Saturday, June 30, 2018

July 2018 Edible Garden Planner

Zucchini, white cucumbers, tomatoes and green beans from the July garden
Sunday, June 30, 2018

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.  It is also the time to plant for fall harvests.

I got my summer garden going late this year.  Typically all my summer veggies are being harvested at this time-peppers, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes and green beans.  This year, I do have my first ripe tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.  The rest are flowering like crazy so it won't be long.  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.  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.  Start your lettuce seeds in a cool spot as they won't sprout when the ground is above 75 F.  You can even start them in a pot indoors and then take outside when they have sprouted.

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 flowering now so it won't be long before we have fresh green beans.  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.  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!  The other way I like to preserve garlic is to pickle them in apple cider vinegar with a few hot peppers and store in the frig.

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.  I get two good harvests before fall.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

Oregano, mint, and catnip will be blooming soon.  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 liquid fertilizer for 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.  If your plants get a big boost when you add minerals to the soil, you know that it was needed.  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.

Finally, the summer flowers are going gangbusters.  The zinnias, hollyhocks, daylilies, marigolds, petunias, nasturtiums,  echinacea as well as the herbs like lavender, sage, and thyme are all in full bloom.  The 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
This is the month to start your seeds and seedlings for fall and winter harvests.  You have to start early so they are at full size before frost.  Time to plant for fall and winter harvests! 

Pests and fungus can also be a problem during this time of year.  You can try and stay ahead of pests by monitoring the garden closely and picking off the pests.  If they do get the best of you, here are some natural ways to combat them  Natural, organic pest strategies and how to make your own bug sprays  Preventing and treating powdery mildew

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Heirloom Sicilian kitchen garden

My mom and cousin in Termini, Sicily

Saturday, June 12, 2018

I became interested in what would be grown in an heirloom Sicilian garden after my mom, cousin and sister’s trip to Sicily this summer.  My grandpa immigrated as a child from Termini, Sicily.  He loved cooking with his mom in the kitchen and kept the Sicilian cooking traditions alive in the family.  Although we are no longer blessed with him in person, we have many memories and recipes we keep alive.

Sicily is a unique blend of many cultures having been conquered by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish, and finally unified with Italy in 1860 and was given the status of an autonomous region of Italy in 1946.

Greek influences include olives, broad beans, and pistachios.  From the Arabs came apricots, citrus, sweet melons, pine nuts, aromatic herbs like saffron, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, raisins, and sugar.  They also introduced tuna fishing.  The Spanish introduced New World natives like chocolate, corn, tomatoes, and peppers.  Being an island, fresh fish is a intricate part of the food, particularly anchovies and sardines.

Even with the diverse background of many cultures having made Sicily home through the ages, Sicilian cuisine preparation is simple with just a few ingredients, letting the flavors of each shine through.  Fresh vegetables are used prominently.

An organic Italian kitchen garden is called l’orto biologico.  For the heirloom varieties, I did a lot of searching on the internet and Sicilian cookbooks.  It was hard to find!  

As with all Italian gardens, Mediterranean herbs play a big role.  Thyme, Salina and Pantelleria capers, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, basil, wild fennel, garlic, sage, bay, geranium, lemon verbena, lavender, parsley (Gigante D’Italia, Castalogno) and mint, particularly spearmint, have featured prominently in Sicilian gardens for centuries.  Ispica sesame seeds are also a local heirloom.

Heirloom fruits:  
Apples-Cipudda, Cirino, and Cola
Apricot-Scillato
Bitter Orange
Wild black cherry (Prunus cerasus)
Fig trees (can get hardy figs that can withstand our Midwest winters)
Grapes-Pantelleria Zibibbo
Lemons-Messina Interdonato and Verdello
Mandarin-Ciaculli late-winter
Melons-Alcamo Purceddu and Paceco Cartucciaro
Orange-Ribera Vanilla
Peaches-Bivona, late-harvest Leonforte, and Etna Tabacchiera
White plum-Monreale
Prickly pear
Ragusa Carrubo fruit 
Strawberries-Maletto, Sciacca, and Ribera strawberries
My Sicilian grandpa cooking for a family holiday

Sicilians are big on collecting wild greens which you can also grow in your garden.  These include arugula, aspargus, calamint, plantain, chickweed, Good King Henry, borage, wild mustards (mazzareddi, cavolicelli di vigna, senapa), purslane, dandelions, salad burnet, bitter cress (sparacelli amari), sorrel, shepherds purce, wild chicory, chard (salachi), mallow and wood sorrel (agriduci), and amaranth. 

The nuts that are popular in Sicily include Noto almonds (you can get Midwest hardy almond trees) and Bronte pistachios (there are varieties hardy down to Zone 4).

Veggies typically grown in a Sicilian kitchen garden:
Artichokes and Cardoons-Violetta (hardy to Zone 6 per Territorial Seed Co.) and Monfi Spiny
Arugula
Asparagus
Broad beans-Sweet Lorane, Windsor, Modica Cottoia, Leonforte
Green Beans-Romano, Roma (bush and pole) like Burro d’Ingegnoli, Garrafal Oro, Trionfo Violetta
Shelling beans-Borletto, Cannelloni types, Polizzi Badda, Scicli Cosaruciaru 
Broccoli- Broccoli di Rape (cime di rape), Haloan Green Sprouting, Calabrese, De Coco, Purple Sprouting, Purple broccoli
Carrots-parsnips used to be the standard
Cauliflower-Sicilian violet
Celery
Chard-Argentocta, White stem
Chicories-Radicchio, Endive, Red Treviso, Grumolo, including dandelions
Eggplant-Violetta Lunga, Rosa Bianca, White Italian, Listada de Gandia.  A Sicilian favorite is Tunisian eggplant with its thin skin.
Fennel-Romy, Bronze
Garlic-Nubia Red, Chet’s Italian, White Italian, Early Red Italian, Italian Late
Greens-Broccoli di rape, Rosolini (similar to collard greens), endives
Kale-Lucinato (grown in Tuscany for centuries)
Kohlrabi-Aci trunzu
Lentils-Ustica and Villalba
Lettuce-Romaine, Butterhead, Lolla Rossa, Lollo Biondo, Lolla Rossa, Resisto
Olive-Minuta (not hardy for Midwest winters)
Onions-Cippolini, Italian Red Torpedo, Breme Red, Cipudda Portannisa, Giarratana (large, sweet onion).  Sicily is in a short day onion area.
Peppers-Spicy varieties like Cayenne, De Arbol, Rosso di Sicilia a Mazzetti, and Piccante Calabrese (cherry type).  Sweet varieties like Marconi Giallo, Rosso Dolce Appendere, Corno di Toro (shaped like a bull horn)
Spinach-many varieties, Italian Summer
Squash-Zuchetta or Zucchino Rampicante, Trombocino, Zucchini
Tomatoes-First tomatoes to reach Sicily were yellow and round.  This is where the nickname pomodori (“golden apples”) comes from.  Sicilian Saucer,  Ciliegino cherry tomato, Inciardi (oxheart type) Licatese medium size, Pachino, Bilici Valley Siccagno.  Prinicipe Borghese and Belmonte are favorites in Sicily from the Italian mainland.
Wheat-Timilia durum

For seasoning, you can try Trapani sea salt or a sheep's cheese.  Sheep are much better suited to the island than cows.  A commonly used cheese in Sicily that is not hard to find in the US is pecorino.  Slow Food Ark of Taste Sicilian cheese include Piacentino, Ragusano, Modicana, Madonic Provola, Belice Vastedda, Maiorchino, Nebrodi Provola, Ricotta Moscia, or Sicilian Canestrato.

Types in italic are listed in Slow Food Ark of Taste and/or Presidio for being rare and heirloom to Sicily.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

Worry free flower, fruit and vegetable garden bed
Sunday, June 10, 2018

Want a worry free, weed free, organic matter rich vegetable garden bed?  Wow!  That just sounds fabulous and a little too good to be true................  Actually, it is doable.  How?  Mulch!

Mulch is an amazing thing.  Think about how nature works on its own.  Every fall, trees shed their leaves, blanketing the ground.  The leaves break down over the winter, providing nutrients back into the soil in time for spring when the trees need to power back up again.  And these trees grow to massive heights and widths!  

Using mulch, wood chips, and fallen leaves for your vegetable garden beds provide the same benefits; returning nutrients back to the soil that your vegetable plants need to produce their tasty leaves and fruits during the growing season.  

Mulch also keeps in moisture and absorbs water, significantly reducing your watering needs.  It protects the soil from the winds blowing it away.  To top it off, it keeps the weeds from sprouting and causing you to have to spend hours each week pulling the little suckers.  What’s not to love about that!

A system where you don’t have to bring in outside resources to replenish your garden bed health is referred to as sustainable permaculture.  Permaculture in a Midwest garden and yard  In town, I think we need to look at this as utilizing the resources within our communities.  Many communities have mulch free for the taking.  In some areas, tree removers would be thrilled to give you wood chips for free to get it off of their hands.

When I started our garden bed at our house on the golf course, we were forced to get creative.  I couldn’t plow up the backyard like my grandparents could on their farm; the landscape “police” frowned on that type of thing on the 15th green.  It was my grandmother’s full time spring, summer and fall job to care for the garden.  I already had a full time job.

The solution?  Expand our mulched flower beds and plant veggies and fruiting plants among the flowers and use decorative containers on the patio.

To make the new vegetable/flower beds, we used a sod cutter to cut all the sod.  We then turned the sod upside down, put newspaper over the top and then a 3” thick layer of mulch on top.  We have since learned through experience, the whole sod cutting thing wasn't necessary.  There is a much easier way.  Put in a new garden bed the easy way-really
New fall garden bed, ready for its layer of chopped leaves

You can put in garden beds any time of the year.  We have done it in both fall and spring.  If done in the fall, it gives the entire winter for the grass and mulch to break down into the nutrients your veggie and fruit plants will need for the growing season.  Adding fertilizer in the spring or before planting will give the plants the nutrition they need in any season.  

Our soil was a nice orangish color when we first dug the new beds, indicative of the clay soils in the Midwest.  5 years later, it is a beautiful black color full of earthworms and organic matter.

I can’t say enough good things about mulch!  We don’t have to water nearly as often.  There are very few weeds to pull, and those that do sprout are easier to pull.  And it is a great way to add organic matter and nutrients at the same time.

What have I learned from experience that I would do differently to accelerate the process for a new garden bed?  
*First, make sure you get a soil test to see what nutrients you are deficient in.  The typical that are tested are nitrogen (for green leafy growth), phosphorous (for flowers and fruits), and potassium (for overall plant vigor).  Apply an organic source of the nutrients needed before applying the mulch.  
*Second, you don’t really need to use the sod cutter.  Just putting a layer of cardboard with compost and mulch on top are all that is necessary.
*Third, I would use cardboard instead of newspaper.  Make sure it isn’t shiny with chemical ink and all the tape and staples are removed.  Earthworms love cardboard.  You’ll attract more to your garden bed.  Earthworms "till" the soil for you while adding their own "fertilizer".
*Fourth, I would add a 3” layer of compost on top of the cardboard and an organic all around fertilizer directly onto the soil before the cardboard, compost and mulch.  I found out that nitrogen will leach into the air if not covered.  You lose about 50% of it if you just lay it on top of the ground so you need twice as much for the same benefit.  If you are getting a lot of rain, you'll need to fertilize more often to compensate for the rain leaching the fertilizer away.  Make your own fertilizer, it's all natural and inexpensive
*Fifth, I would have done more like a 6” layer of mulch in the first fall.  The mulch will decompose all fall and winter.  I would also recommend mulch that is from the whole tree (not just bark mulch) and is finer.  Big chunks just take longer to break down and you want that nutrition in your soil as soon as you can get it!

Let’s talk about the basics of what plants need.  In general, plants need the same thing we do-oxygen, food and water.  Their food includes the standard nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium we all hear about, but they need much more than that.  It is kind of like saying all we need are vitamins and minerals so a multivitamin is all we need to eat each day.  

Like us, fruits and vegetables need a wide range of nutrients to be the healthiest and strongest.  It is so true that you are what you eat.  Same principle applies to what your plants “eat.”  And if your fruits and veggies are getting a wide range of nutrients, this means that they will provide you with food chock full of nutrients as well!  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

That thick layer of mulch, wood chips and decomposed leaves every fall gives the organic material a chance to break down over the winter into nutrients that supporting microbes and earthworms need to multiply to give the best support to the plants growth in the spring.  

A strong population of earthworms does two key things you need in a garden-they are nature’s rototiller, loosening the soil for veggie roots to easily expand and grow in to, and nature’s fertilizer, making lots of vermicompost right in your garden bed.  The other key thing a layer of organic matter does is to prevent the weed seeds that are laying on top of the ground from sprouting, eliminating the need for weeding or chemical herbicides.  What can be better than that?!

Microbes thrive where there is an abundance of organic matter.  These microbes nourish plant roots which feed the plant.  You do not want to disturb this flourishing web of life-supporting microbes by tilling up the ground after you have done such a nice job of developing them into a strong support system for your spring plants.  Tilling destroys your microbes.  With a healthy population of earthworms, nature will take care of producing the light, crumbly soil your plants will thrive in.  Adding compost helps supercharge the soil with microbes, while adding organic matter.  

Worms avoid areas that have pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.  It is common sense that anything that has been designed to kill living things is not beneficial to other living things.  I have seen when Round Up has been used, earthworms will not get onto the area that has been sprayed. 
Garden bed in spring prepared with compost, organic fertilizer and mulch

I recently listened to an interview with Paul Gautschi who gets 14” of rain a year on his farm in Oregon and hasn’t fertilized or watered his fruit orchard for 30+ years or his vegetable garden in more than 15 years.  His secret-he looked at his surroundings with new eyes and replicated what nature does.  He started using wood chips which is basically what mulch is.  The wood chips he uses include all the leaves and limbs chopped up.  You need more than just the tree bark in your mulch.    Paul likes to quote the Bible and George Washington Carver for his inspiration on gardening.  As George Washington Carver said, “If it is simple, it must be right.”

He also applies a layer of dirt he gets from his chicken pen which he feeds only organic and as much fresh vegetable scraps as possible.  We can get the same affect by the application of compost and an all around organic fertilizer (the one we buy is based on composted chicken manure, Re-Vita or Espoma).

A recent soil test in Paul’s garden revealed these results:  
“Listen to these numbers,” Paul says. “On the test, you get two lines – the desired level that you want, and your lab results. The nitrates: the desired level was 40; my lab result was 120. Phosphorous, the desired level is 174; mine is 2,345. Potassium, the desired level is 167; mine is 1,154. Coming down to the smaller numbers: zinc, the desired level is 1.6; mine 21.5. What I love about this is I didn’t do anything!”

Ruth Stout promoted this same approach in the '50's.  She had been waiting for her husband to till her garden when she decided to try planting in the spoiled hay she had covered the garden with for the winter.  To her surprise, her garden did great!  She never went back to the tilled garden approach again.  You can read about her gardening adventures in her book "No-work Garden
Book."

When you plant seeds in the spring, be sure to move the mulch out of the way.  The mulch’s hard top crust is impossible for seedlings to break through.  Once they have sprouted, you can pull the mulch back around the plant.  Outdoor seed sowing seed starting times

The other thing about healthy plants is that they are not bothered by insects.  If you have a plant that is being attacked, the plant itself is likely not healthy.  Nature is telling us that we have a “sick” plant or a bio system that is not in balance.  If you are just moving to an organic approach with no pesticides, it may take a season or two for the “good” and “bad” bugs to come into balance.  

Think very hard before you start spraying the “bad” bugs; those pesticides/insecticides don’t know the difference between a beneficial insect (like bees) and a “bad” bug (like grasshoppers).  I put on gloves and go bug hunting for the “bad” bugs.  I pick them off and squish them.  If that is too harsh for you, you can pick them off and throw them in a bowl with soapy water.  Controlling bugs the natural, organic way  Natural control of grasshoppers

Having trees and bushes near by also encourages birds to look for bug snacks in your garden.  Birds don’t usually eat vegetables.  They do love berries, though!  You can put a light net over your berries to protect them.  Spring and fall are great to plant trees and bushes.  If planting in spring, be sure to give them moisture during the dry days of summer.  Summer garden tips

I tried doing a really thick layer of leaves and then putting mulch on top.  The leaf layer was too thick to decompose over the winter.  I am putting decomposed leaf compost on the bed this year.  I also mix the decomposing leaves in with the greens in my composter.  Leaves are the browns in your compost recipe.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors

For more tips on sustainable yards, 10 Easy Ways to a Sustainable Yard  5 Tips for a More Productive Garden

Saturday, June 9, 2018

What's happening in the early June edible garden

Early June edible garden

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The heat is on in our area!  It has been in the 90's for a few weeks now.  Cool season crops have bolted while summer crops are just starting to produce in early June.

Chives in bloom
Herbs are in full swing.  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.

Most of the lettuce I planted end of April have bolted.  I planted more lettuce seed 3 weeks ago and the plants are big enough for "cut and come again" harvesting.  I'll transplant some into other pots and eat some as well.  The spinach went to seed a couple of weeks ago.  I left the spinach in the pot and the fallen seeds are now sprouting so we will have another crop soon.  Never ending salad from one packet of seeds  

To add to salads, there are cultivated dandelion greens, sprouting broccoli leaves, chives, tarragon, salad burnet, Rat's Tail, mustard leaves and arugula for a peppery bite, celery, sorrel leaves, chickweed and strawberries from the garden.  Growing summer salads

Cabbage heads have formed so harvest is close for them.  Be sure to keep consistent moisture to them.   Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow  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.  How to grow broccoli and cabbage 

Overwintered leeks are ready to harvest and garlic is getting close.  Starting to see yellowing of the lower leaves, which is a sign that garlic harvest is near.  Garlic harvest time is near!

I planted the cucumber, zucchini and green beans just in the last couple of weeks so they are still small.  Our pole beans are starting to climb their trellis'.  Growing beans

There are baby tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.  The white eggplant, JalapeƱo, and Ancho pepper plants have fruits big enough to pick and eat.

Now is the time to provide shade for your lettuce and sow bolt resistant varieties like the Summer Crisp Magenta, Green Towers and Jericho Romaine, Simpson Elite leaf.  You can also buy variety pack seeds of summer types to get a variety.  Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces  Seeds come up quickly this time of year.  For lettuce, be sure to keep them in the shade and moist.

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.  

Baby green tomatoes
With the heat on, it is time to start watering!  With the self-watering pots, your watering duties will be greatly reduced.  Keep consistent moisture to your lettuces to keep taste sweet and your lettuce from bolting.  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.  Summer garden tips

The best time to harvest lettuce is mornings or right after a rain; this is when they are the crunchiest, fullest and sweetest.  Harvest in the morning before you go to work and store in the frig for the day.  Everything you need to know about growing lettuce

Inconsistency in watering will also cause tomatoes to crack.  Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow ...  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 spray compost tea or kelp the rest of the season.  Too much nitrogen will cause you to grow huge plants with no fruits.  Nitrogen stimulates green growth.

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.  For a full list of what can be planted now  It is not too late to start a garden in June!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Edible shade gardens shine in summer

Vegetable garden in shade
Sunday, June 3, 2018

You may think that your shady yard can't grow any vegetables or herbs.  You may be surprised to learn that you can grow some veggies and herbs in shade.  They will not be as lush or full, but they will produce and some will appreciate the cool shade in the hot summer days.

Veggies you can grow in the shade: greens, chard, kale, lettuce, spinach, celery, peas, beans, beets, radishes, turnips, endive, french sorrel, leeks, radicchio, purslane, pac choi, carrots, potatoes, scallions, mustard greens, cultivated dandelions, corn salad, chickweed   
Herbs for shade: mint, chervil, oregano, chives, cilantro, golden marjoram, lemon balm, parsley

Remember that you will have sun in the spring under deciduous trees until they leaf out.  Cold crops that do well in cool temperatures of spring include lettuce, kale, broccoli, cabbage, radishes, turnips, peas, beets.  Choose crops that have the shortest time to harvest and plant as early as the seed packet instructs to get your crop up and ready to harvest before the shade overtakes the garden spot.

I always thought you had to have your garden in full sun pretty much all day to be able to grow a garden.  This isn't the case.  If you can give them some sun or dappled shade, it will be a boost to yields and you can grow almost any vegetable.
Kitchen garden with flowers in front
Watch how the sun travels through your yard and don't forget about your front yard!  You can grow herbs and vegetables interspersed with flowers for a beautiful "flower" bed.  If you have an elevated deck that gets sun, use pots.  There are many varieties today bred specifically to be compact and do well in pots.   Decorative container gardening for edibles

Here is a listing of crops you can grow  in your garden by hours of sunlight:
2-3 hours of sun:  Anise hyssop, Asian greens, chives, cilantro, kale, lemon balm, lettuce, marjoram, mesclun greens, mint, mustard greens, oregano, parsley, scallions, shiso, spicebush, spinach, sweet woodruff, wild ginger
4 hours of sun:  Alpine strawberries, arugula, soybeans, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, beans, peas, rosemary, basil, radishes, Swiss chard, carrots, beets
5 hours of sun:  blueberries, grapes, apple trees, micro greens, potatoes, celery, green onions, turnips

You can get more sun than you think by trimming tree limbs up to allow morning or evening sun in.  You can also use light colored mulch or even the high dollar metallic mulch to have more sunlight reflect up onto the plants.  Another approach would be to spray paint what the plants back up to with metallic paint or place a piece of metallic painted plywood behind your plants.

Another thing to keep in mind is when the leaves are off the trees.  There are many cool season crops that will do great in the chilly seasons like winter, spring and fall.  Overwintering crops are another winner for planting in the shade of late summer that will then have the benefit of late fall, winter and early spring sun.  For more on cool season crops for fall and winter, Fall garden planning and planting and Time to set out transplants for fall, winter, & spring harvests.  For spring any that are planted before your first frost date are the cold hardy ones Indoor sowing/outdoor planting dates.

Crops that thrive in spring will appreciate shade and dappled shade during the heat of summer.  Crops like lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, sprouting broccoli, cilantro bolt (go to flower) at the first sign of heat.  It is that bolting time of year.....  If you can plant them in a shady spot or move the pot they are planted in to shade as temperatures rise, you will be able to extend the season of harvest before they go to flower.

Don't let a little shade keep you from trying your hand at an edible garden.  The harvest may not be as much for the summer lovers like tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant, but you can have a nice kitchen garden.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Start a kitchen herb garden!



Saturday, June 2, 2018

If you are just starting gardening, an herb garden is a great place to start.  Most common herbs are perennials and do well being neglected.  Want full bodied flavor in your cooking on the cheap-just add fresh herbs.  What can be better than that!

Now, you just have to decide what type of herb garden to you want?  It could be a medicinal herb garden, a fragrant herb garden, a Victorian herb garden, a French herb garden, a culinary herb garden, and the choices go on.

So, what are the herbs you should start with?  A basic culinary herb garden would include parsley, basil, chives, French tarragon, sorrel, sage, dill, oregano/marjoram, and thyme. 

Of these, parsley, basil and dill are annuals, the rest are perennials.  With perennials, you plant once and you get to enjoy them for a lifetime.  Parsley and dill will likely “self sow”, meaning their seeds will sprout into a plant next year.  Basil will have to be replanted each year when all danger of frost has passed.

You can pick up your herb plants at any big box store or for more fun varieties, go to your nearest nursery or for the more adventuresome, start unique varieties from seed.  There are many options out there.  I prefer getting my herb plants from a local organic nursery or trying new types from seed catalogues. 

You can buy an entire plant for less than the cost of one tiny bottle of dried herbs.  Herbs are easy to preserve; just dry them.  Cut the herbs back in mid summer and put in a paper bag.  Do not pack tightly, pack loosely so that the herbs do not mold.  Put in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight if possible and a few weeks later you will be rewarded with enough herbs for your cooking and all your relatives for the entire year!   Make your own "Herbes de Provence"

To get varieties that even your nursery does not have, order seed.  I have phenomenal luck with the Aerogarden seed starter.  The germination rate is near 100% using it.  The best time to start new herbs is in the spring.  All plants are primed for growth in spring.  However, herbs will do fine being planted in summer.   Indoor seed starting tips

I am still starting seeds in pots and peat pods to transplant in the garden.  Just be sure to harden off your transplants before putting into the garden.  Once transplanted, give them extra water the first week or two if the temperatures are hot.  Outdoor seed starting tips  

You can even make your own peat pots for your seeds.  Make your own peat pots  If you are really industrious, you can make your own potting soil and fertilizer!  Make your own organic potting soil  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

Most herbs like full sun and dry feet.  Too much water is about the only thing that will kill an herb plant.  I plant mine amongst the flowers and near the back door for optimum convenience for cooking.  You can also grow in pots if you like and put right at the door!