Saturday, May 14, 2016

Time to plant summer veggies!

Lettuce in forefront and newly planted green beans planted on trellis in background
Saturday, May 14, 2016

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 10 day forecast!  I checked out ours and it showed warm temperatures for the next 10 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?  

Of course, we planted the number one veggie in the USA-tomatoes.  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  and The Power of Purple.  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-Ancient Red Pepper, Pimento Pepper, Tangerine Dream, Super Red Pimento, Orange Habanero, and a decorative, hot pepper that a friend gave me seed from.  I also have the Chipetin pepper that I overwintered in the garage.  It is an ancient pepper with tiny, hot peppers.   Peppers are for every taste and garden

The only eggplant this year is the Japanese White Egg eggplant I overwintered.  I'll keep it in a pot to bring back in the fall.   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.
Trellis in background for the cucumbers

 I am planting 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 2 white cucumbers (massive producer Dragon's White Egg and Miniature White that is a good container variety) directly into the garden last weekend.  The whites are both small fruits.  It will be nice to have smaller ones so I can pick one for a single salad or smoothie.    Cucumber info and tips for growing  One of the varieties has already sprouted so the others should be soon poking their heads out of the ground.  Cukes are tropical plants so they grow best when the temperatures are hot.

The only summer herbs I needed to plant this year was basil and stevia so far.  For fun, I added lemon verbena in a pot.  The rosemary made it and I am still waiting to see if the bay tree made it.   Start a kitchen herb garden!  I planted 3 types of basil-Cardinal, Lettuce Leaf, and Blue Spicy Vanilla.  Cardinal basil has a beautiful garnet flower top.  Blue spice I like to dry and use in potpourri.  Lettuce Leaf is a new variety in my garden and their large leaves are perfect for making pesto.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

It was also time for another round of lettuce and spinach.  The first planting of lettuce is just beginning to bolt.  We planted Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach which lasts about two weeks longer in the heat than other types of spinach so the spinach is still doing well, but won't last for long after the temperatures hit the 80's.  For lettuce, we went with Jericho Romaine which is supposed to go for 3 months before bolting as well as Red Romaine, Red Sails and a couple of crisphead varieties.  Growing summer salads

We had already fertilized, added compost, and mulched a couple of weeks ago.  I also added Azomite around each plant.  Azomite has lots of trace minerals.  The lettuce plants all shot up after.  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!
Interplanted garden with rainbow in the background

When we planted the summer veggies, I powdered 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 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, Love Lies Bleeding which is a really cool looking amaranth which means it is edible, Moonflower vine, Hummingbird vine, and zinnias.

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

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