May Day is when the old timers say is the best time to plant your summer garden in the Midwest. Prior to May 1, there is still a good chance of poor weather, chilly temps, and frost in our Zone 6/7 gardens. This can be catastrophic for tomatoes, eggplants, basil and other heat lovers.
Today, we have the added advantage of the 10 day forecast! Check out your 10 day forecast to know if it looks safe to plant those tender summer veggies as it is possible to have chilly temps even into May.
So, what are we planting this year? Of course, we planted the number one veggie in the USA-tomatoes! This year, we are planting a variety of heirloom, chocolate types, storage tomatoes and a couple of new varieties. Choosing which tomatoes to grow Loving the purple tomatoes with all their fantastic antioxidants!
I am growing 4 red tomato varieties: 1) An heirloom slicer storage tomato, Red October, 2) Seeds from a store bought red grape tomato that stores very well, 3) A red cherry tomato, Super Sweet 100, that is reported to be very prolific and sweet, and 4) An heirloom large paste tomato Italian Red Pear that did great in our garden last year. Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes
The purple tomatoes I am growing this year are the large slicer heirloom tomatoes Cherokee Purple and Black Sea Man and 2 smaller types Violet Jasper/Tzi Bill and Tsunshigo Purple Chinese tomato plants. The Cherokee Purple did great in our garden last year. The other 3 are new ones I am trying. Different colors in tomatoes give different nutrition The Power of Purple
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
Green beans were planted this week. I like the vining type. They produce all season and they grow up so using a trellis maximizes the garden space. We like the flavor from the flat Italian type of green beans. I started seeds in peat pots indoors this year 3 weeks ago. It is not really necessary as you can plant directly in the garden with good success. For us outdoor seed starting for green beans was last week. The types I am growing are Romano, Blauhilde which is a purple green bean, and Scarlett Runner. All three did very well in the garden last year. Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer
|Pepper plant in August garden last year|
I also have several peppers in the Aerogarden that I am giving another week before planting. I am growing mainly sweet peppers this year as I have enough chili powder from the Anaheim and enough frozen Cayenne and Jalapeño peppers from last season to last another year. I am trying to start seeds from a hot pepper again this year that my uncle gave me. I tried last year several times but none sprouted. Seeds will last years if stored in a zip lock or jar in the refrigerator, but lose potency if left at room temperature. I keep hoping that one seed is still viable!
I am trying a new sweet pepper this year Tangerine Gem that is supposed to be prolific. Another new variety I am trying is an ornamental pepper that is also edible Poinsettia Pepper. Just loved the way this one looked so I had to try it! I am also planting from saved seed an Orange Habanero, Ancient Red Pepper, and Super Red Pimento peppers. This year I am going to plant them all in pots. It just seems that my peppers do better in a pot than in the ground. Peppers are for every taste and garden
I am growing only one eggplant that I overwintered in the garage, a white Japanese eggplant. Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden
I planted 3 different kinds of zucchini-Black Beauty, Bush, 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.
|Baby zucchini in summer garden|
I am planting extra cucumbers, sprouting broccoli, lettuce, kale, and parsley this year to make green smoothies. Grow your own juice garden All are already in the garden except the cucumbers. I ordered some seed months ago of interesting varieties of cucumber. They haven't come in yet so I have re-ordered from Baker Seed. I am going to try a yellow, a red, and a white kind of cucumber. The white is a small fruit. It will be nice to have smaller ones so I can pick one for a single salad. Cucumber info and tips for growing
Our rosemary and bay did survive the mild winter we had so I don't have to replant either of them this year. The bay is re-sprouting from the ground as the foliage did die over the winter even with extra mulch around it. I think I will did it up this fall and keep it in the garage to overwinter since it struggled and they are pricy to replace. Start a kitchen herb garden!
I am definitely planting basil: Lettuce Leaf basil, a Cardinal basil which gives beautiful red flowers, and a Blue Spicy Vanilla Basil to use in household cleaners and potpourri. It is edible, too, which could be really fun in homemade ice cream or other desserts. Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil
The last herb I planted was Stevia. I planted it in a pot so I can bring it into the garage to overwinter. It is a super sweet herb that can be used in place of sugar and is high in antioxidants with 0 carbs. Can't beat that! Just dry the leaves, crush them and store in an air tight container. When you need some sweetness, just add the crushed leaves. The trick is to not add too much or you will get a bitter taste.
It was also time for another round of greens. Resowing every 3 weeks will keep us in salads all through the summer and fall. We planted Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach which will last about two weeks longer in the heat than other types of spinach. Growing summer salads
For lettuce, I planted bedding plants of Red Romaine, Buttercrunch, Red Sails, Paris Island Cos Romaine, Coastal Star, and Iceberg. I also planted some Oak Leaf, Grand Rapids, and red speckled romaine from seed. For the next round of lettuce sowings, I'll go with the more heat resistant varieties Jericho Romaine which has been tested to last 3 months before bolting as well as Red Sails loose leaf lettuce which stays sweet after bolting. Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces
We have already fertilized and added compost at the end of March. We mulched this past week. When planting, I like to add biochar at the bottom of each hole, a handful of worm castings, and powder the roots of each plant with mycorrhizal microbes. Mycorrhizal fixes nitrogen to the roots of the plant, helping it to grow sturdier, bigger and faster. Once you have the microbes in the soil, they will stay year after year. For a quicker route, you can add plant starter in each hole which has the microbes, root support and fertilizer all in one.
Biochar is being rediscovered. It was used for centuries by Amazon farmers. Basically, it is wood charcoal. It provides similar benefits as humus except it lasts forever and it is a great way to store carbon, to boot. It is new in the US, but many are reporting significant improvement in growth and vegetable size.
This year, I also added Azomite around each of my transplants under the mulch. The plants have really taken off over the last few days after adding the minerals. Azomite contains many minerals which can result in significantly improved growth for your plants and more minerals in your harvested plants for a healthier you. A win-win for your garden and your family. The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals
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 and wind. I take mine out on the deck in the afternoon for them to get used to the sun and wind for several days before planting out.
If you purchased your transplants and they were already outdoors, they are ready to be plopped into the ground or pot and grow!
|Iris in background and celosia in foreground interplanted with lettuce and sorrel|
I always interplant my garden with flowers. This year, I am using Lilliput zinnias, marigolds, petunias, old fashioned Cock's Comb which is ruby red and grows 4 feet tall, dwarf Cock's Comb in a variety of colors, red flowering Hummingbird Vine, Love Lies Bleeding, Moonflower vine and heirloom sunflowers for annuals. For perennials, there are day-lilies, irises, and gladiolas.
May is an exciting time in the garden. Every day you go out, you can see things growing. The spring vegetables are in their prime, the summer veggies are just starting, and there are so many herbs ready for seasoning your favorite salads or dishes.