Saturday, May 5, 2018
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 15 day forecast! Check out your 15 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. If direct planting seeds, chilly and rainy conditions can cause the seeds to rot. Warm, moist conditions are the best for seed success!
This spring has had fairly normal temperatures so the garden is growing quickly. The greens that love the cool weather are doing great! You just don't want to plant the summer lovers too early as they don't like being cold and you can lose them to frost. Earlier is not always better.
May is the time to sow summer lover's seed Outdoor seed starting tips and plant warm season crops. The cold crops are at their peak at the beginning of the month with many bolting and going to seed by month's end like spinach, cilantro, lettuce, chard, kale, sprouting broccoli, and onions. To preserve greens while they are still at their peak is quick and easy. Freezing the extras for winter
So, what are we planting this year? Of course, we planted the number one veggie in the USA-tomatoes! This year, I am growing them all from seed. You could also just buy plants as there is a great selection of heirlooms at local nurseries these days. We are planting a variety of heirloom, chocolate types, paste tomatoes, small and large tomatoes and a couple of new varieties. Choosing which tomatoes to grow Loving the purple tomatoes with all their fantastic antioxidants! I am trying a new multicolor and purple variety, too. Different colors in tomatoes give different nutrition
I tomatoes I am starting from seed: Cherokee Purple which always does well in our garden, Italian Red Pear paste, Super Italian paste, Little Napoli, a chocolate cherry type, a large chocolate tomato from a store bought tomato, and 10 Fingers of Napoli. Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes These should be more than enough for all our needs.
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
I've planted snow pea seeds in a few pots a couple of weeks ago. They have sprouted. Won't be long before I can add their leaves and flowers to salads. I have quarts and quarts of beans in the freezer so will not be growing green beans this season, but if you are growing them, now is a great time to get them planted. Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer
I planted only sweet and Poblano peppers this year. I have plenty of Jalapeño and Cayenne from last year in the freezer and as hot sauce. Homemade hot sauce wings with homegrown celery I also use Jalapeños and Cayennes for salsa. Quick, homemade salsa I use Poblano for chili powder.
I overwintered an ancient hot pepper in the garage called Chipetin. It is thought to be the ancestor of all hot peppers. This is its third winter and it did great. It produces very small, very hot round red peppers. I dry them and use them in my grilling spice mix. Using herbs, flowers and fruit for flavored sugars and salts
Lastly, there are the sweet peppers to snack on and for salsa. The ones I grew last year were very sweet, crunchy and prolific, so I saved the seed and am growing these again. This year I am going to plant all my peppers in pots. It just seems that my peppers do better in a pot than in the ground. I just refreshed the potting soil and fertilized them well. Re-energize your potting soil! Peppers are for every taste and garden
I am growing a white eggplant Casper and White Star. We loved Casper, but it is very hard to sprout from seed and not a variety that is easy to find as a plant. Our summers get so hot here that eggplant skins can get tough and the fruits bitter so I always look for the varieties that are good for our temps. Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden
I will plant 2 kinds of summer squash-Cocozelle 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 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.
I am also planting a winter squash-Spaghetti squash. It is a low carb substitute for spaghetti, too. These vines don't produce many fruits, so I will plant a few vines. I am going to train them up a trellis to maximize my garden space. I grew them last year and they did really well. They also kept into February indoors, just sitting on the counter.
I am planting cucumbers, sprouting broccoli, lettuce, kale, and parsley this year to make green smoothies. Grow your own juice garden All except the cukes are planted in the garden. I am planting three varieties of cucumber-Long Green Improved, White Wonder and Fancy Green Slicer. I will grow these onto a trellis as well. Cucumber info and tips for growing
Other veggies I planted were red veined sorrel, carrots, Radish Rat's Tail, cilantro, dill, Red Giant mustard, Regina and Mignonette Alpine strawberries, purple orach, Fioretta cauliflower, kale, Bulls Blood and Gourmet Blend beets, Icicle radishes, Red Burgundy Okra, and spinach.
For herbs, I added several to the garden this year. I transplanted stevia, rosemary and golden sage. I overwintered our bay plants in the unheated garage. Both are doing great and have many new leaves. I started chervil from seed. I love adding dried chervil leaves and lavender to add fragrance to body oil. Make your own fragrant herbal body oil I started dill, borage, white sage and 3 kinds of basil from seed a couple of weeks ago. I have all my seedlings hardening off on the covered deck. For more on herbs, see Start a kitchen herb garden!
It was also time for another round of greens. Resowing every 3 weeks will keep us in salads all through the summer and fall. Want continuous harvests? Succession planting! I'll look for greens that stand up to the heat for this next round of planting. I'll start them in pots and then transplant to the garden when they are big enough.
For lettuce, I used seeds from Red Romaine, Buttercrunch, Red Sails, Paris Island Cos Romaine, Red and Green Oakleaf, and Buttercrunch. For the next round of lettuce sowings, I'll go with the more heat resistant varieties like 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. Look for varieties that have heat tolerant in the descriptor. Here are some varieties that are proven to do well in the summer Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces
Lettuce and spinach aren't the only greens you can use for salads, see more at Growing summer salads
We fertilized and mulched at the end of March. When planting, I like to powder the roots of each plant with plant starter as well as dig in some fertilizer in each hole. Plant starter has mycorrhizal microbes which 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. This year a soil test showed I only needed to add nitrogen to the garden so I used blood meal with each planting.
I added Azomite around each of my transplants under the mulch twice last year so I should be good for this season. During the growing season, you should fertilize monthly. 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 put mine out on the deck 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|
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. Just be sure to keep ahead of the weeds and provide even watering.