garden bed if the soil and air temperatures are chilly.  I like mulching right before planting summer veggies as the heat from the mulch helps warm the earth and keep the transplants toasty.

Summer vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, basil, summer squash (zucchini), winter squash (pumpkins, butternut squash), cucumbers, melons, watermelons, corn, okra, and eggplant.

So, what did we plant this year?  

So, what are we planting this year?  Of course, we planted the number one veggie in the USA-tomatoes!   This year, I bought most of them as plants.  There is a great selection of heirlooms at local nurseries these days.  There are a few I am growing from seed.  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!   I am trying a new multicolor and purple variety, too.  Different colors in tomatoes give different nutrition

I have planted several varieties in the garden bed: Brandywine True Black and the traditional pink Brandywine, Cherokee Purple which always does well in our garden, Black Krim, Box Car Willie, Costoluto Genovese, San Marzano, and Amish Paste.    Am growing Boronia in a pot as it is an heirloom compact type.  Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes

Those should be more than enough for all our needs, but there are a few more that I can't resist growing from seed.  There is an Italian Paste heirloom that always does great in the garden.  I save seed from it every year.  There are two purple tomatoes that I saved seed from that I bought from Whole Foods, a medium black and a very large black tomato.  There is also an heirloom, compact paste tomato that I wanted to try Little Napoli.  Then there was this multicolor small tomato that I bought seed for Indigo Pear Drops that would be great for salads.  I have settled on the medium black, Italian Paste and Indigo Pear Drops.  There are just so many choices!   The Power of Purple

The new varieties for my garden are the black Brandywine, Box Car Willie, Costoluto Genovese, Boronia, the medium black tomato from Whole Foods seed, and Indigo Pear Drops.

If you have limited space, look for the dwarf/bush types like Bush Early Girl (only 54 days till ripe tomatoes), Patio, Husky Red, Lizzano, and Tumbling Tom. 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   Typically, you can expect to have your first ripe tomatoes around the 4th of July.  The smaller tomatoes are the first to ripen.  

We also planted several peppers-Cayenne, JalapeƱo, Pimento, Chipetin, Poblano, Lipstick and some sweet peppers I grew from seed from last year.  The Chipetin pepper is one that I overwinter in the garage every year.  It is an ancient pepper with tiny, hot peppers.   Peppers are for every taste and garden

I am doing 2 eggplants this year, a white one "White Star" and one that is advertised to stay sweet, even in the heat "AO Daimaru".   Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden

I started from seed 2 kinds of zucchini-Cocozelle 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 didn't have the greatest luck with zucchini last year.  Too much rain caused disease and insect pressure.  I also 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.
Trellis in background for the cucumbers

 I planted extra cucumbers this year to make green smoothies.  Grow your own juice garden   I planted seeds for a yellow that can weigh up to 5 pounds (Jaune Dickfleishige), a red (Hmong Red), and 1 white cucumber "Miniature White" that is a good container variety that's good for a single salad.  Cucumber info and tips for growing.  Cukes are tropical plants so they grow best when the temperatures are hot.

The summer herbs I am planting this year are basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, garlic chives, lavender, thyme and stevia so far.  I overwinter my bay trees.   Start a kitchen herb garden!  I planted 3 types of basil-Cardinal, Lettuce Leaf, and Sweet Genovese.  Cardinal basil has a beautiful garnet flower top.  Lettuce Leaf has large leaves that are perfect for making pesto.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

It is also time for another round of lettuce.  The first planting of lettuce is bolting.  We planted Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach which lasts about two weeks longer in the heat than other types of spinach so the spinach, but doesn't last for long after the temperatures hit the 80's.  For lettuce, I am trying a heat resistant variety pack as well as Red Romaine, Red Sails and Simpson Elite.  Growing summer salads

We had already fertilized, added compost, and mulched a month ago.  I will add Azomite around each plant along with fertilizer in another month.  Azomite has lots of trace minerals.  If you notice your plants really taking off after using it, you know they were missing some needed minerals.  Plants are like us, they need trace minerals.  When your plants have them, you will, too!  

If planting in pots, be sure to recharge the potting soil for this year's growing season  Re-energize your potting soil!
Overwintered Egyptian walking onions

When we planted the summer veggies, I powdered the roots of each plant with plant starter.  It contains mycorrhizal microbes and root support.  Mycorrhizal fixes nitrogen to the roots of the plant, helping it to grow sturdier, bigger and faster.  Once added to the soil, mycorrhizal will continue in the soil in that spot.

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.

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

I also planted summer loving flowers I started from seed, Moonflower vine, Hummingbird vine, Cock's Comb, Morning Glories, alyssium, and zinnias.

Now it is time to watch everything grow, water and fertilize as needed, and eat!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Choosing which tomatoes to grow

Potted volunteer tomato plant
Saturday, May 12, 2018

There are hundreds of tomatoes to choose from.  There are whole catalogues devoted just to America’s favorite home garden vegetable.  There really is nothing like a homegrown tomato, fresh off the vine!  With so many to choose from, how do you decide which is best for your garden?

Some consideration for deciding what to plant-space you have, flavor, how you use tomatoes, and which types grow best and give the biggest yields in your area.  Ask your neighbors or farmers market sellers which types they have found grow the best for them.  For heirloom and open pollinated types you buy from the farmers market, save the seeds from the ones you like and you can grow them in your garden!

I prefer heirloom and open pollinated, organic veggies.  I love the idea of seeds being handed down from generation to generation with loving care, through good times and bad.  Back in the day, every vegetable  and vegetable seed was precious.  You should save the seeds from your very best tasting, performing plant with the biggest fruits.  It was a sacrifice to take the biggest, juiciest fruit for its seeds.  Seeds were like gold back then.

Today, we save seeds from the best performers in our garden so year after year our veggies are better adapted to our specific garden conditions and tastes.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Chocolate cherry tomatoes

Family lore has it that my great grandfather killed a man in self defense when one of my great uncles stole some seeds the neighbor had ordered.  The neighbor came with a gun and confronted my great grandfather for the theft of his seeds.  The family had to leave the state, worried that the law would come after him.  At least, that is a story I heard told.........

This year I have told myself I am going to stick with 3 tomato plants.  2 for canning and salads and one for slicing tomatoes.  I say that every year and usually end up with at least 5 because I see ones I just can't resist.

You may be surprised with my canning tomato choices.  I can all types of tomatoes.
I plant tomatoes that give lots with great taste and preserve all that we can't eat.   I have recently been growing the darker tomatoes since they are so healthy!  For more on the benefits of darker veggies, The Power of Purple  If you are curious on how the color of tomatoes affect its health benefits, 
Different colors in tomatoes give different nutrition or just a ranking on overall health benefits by type, 
Most nutritious heirloom tomatoes  They even have tomatoes today that are bred specifically to increase the healthiness of the tomato!

 I get the best yields from the smaller tomatoes.  
In the past, I used to get loads of tomatoes with Juliet (a hybrid, 1999 All American) and Yellow Pear (a heirloom from pre-1800).  Both are indeterminate, meaning they produce from summer through frost.  The Juliet is a mini Roma, great taste.  The last couple of years, the Juliet and pear tomatoes have not been doing well in our garden.  Small tomatoes Sun Chocolate, Indigo Rose, and Baby Boomer all did well in our garden last season.

The smaller tomatoes are great for drying as well.  I like using my electric dehydrator for "sun dried" tomatoes as it is usually just too humid in the Midwest to dry tomatoes in the sun.  
Large heirloom Italian Red Pear tomato, good for sauce and slicing

For slicers, the heirloom Brandywine, dates back to 1885, is a taste favorite which we have grown many times and is on our garden this year.  It continues to win taste tests to this day.  I tried a grafted tomato from Territorial Seed Co.  and it did very well.  A graft is an age-old technique of taking a strong root stock and grafting a tasty plant on to it.  Lately, we have been trying different chocolate varieties, an early variety and a winter storage variety.  Cherokee Purple slicer, Glacier for early tomatoes, and Red October as a storage tomato we have good luck with in our garden. 

One large tomato variety that has done surprising well over the last couple of years is Italian Red Pear.  It is a large heirloom paste tomato traditionally used for canning.  It does great all the way through late fall.  I am definitely growing it again this year.  It makes silky smooth tomato sauce and soups.  I saved the seeds from an heirloom tomato I bought at Whole Foods.  Any time you purchase an heirloom veggie, you can always save the seed and grow them in your own garden.

If you are short on space, there are many dwarf and patio varieties that can even be grown in pots!  We have had good luck with Bush Early Girl (only 54 days ‘till ripe tomatoes), Patio, Husky Red, while trying heirloom Lizzano and Tumbling Tom.  There are many more options!  
Compact tomatoes for small spaces and pots
Yellow Tumbling Tom, a dwarf variety

Just three tomato plants should give us (a family of 2) enough for eating, freezing for salsa, and canning that will last us until the next year.  You don't need many plants to get a whole lot of fruits!

For more on growing tomatoes, these blogs can help you get started growing your own tomatoes this season: