Sunday, June 30, 2013

July is prime time for planting your fall and winter garden

Sunday, June 30, 2013

It may seem crazy to be sowing seeds in July for your fall and winter garden, but it is the time to do so.  Everything you can grow for spring, you can grow for fall.  

There are some veggies that the temps are too high to germinate in our Zone 6, like lettuce.  These you will have to start inside or on the cool side of the house in the shade.

September until your first frost is high time in the garden.  Your summer veggies will still be producing at the same time your cool season crops can be harvested.

The trick to harvesting all winter is to have your veggies to full size by mid-October.

For fall and winter harvests, plant the following: arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, Chinese cabbage, collards, escarole, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, bunching onions, parsnips, peas, radicchio, lettuce, mustard greens, radishes, spinach, swiss chard, turnips.

With cover, the following will allow you to harvest all winter: arugula, beets, chicory, corn salad, lettuce, mustard greens, parsley root, radicchio, radishes, spinach, and swiss chard.

The following don’t require covering: brussels sprouts, winter harvest cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, bunching onions or Egyptian onions, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips.

If you don’t want to start seeds, big box stores and nurseries have begun to have fall planting veggies so you can wait until late August, early September to get transplants and still get them in on time for fall harvests.

Fall and winter harvested veggies are at their crispest and sweetest after a light frost.  The cold temps concentrate the sugars, making them extra yummy!

When you read days to harvest on tags or seed packets, add a couple of weeks for fall planted varieties.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What’s growing in the garden late June

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Well, late June this year has been fantastic in the garden!  We have gotten rain quite frequently so no additional watering has been necessary in the garden and the pots have only needed watering occasionally. 

We have our garden edged in daylilies and they are in full, glorious bloom!  You can’t even see the veggies behind them when standing in the yard.

It is just a beautiful, bountiful early summer this year.

Here is a run down of the latest garden news:
The earliest lettuce is flowering and the second harvest is bolting (and starting to have some leaves that have a bitter taste).  The flowering lettuce has pretty blue flowers.

Baby cucumber
The peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, and squash all have little babies on them.
Baby yellow crookneck squash

Baby pepper

The fava beans are ready to eat as a whole bean or you can wait until they are about 12” long and shell them for the seeds.
Fava bean

The cabbage is ready to harvest.  The broccoli has little heads on it.  Cabbage or broccoli can be frozen.  You just blanche them (throw them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then dunk them in cold water) and put them into freezer bags.

The garlic, elephant garlic, and onions are blooming.  There is a debate on whether to remove the flowers to get bigger heads.  I leave them.  The bees love them!  Garlic will be ready to harvest in the fall.

When the onion or shallot leaves fall over, then they are ready to harvest.  Pull them and leave them in the sun or bring them in a hot, dry area to season before bringing them in for storage.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Resowing lettuce to get continuous harvests

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We love salads.  Although about this time, we are a little overwhelmed with all the lettuce that is ready in the garden. You have to do succession sowing to keep lettuce ready throughout the growing season.

Since we are having days in the 80’s, our lettuce is bolting.  This is when the plant sends up a stalk that flowers.  You can let your best lettuce plants bolt so you can save the seed.  

As lettuce bolts, the leaves start tasting bitter.  To keep yourself with sweet lettuce all summer long, you need to resow lettuce seeds every 2-4 weeks.  Our second sowing of the spring is now bolting.

We have one more behind it that is coming to maturity.

I just planted seeds in flats that I have kept from last year’s annuals.  Just add seed starting or potting soil mix to the flats, sprinkle the seeds on top and then top with a very thin layer (1/8-1/4”) of more soil.  Keep moist and in the shade.  They should sprout in 7-10 days.

Lettuce will not sprout when the ground temperatures gets above 70-75 degrees F so keep your flats in a shady, cool spot.  Be sure to keep them evenly moist.  

I put about 3 seeds in each.  Thin out the smallest extras that sprout.  I will keep them in the small plastic starters until they get around 6 leaves on them.  Then, I transfer them to the bigger pot.

Right now the bigger pots have the bolting lettuce in them.  By the time they have seeded, the little ones will be ready to take their place.  I’ll plant others in shady spots in the vegetable garden.  You can interplant with taller vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers.

In hot weather, lettuce appreciates as much protection as they can get from the sun and consistent moisture.  This keeps them from bolting and keeps the leaves sweet and tender.

This time, I am seeding Magenta Summer Crisp, Simpson Elite, New Red Fire, and Green Towers Romaine Lettuce.  All are heat and bolt resistant.  There are two greens and two reds.  I like to have different colors since each color has different nutrients, plus it is fun!  A variety will also stagger them all from coming in at the same time. 

I will likely do one more sowing of heat resistant and then switch to cold hardy varieties for fall and winter harvesting.  Lettuce takes typically 50-55 days from sprouting until ready to harvest.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Make your own “bitters”-creating unique flavors adult beverages

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bitters are a combination of alcohol, herbs, spices and other flavorings.  They were once sold as medicine.  Today, they are used to add unique, fun flavors to cocktails.  Use your imagination to create your personal adult beverages!

Bittering agents:  Barberry root, Burdock root bark, Black walnut leaf, Dandelion root, Gentian root, Quassia bark, wormwood

Aromatics: Fresh and dried fruits, Apple peel, Chile peppers, Fresh or dried citrus peel, toasted nuts, Hibiscus, Hops, Lavender, Rose, Allspice berries, Caraway seeds, Coriander seeds, Fennel seeds, Cardamom pods, Cinnamon sticks, Fresh or dried ginger, Juniper berries, Lemongrass, Dried lemon verbena, Dried mint, Black or white peppercorns, Star anise, Vanilla extract, seeds or pods.

1/4 to 1/2 cup main aromatics, or more to taste
1-4 tablespoons aromatics supporting (choose 2-5)
1-4 tablespoons bittering agents (choose 2-4)
1 cup high-proof alcohol (150-160 proof)
1 tablespoon sugar dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

Place aromatics and bittering agents in a canning jar and add the alcohol.  Seal and shake well.  Store in a cool dark place.  Shake daily and taste for up to 21 days.

When taste is to your liking, strain through cheesecloth.  Stir in dissolved sugar water.

Keep in sealed jar at room temperature.  Use a dash in cocktails, soda water, coffee, tea, and almost any sweet or savory dish!

You could go on the hunt for old fashioned bitter jars to store them in!
You can get a sense of the taste by steeping the combo you are thinking of trying for 5-15 minutes in boiling water.

Monday, June 3, 2013

What's happening in the early June garden

Cabbage with head starting to form.  Petunia starting to bloom.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cool season crops are peaking 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 are now ready to harvest with almost all of my spinach bolting.  Cabbage and broccoli heads are forming so harvest is close for them.  Be sure to keep consistent moisture to them.  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.

Our fava beans are in full flower which means the beans will soon be forming!  Our pole beans are climbing their trellis'.

Potted lettuce and spinach
Now is the time to provide shade for your lettuce and sow bolt resistant varieties like the ones I shared last week (Summer Crisp Magenta, Green Towers and Jericho Romaine, Simpson Elite leaf).  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.

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.  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.

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.

Inconsistency in watering will also cause tomatoes to crack.  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.  See my May 26 post for a complete list of all veggies that can be planted in June.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Ollas-trick to keeping plants watered in dry times

Saturday, June 1, 2013

If you live in a dry area, or like to take an extended vacation in the middle of summer, ollas may be the answer!  They are clay pots that are buried in the ground and filled with water.  This allows the water to seep into the ground as needed by your plants.

They can be expensive to buy, but they are also easy to make.  All you need is two clay pots, some silicone adhesive and broken pieces of tile or clay pot.

You simply glue a piece of tile or pot on both sides of the drainage hole, allow to dry.  Then, glue the two pots together.  After dry, you are ready to bury the pots and fill with water.  Be sure to cover the hole on top between watering to keep the water from evaporating or becoming a mosquito hatchery!

The bigger the pots you choose, the longer you can go between waterings.