Saturday, May 30, 2015

June Garden Planner

Lettuce in foreground, herbs in background

Saturday, May 30, 2015

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.

What’s growing in the garden right now
Most of the lettuce I planted end of April are now ready to harvest and many are starting to bolt.  Kale is of a good size.  The resown with all of my spinach and lettuce 3 weeks ago are about 3" tall.  I am replanting these into larger pots and into the garden bed.  Sprouting broccoli has their small florets for use in salads.  The large head broccoli have not started to form heads yet so it will be a couple more weeks 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.

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.

The rosemary, sage, chives, savory, oregano, basil, lavender, dill, tarragon, parsley and thyme are filling out nicely.  Cilantro, a cool season herb, is doing well, but will be bolting soon.  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.
Flowering chives

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and squash are all flowering.  Eggplant and tomatillo are growing well and should flower soon.  Keep an eye out for cucumber beetles and caterpillars.  Just pluck them off and throw into a can of soapy water.  Peppers have baby peppers on them.

Carrots and beets growing in containers have their roots starting to fill out.  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.

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.  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.

For a spinach substitute, I am growing New Zealand spinach.  It has spinach taste and loves the heat.

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.

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.

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.  

A complete list of all veggies that can be planted in June:
Bush beans
Broccoli raab
Brussels sprouts
Bulbing fennel
Mediterranean herbs (basil, thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, chives)
Summer squash
Sweet potatoes

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

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!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round

Carrots come in a variety of beautiful colors

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Carrots, like turnips, have been around for thousands of years.  Its seeds were used for medicinal purposes.  Carrots likely originated in the Iran/Afghanistan area and spread to the Mediterranean.  It is shown in Egyptian tomb paintings from 2000 BC. The first records that it was used for the European kitchen was in the 900‘s in Spain.  Carrots were originally used mainly for livestock feed in the American colonies and for its aromatic leaves and seeds.

The first wild carrots were purple.  Today, the wild carrot is known as Queen Anne’s lace and has adapted very well in America.  The popular culinary orange colored variety did not become stable until the 1700’s.  It quickly became the most popular variety in both Europe and the colonies.  
Carrots are related to parsley, fennel, dill and cumin.  Like their cousins, the greenery also is edible.

All kinds of colors are now available-white (White Satin), red (Atomic Red), orange (the most popular in the US), yellow (Yellowbunch, Yellow Sun, YellowPak)), and purple (Purple Haze, Purple Sun, Purple, Deep Purple, Cosmic Purple, Purple Dragon).  There are also variety seed packets available so you can grow all the colors.

Carrots are rich in antioxidants, beta-carotenes, vitamin A, vitamin C, many B-complex vitamins like folic acid, B6, thiamin, pantothenic acid, as well as minerals like calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper.  For more details on their nutrition:  carrot nutrition info

Carrots like loose, well dug soil rich in organic matter although they will also grow in moderately rich soil with a wide pH range of 5.5-7.0..  The ideal soil would be loosened 6-10” deep and mixed with sand and compost.  The longer the root, the deeper the depth of loose soil needed to grow large, straight roots.

There are also shorter root varieties that can be sown if you do not want to dig that deeply or if you want to grow them in pots.  Some short varieties are Little Finger (4” long), Adelaide (the size of your pinky), Short n Sweet (4”), Thumbelina (1-1.5” diameter), Parmex (1.2-2” diameter), Tonda di Parigi (1.5-2” diameter).
Lettuce and lacy leaved carrots in a pot

Sow every 2 weeks March-August.  First plantings should be about 2 weeks prior to your first frost.  Carrots do not like to be transplanted so direct sowing is best.  Soak seeds 6 hours before sowing.  Sow 1/4” deep, 1/2” apart thinning to 2-4”.  Thinning is critical to having nice roots.  Keep evenly moist, do not allow to dry out, for the up to 14 day germination period.

I have used my Aerogarden for growing seedlings indoors prior to planting out into pots and have had good luck.  This year, I direct sowed into a pot and had a great germination rate.

Carrot seed is tiny.  There are a couple of techniques you can use to not sow too thickly.  You can mix 1/4 teaspoon with a gallon of sand and sow uniformly.  Another technique used is to mix radish seeds and carrot seeds together and sow.  The radishes come up quickly and are ready to harvest well before the carrots so you get 2 crops for the effort of 1.  Be sure that a hard crust does not form over the top of the seeds.  These seedlings are not strong enough to push through.  You can cover lightly with organic potting soil, vermiculite or compost.

For your last plantings of the season look for a type like Napoli, Autumn King or Nantes that can be harvested throughout the winter.  Merida can be planted in late September for an early spring harvest.  Frost actually makes the carrots sweeter so leaving them in the ground in the fall will improve their flavor.  The only barrier to winter harvesting is if the ground freezes solid.  

Giving the carrot patch a nice coat of straw and/or covering after reaching harvestable size with a gardening fabric like Reemay can keep the ground from freezing solid.  This type of floating cover can increase the temperature of the ground approximately 5 degrees and allows 75% light transmission while allowing air flow and rain through.  It can be placed directly on your plants.  Just place loosely and hold down the edges with mulch, rocks or a board.  You can use the row cover in the spring for protecting your plants from insects and even in summer for reducing sun scald.  It is very handy, but is lightweight so will only last a season or two.

If you want to bring indoors to store, placing in a cool place in sand that is kept moist is the best indoor long term storage for the winter.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

What we are harvesting from the late May garden

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Late May is a wonderful time in the garden.  Greens are sweet and juicy.  Herbs are growing robustly.  The summer veggies are growing strong.  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, blood veined sorrel, garden sorrel, sweet clover, green onions, kale, broccoli leaves, beet leaves.  The peas are in bloom. Their white and purple flowers and tops are tasty adds to salads.  Sprouting broccoli is giving baby broccoli shoots.
Pea blooms

Some of the more heat sensitive lettuce plants are bolting, sending up a stalk that will be filled with flowers.  After flowering, save the seeds from your favorites to re-sow for continuous harvests.

Herbs to add to dishes and salads-garlic chives, common chives, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, savory, horseradish, leeks, Egyptian onions, tarragon, sage, savory.  The garlic chives are filled with white flowers and the common chives and sage with lavender flowers.  The Egyptian onions have their bulbets tops filling out.  They will soon be able to be re-sown for continuous onion harvests.

We are also harvesting strawberries and the blackberry bushes are in bloom.
Ripe strawberries

The peonies and iris peaked more than a week ago.  The spiderworts, marigolds, snapdragons, alyssum  petunias are flowering.  The roses are just beginning to bud.  The lawn is a nice, deep green carpet.