Sunday, June 28, 2020

July 2020 Edible Garden Planner

Zucchini, white cucumbers, tomatoes and green beans from the July garden
Sunday, June 28, 2020

July is the time of year for harvesting the heat lovers like tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, sprouting broccoli, green beans, all types of peppers, garlic, basil and other Mediterranean herbs.  It is also the time to plant for fall harvests.

I got my summer garden going late this year.  Typically all my summer veggies are being harvested at this time-peppers, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes and green beans.  This year, I have my first ripe summer squash, zucchini and eggplant.  There are lots and lots of baby tomatoes, but all are green.  No flowers yet for the peppers and cucumbers.  They love this heat and humidity so should be producing within the month.

By the end of the month, there will be more summer veggies than we can eat and we will start preserving the extra.  Preservation garden

The spring greens have bolted, but there are summer greens that are robust during the hot days of summer.  My favorites are salad burnet, Swiss chard, collards, Malabar spinach, mustard greens, New Zealand spinach, green and purple orach, sorrel, sprouting broccoli, cultivated dandelions, tyron, kale, and a new one for my garden Hilton Chinese mustard.  Growing summer salads

The sprouting broccoli I replanted has come up well.  It is a great substitute for lettuce leaves in salads, particularly if you like the taste of broccoli!  It will take another couple of weeks for them to be large enough to start harvesting.  Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav

The spring lettuce and spinach has gone to seed.  When you see the white fuzzies on lettuce stalks, they are ready to save the seed.  I just pull the seed heads, break apart, put in a ziplock freezer bag, label with type and date, and store in the refrigerator.  I also re-seeded our self watering pots with some of the seeds.  The lettuce seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago have not sprouted.  I may need to bring inside as lettuce doesn't germinate well in the heat.  Never ending salad from one packet of seeds  I'm going to start some more seed to keep the harvest going.  Succession planting is key for keeping lettuce in the heat of the summer.  Start your lettuce seeds in a cool spot as they won't sprout when the ground is above 75 F.  You can even start them in a pot indoors and then take outside when they have sprouted.

There are even a select few varieties of lettuce that can stand up to summer heat:
Leaf lettuce-”New Red Fire”, “Simpson Elite”
Butterhead-”Optima”, “Winter Density:
Romaine-”Jericho”, ”Green Towers”
Batavian-”Magenta”, “Nevada”
If you haven't already, now is the time to plant these heat champions.  Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces

Pole green beans on trellis
The pole green beans are close to flowering so it won't be long before we have fresh green beans.  Harvest them to keep them producing.  I keep a quart bag in the freezer and add mature green beans as they are ready for picking.  Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer

It is time to harvest the garlic, including the elephant garlic.  I love elephant garlic as the cloves are as their name suggests, they are huge!  I will harden both types in the shade outdoors for two weeks before storing indoors.  Hardening is critical for the garlic to not rot when stored.  Save the biggest cloves for replanting in the fall.  Garlic harvest time is near!  The other way I like to preserve garlic is to pickle them in apple cider vinegar with a few hot peppers and store in the frig.

Our basil has been slow to get started but is now off to the races.  The trick to keeping the plants from getting woody is to make sure to harvest down to the first few sets of leaves before the plants go in to full flower.  I get two good harvests before fall.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

Oregano, lavender and catnip are blooming.  The bees love the small lavendar flowers!  It could be cut and dried now, but I love the flowers, too, and will wait until fall.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"

I fertilized all the pots again as well as the basil to keep it growing.  Pots lose nutrients at a much higher rate than garden beds.  I am using a liquid fertilizer for all the potted plants at least every other week and using a solid fertilizer monthly around each plant.  I like Espoma.  I use their tomato fertilizer for all fruit producing plants and their general purpose vegetable fertilizer for all other veggie and herb plants.  Decorative container gardening for edibles

I have been using a mineral supplement for my plants for the last couple of years, both the garden bed, pots and the potting soil I make.  Right now I am using Azomite.  So many soils are low in minerals and micronutrients.  Your plants can't absorb what the soil does not have.  If your plants get a big boost when you add minerals to the soil, you know that it was needed.  Adding minerals to the plants and soil will significantly increase the minerals in the plant itself, giving you minerals in the veggies you eat.  The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

A key to keeping the garden productive this time of year is to keep even moisture to all the beds and containers.  Water the beds weekly and deeply; they need a good inch of water a week.  During hot, dry periods, your containers may need watering every other day.  Self-watering pots with reservoirs in the bottom are the trick to extending watering duties.  Summer garden tips

If you are getting higher than normal rainfall, you'll need to fertilize more often as the rain with wash away the nutrients.  Keep an eye on the growth of your veggies and if they are not growing and producing as expected, they may need some extra food.  

The wild blackberries are ripe.  We started picking this week.  You have to get them quickly or the critters will beat you to it.  Do leave some for the wildlife.  The strawberries are producing well.  Back yard strawberries 

Finally, there are many summer flowers in bloom.  The hollyhocks, daylilies, marigolds, petunias, gladiolus, echinacea, sunflowers, carrots, fairy lilies, torch lilies, pot marigolds, mums as well as many herbs are all in full bloom.  Zinnias have just started to open.  The morning glory, hummingbird vine, sedum are behind this year, but will be blooming later in July.  The mustard, carrots, broccoli, and lettuce have all bolted and are flowering.  The bees just lover their tiny flowers!  Flowers are not only beautiful, but attract pollinators making the garden more productive.  
A butterfly on zinnias in the edible garden
This is the month to start your seeds and seedlings for fall and winter harvests.  You have to start early so they are at full size before frost.  Time to plant for fall and winter harvests! 

Pests and fungus can also be a problem during this time of year with the hot temperatures and high humidity.  I am being very proactive with fungus this year, using organic preventative spraying every 7-10 days.  I Started with copper fungicide and have switched to Serenade for my peonies, roses, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and watermelon plants.   Preventing and treating powdery mildew

You can try and stay ahead of pests by monitoring the garden closely and picking off the pests.  If they do get the best of you, here are some natural ways to combat them.  Natural, organic pest strategies and how to make your own bug sprays  

Saturday, June 27, 2020

What to do with all that zucchini?!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Ah, zucchini.  One of the first summer veggies to fruit.  You know summer is officially here when your zukes are flowering and producing nice long fruits.  By mid-summer, the novelty has worn off.  By August, you can’t give the things away!  I even saw a box in my local hardware store with free zucchinis!

So, what’s a gardener to do with all that excess bounty?  Well, you can donate them to a food pantry, you can preserve them in a few different ways, or you can use them in ways I’d never even thought of!  

For preserving, you can freeze them, can them or dry them.  I don’t care for canning zucchini as they are not acidic enough to just use a water bath; the full pressure canner set up is required.  You could pickle them, lowering the pH enough to use a water bath.  There are all kinds of fun pickling recipes out there.  Adding peppers is a way to add zing to an otherwise bland taste.  Just make sure you follow the recipe exactly as the proper pH is critical to safe canning.
Easy, low tox canning of summer's bountySites & resources for canning

Blanched zucchini ready for freezer
I am exploring the freeze and dry methods.  For freezing, first slice them, blanch them, lay them on a cookie sheet and freeze them.  After they are frozen, you can put them in a freezer bag.  When you need a few, they are easy to get out of the bag.  If you put them into the freezer bag fresh, they will freeze together.  I am trying a few frozen whole.  With a sharp blade, I can slice them when I need them, kind of like frozen cookie dough.
Freezing the extras for winter

For drying, slice and either use a dehydrator, the sun or your oven.  Zucchini has a great deal of moisture so it will take a while to completely dehydrate.  You can speed the process by salting, squeezing out the excess (cookie sheet weighted down on top of another cookie sheet is an easy way to do this) for about 15 minutes, then either popping into the oven, setting them out in the sun or placing in a dehydrator for a couple of hours should do it.  Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn if you are using an oven.  Recommended temp for drying is 120-200 degrees F max.
Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies

I ran across some recipes in Capper’s magazine that looked tasty: zucchini spaghetti and meat balls, 
Zucchini made into noodles
stuffed baked zucchini, and zucchini parmesan.  I have tried a variation on the baked zucchini and the zucchini parmesan and both were quite good.

They have this nifty little gadget called a spiralizer that you put a zucchini in and it will make nice long spaghetti noodles.  You can use them just like spaghetti but with no carbs or gluten.  Cool, huh?  Just toss with your favorite sauce and serve.

Grilled zucchini is tasty with sea salt and olive oil.  It is one of our standbys.  Just be sure to not heat your olive oil above 340 degrees F; the smoke point of this delicious, nutritious oil.

There is also fried zucchini.  It is easy to make.  Just whip up 3 eggs with a little milk.  Mix together 1/2 cup of cornmeal with a 1/4 cup of flour, salt and seasonings to taste.  Dip the zucchini slices first in the egg batter then in the dry meal.  Place in 350-375 degree F oil and fry until golden.  If you are going to eat by itself, using a Cajun season salt adds a welcome zing of flavor.

For any extras you have, you can freeze them, too.  Just put a single layer on a cookie sheet and let freeze through.  Then, put all the pieces into a freezer bag.  You can pull out any time you have a craving for fried zucchini!  Just thaw and warm up in the oven.

The baked zucchini was good.  Take a large zucchini, cut in half and scoop out the seeds.  Stuff with your favorite meat stuffing recipe and bake until the zucchini is tender at 350 degrees F.  Mine took about an hour and a half to become tender.  Top with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese and put bake in the oven until cheese is golden and bubbly.
Zucchini lasagna

There was a recipe in the magazine for zucchini parmesan.  Basically, you layer sauce, sliced Italian sausage, breaded and fried zucchini to fill a baking dish, then top with mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 degrees F until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese golden and melted.

We didn’t have any Italian sausage, so I made up a stuffing mix which is below.  I just then layered sauce, then breaded and fried zucchini, then meat stuffing until the baking pan was full.  For my pan, it was 3 layers of each.  Then top with mozzarella and parmesan and into the oven at 350 degrees F until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted.

I was amazed at how delicious the zucchini lasagna was.  It is low carb, gluten free, full of just harvested veggies and a great way to utilize the bounty from the garden!

Here is a meat stuffing mix I really like:  1 small diced onion, 3 eggs, 1 piece of whole wheat toast crumbled, 2 teaspoons of ground garlic, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper, 2 teaspoons of dried mixed herbs from the garden, and a half pound of burger (bison, grass fed beef or venison).  Just mush it all together by hand.  When combined, use to stuff the zucchini or layer as part of the zucchini lasagna dish.

Another option would be to wrap the stuffing in zucchini creating zucchini cannelloni.  Stuff, wrap, cover with cheese and bake until cheese is warm and bubbly.

Then there is the ever classic zucchini bread. Recipes abound on the internet and cookbooks for this perennial favorite.

Now you have several ideas for fully utilizing all your wonderful zucchini besides the compost pile :  )

For other tips on preserving the harvest from the garden, see Preservation garden

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Homegrown flavored waters and sodas

Blueberry and raspberry soda
Sunday, June 21, 2020

Plain water is just that-plain.  So many people go to sodas or other sweetened, store bought drinks for refreshment.  There are other home grown options!

Here are a few flavored water recipes
For these infusions, place ingredients in a half gallon of water and allow to meld overnight.  Shake, then strain into serving container.  Chill for a refreshing, tasty water!
Lemongrass, mint and vanilla-1 large stalk of lemongrass, chopped and crushed, 1/4 cup fresh peppermint coarsely chopped, and 1/2 large vanilla bean or 1 teas vanilla extract.
Cardamom, orange and vanilla-1 large sliced orange, 1 tablespoon crushed cardamom pods, 1/2 large vanilla bean or 1 teas vanilla extract.
Blackberry, rose and vanilla-3/4 cup blackberries, 1/4 cup rose petals, 1/2 large vanilla bean.
Refreshing cucumber mint-1/2 cup chopped and crushed mint with half a sliced cucumber.

Of course, there is always the old fashioned favorite!  Lemonade or limeade-simply squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice into water.

1/8-1/4 teaspoon of stevia can be added to any of the above for added sweetness with no sugar or carbs.  Too much stevia can impart a bitter taste; a little goes a long way!

Stevia is an herb high in antioxidants that is very easy to grow.  You can find them almost anywhere that herbal plants are sold or grow them from seed.  You can overwinter them indoors.  Dry the leaves and use to sweeten anything.  Stevia can also be purchased at the store.  I would stick with the whole herb to get all the antioxidant benefits.  A sweet alternative-grow your own

I bought a book called "Stevia naturally sweet recipes for desserts, drinks and more!" by Rita DePuydt that has great ideas for using stevia to cut down or eliminate sugar and carbs in many sweetened foods and drinks.

Making your own vanilla is easy, too.  Just buy vanilla beans, slit them open and place 4 of them in 1 cup (8 ounces) of premium vodka and allow to infuse for 4-6 months.  If you want to speed up the process, shake weekly and it will be ready to use in 8 weeks.  As you use it, you can just re-top.  Very inexpensive way to have real vanilla.

I buy cardamom at Whole Foods in the bulk spices department.  You can also get on line at Amazon.  Cardamom is a great spice to add to hot tea, too.

Cucumber and mint
You can make your own sodas at home!  
For a fruit flavored soda, use 1 cup of fruit, 1 cup of sugar (more or less depending on how sweet the fruit is that you are using), 1 cup apple cider vinegar.  Heat the sliced fruit, 1/2 cup of sugar, and vinegar over high heat until it boils.  Reduce and simmer until fruit is soft and sugar dissolved.  Add more sugar if too tart.  When cool, mash the fruit and strain liquid into a jar.  Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.  For a soda, add 3 tablespoons of syrup into 8 ounces of carbonated cold water.

If you want to go the sugar-free route, substitute 1/2 teaspoon powdered stevia extract for the sugar.  Again, be careful in not overdoing the stevia; too much imparts a bitter taste.  You can use a combo of stevia with agave nectar, sugar or honey to find a sweetness you like.  The less sugar you use, the better for your health.

For a homemade ginger ale, slice 1/4 cup of ginger root and 1/2 lemon or lime, 4 cups of water, simmer in pan for 20 minutes, strain into a glass jar, add 1/2 teaspoon of powdered stevia extract.  Add equal amounts of ginger liquid and sparkling water.

You can do the same thing with mint, basil, rosemary, lemon verbena, cilantro, or dill.  These syrups can be used in sodas or in adult beverages like the mint julep, margaritas, daiquiris, martinis, gin/vodka gimlets, gin and tonics, sangrias.  Let your imagination run herb wild!

There are relatively inexpensive carbonators available nowadays as well.  If you drink a lot of soda, this could be a very cost effective, nutritious approach.

For how to grow ingredients mentioned, here are blogs
Make your own flavored vinegars

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Eggplant 101-how to grow this native from India

Black Beauty eggplant in container with petunias
Saturday, June 20, 2020

Eggplant is easy to grow.  It is happy in a pot or the ground.  Eggplants are tropical plants and require a long growing season to fruit.  You can still get fruits by purchasing a plant and putting it in your garden or container now.  It's not too late to enjoy this veggie for the season!

Eggplant is a staple in Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern and many Asian cuisines.  It is used as a substitute for meat in many dishes.  This fruiting vegetable originated in India and has been cultivated there for thousands of years.  It had made its way to the Mediterranean region by the Middle Ages.  

Eggplant contains fiber, antioxidants that have potential health effects against cancer, C, K, folate vitamins, and copper, iron, magnesium and potassium.  eggplant nutrition info

 Ideally, eggplant should be started indoors 6-8 weeks prior to the last frost date (for Zone 6, this is end of February/first of March).  They are heat loving veggies that need some time to start producing fruit.  If you don't get them started early or just want the convenience, there are many varieties available at nurseries and big box stores.  

Transplant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed, 18-24" apart in full sun.  Fertilize when transplanting with a balanced organic/all natural fertilizer.  Fertilize again with the first flowers appear to support the growth of fruits, then monthly if planted in the garden bed.  For those planted in pots, I add solid fertilizer monthly and give a liquid fertilizer when I water every 2 weeks.  The plants like moisture so don't be stingy with water.

Eggplants, like peppers and tomatoes, are perennials.  You can bring them indoors at the end of the season and with direct sun, continue producing.  If they survive the winter, they will produce sooner and have bigger yields next summer.  I have had mixed luck overwintering mine, but I have only tried keeping them in the garage with a fluorescent grow light.

Eggplants grow well in pots.  This is my preferred way to grow eggplants.  Look for dwarfs or patio types like Casper, Listada de Gandia, White Egg or Fairytale, or plant in a larger container.  We have found the white fruiting eggplants the best for our hot and humid summers.  They don't get bitter and their skins don't get tough.  I have also grown Rosa Bianca in a large pot and it did well.  This year, I am growing White, Rosa Bianca, and Amadeo in pots.  I also like Turkish Orange.  It has a smokey flavor and smaller orange fruits.  I decided to try Amadeo this year.  Depending on how it does, I'll grow Turkish Orange next year.  It's fun to try new varieties.

White eggplant ripening
I use Espoma vegetable fertilizer on all my vegetables, fruits and potted plants.  Before I moved, I could also get Re-Vita fertilizer which is also a good organic fertilizer.  You can also make your own all natural fertilizer pretty economically.  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

Of the 5 eggplants, only 2 are flowering and have baby eggplants on them.  I got started much later this year than typical.  

When fruits come on, be sure to harvest regularly.  There are 2 good reasons.  One-the more you pick, the more the plant produces.  Two-the fruits are sweeter and skins thinner on younger fruits.

The only pest I've found with eggplants are flea beetles.  They seem to just love the White eggplant leaves.  They eat them until there is hardly anything left but the veins.  I tried to let the pest "come in balance" and didn't treat with anything, but it has been 5 years with no slowing in sight so I am using insecticidal soap to knock them back this year.  Plants need their leaves to produce food for the plant and its fruits!  You might also be able to use nasturtium as a decoy plant to attract the flea beetles away from the eggplants.  This has not worked for me to date.

Eggplant can be baked, steamed or grilled.  My favorites are brushing on olive oil and salt and grilling until tender, stuffing and baking, using as lasagna noodles, or slicing and topping with parmesan cheese and backing until the cheese is crisp.  I do the same with zucchini.  Keep the grill temp below 350 or substitute grape seed oil that has a higher smoke point.

I have tried blanching eggplant and freezing them.  They just don't taste the same.  This year, I think I will try fully cooking them and freezing them, see if I can preserve the extras that way.  Here are the recipes I use for eggplant and zucchini  What to do with all that zucchini?!  

Sunday, June 14, 2020

What we are harvesting in the mid June edible garden

Chinese cabbage, "Hilton"
Sunday, June 14, 2020

This is the in-between season in our garden.  The spring veggies have wound down and the summer veggies are just starting to fruit.  The spring flowers are long gone and the summer lovers are just beginning to bloom.

Garden Harvests
Right now, we are harvesting peas, greens, herbs and onions.  Great for cooking, salads and preserving.

We are getting creative in salads since the lettuce and spinach has bolted.  We are still using the lower leaves of lettuce and adding in other greens like purple orach, Hilton Chinese cabbage, plantain, chard, cultivated dandelions, New Zealand spinach, celery leaves, arugula, kale and parsley leaves.  I like to add snow peas, Dragon's tail radish, tarragon, and chives or chopped onion tops.  You can even add sweet clover, purslane, and chickweed for flavor and nutrition.  Growing summer salads   For fun, you can add edible flowers.  Flowers that are edible

Kale and the Chinese cabbage are large enough now to start freezing the leaves.  Greens need a quick blanch to keep their flavor in the freezer.  Freezing the extras for winter 

All the herbs are going strong.  Many are large enough now to cut and dry for preserving like tarragon, dill, fennel, coriander, bay and oregano.  Harvesting and drying herbs  The rest can be used to flavor dishes or make teas.  Sage has not yet bloomed, but it will put on lots of lavender blue flowers that the bees and butterflies love.  My mother read recently that you can use sage tea to help with hot flashes.  You can have up to 5 cups of tea a day.  Make your own teas from garden grown herbs
Purple orach, we use as salad greens

Garden Maintenance
With the spring crops bolting, sprouting broccoli already have seeds ready to re-sow.  Spinach is close and so is the lettuce.  After flowering, pick the seeds and re-sow or let nature do it for you.  I do a combination, letting parsley, dill, fennel, mustard and cilantro self-sow.  I harvest the lettuce, spinach and some of the sprouting broccoli to re-sow in pots.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Now is a good time to do a another sowing of lettuce.  Be sure to sow seeds of heat tolerant varieties; every three weeks is optimal to be able to have continuous lettuce harvests.  Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces  

The summer vegetables are just now putting on baby fruits.  Summer squash, eggplant and tomatoes all have fruits.  They should be ready by the Fourth of July.  Winter squash has baby fruits as well, but they aren't harvested until fall.  I got a late start on peppers and cucumbers this year.  They may delay into mid-July for start of picking.

Zucchini plant in bloom
Garlic is about ready to harvest.  Soft neck and hard neck garlic are slightly different in telling you when to harvest.  Soft neck garlic is ready to harvest a week after their tops fall over and die off.  Hard neck garlic is ready to harvest when about half of their lower leaves have turned brown.  Try digging one up and see if the bulb is large and firm.  If they are not, just cover back up and try in another week.  After pulling, keep in a warm shady spot for 2-3 weeks for the bulbs to harden.  Hardening lengthens the storage time.  Save the biggest cloves for planting in the fall.  Garlic harvest is here! 

We are now into summer temps; most days in the upper 80's.  The garden will soon need supplemental watering.   Summer garden tips  For veggies I am growing in pots, I am watering them twice a week now.  The best veggie pots are those that have a reservoir in the bottom.  This will allow you to probably get away with watering once a week.  At some point, I'll remember and take the time to add a reservoir to my existing pots over the winter to cut down on the summer watering time!  Decorative container gardening for edibles

The hard part of gardening is over now.  There is minor weeding, occasional fertilizing along with watering and keeping an eye out for pests.  I have a few more transplants to get into the garden.  I will do that before they call for a nice rain.  Most of the time from here out is just harvesting, enjoying and preserving.  For more tips on preserving the extra, see Preservation garden

Saturday, June 13, 2020

What to plant in the June edible garden

New potted pepper plant in mid-June
Saturday, June 13, 2020

In our Zone 6/7 garden, June is summer.  The cold crops like lettuce, mustard, kale and spinach have bolted (gone to seed).  The summer lovers like tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans  cucumbers and eggplants are growing strong with baby fruits forming.  There are many plants you can start in June.

Here is a list of plants and seeds you can put in the June garden: 
June-transplants or seeds
Bee balm (monarda)
Beans-bush and pole
Lemon balm
Lettuce (heat tolerant)
Summer and winter squash

June-start from seeds directly in the garden
Beans (snap-bush & pole)
Peas, Southern

I love to have fresh salads every day.  It is tough in summer to keep the traditional salad greens like lettuce and spinach going in the hot weather.  I sow seeds every 3 weeks in spring to keep greens going.  Go for the bolt resistant types in late spring and early summer.  Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces  I have also in recent years started planting substitutes for lettuce and spinach.  

Right now, for lettuce I am growing sprouting broccoli and a sweet Chinese cabbage, Hilton, along with oracle, cultivated dandelion greens, kale, arugula and chard.  All can be sown now.

For spinach substitutes, I am growing Perpetual Spinach, Red Malabar spinach and New Zealand spinach.  They all thrive in hot weather.  Malabar spinach is a vine so give it a trellis to climb.  It is quite pretty with its maroon stems and flowers.

Give your greens the coolest spot in the garden and moist to keep them sweet and succulent.  Growing summer salads

For tips on starting your seeds in the garden:  Outdoor seed starting tips  I also like to put a pot on our covered deck and start seeds there.  Once they are to a good size, I transplant them into their permanent pot or into the garden bed.  Be sure your seedlings are hardened off as the heat and sun can be intense this time of year. "Hardening off" seedlings   I like to plant on a cloudy day when rain is being called for the next day.

In June, the days are getting hot and the rains don't come as often.  Be sure to water your new plants when it gets dry or they wilt.  Summer garden tips

Sunday, June 7, 2020

What I started from seed for this year's garden

Sunday, June 7, 2020

This year I started almost everything from seed since I had time and I wanted to grow some unusual varieties.   

I found the best way to start them indoors was to use a heating pad during the day and then turn it off at night.  I used the grow lights too above the peat pods.  I did try coir pods and did not have good germination rate.

I started some seeds in pots outdoors-lettuce, spinach, snow peas, beets, radishes.

I grew several compact varieties for our master gardener demonstration garden.  You can find some dwarf varieties at big box stores.  Here are the ones that I started from seed:
Tomatoes-Front Runner hybrid, Bush Steak hybrid, Patio Princess hybrid, Little Napoli hybrid
Okra-Baby Bubba
Peppers-Jalapeno M, Tangerine Dream, Long Thin Cayenne (all peppers can be grown in pots)
Herbs-Rosemary, Basil, Chives, Oregano, Thyme, Fennel, Dill, Chamomile, Cilantro, Sage
Greens-Chard, Sprouting Broccoli, Broccoli Raab, Kale, Lettuce, Celery, Cabbage
Eggplant-Amadeo (any eggplant can be grown in pots)
Pole or bush beans (any kind can be grown in a pot)
Fruit-strawberries, Bush Sugar Baby watermelon
Cucumber-Spacemaster, Bush Champion
Squash-Zucchini Bush, Bush Acorn

For our own garden, these are the varieties I started from seed:
Tomatoes-Roma, Cherokee Purple, a big chocolate tomato, a chocolate cherry tomato, Italian Pear heirloom paste, Black Krim, Gezahnte, Chocolate Pear
Herbs-Utah Improved Celery, Rosemary, Sweet Basil, Cardinal Basil, Chives, Oregano, Marjoram, Florence Fennel, ZefaFino Fennel, Cilantro, SloBolt Cilantro, White Sage, Wild Basil
Okra-Baby Bubba, Red Burgundy
Cucumber-Miniature White, Lemon
Pepper-Long Thin Cayenne, Brown Sweet, Super Red Pimento
Squash-Spaghetti, Bush Acorn, Early Prolific
Eggplant-Casper, White, Amadeo, Italian Pink Bicolor
Purple Podded pole bean
Fruit-Bush Sugar Baby watermelon, Regina alpine strawberry, Mignonette alpine strawberry
Greens-Fordhook Giant chard, Verde De Taglio chard, Purple Sprouting broccoli, Broccoli Raab, Tuscan kale, Black Magic kale, Hilton Chinese cabbage, tyfon, Bistro corn salad, New Zealand spinach, Red Malabar spinach, lettuce (seeds saved from last year)
Root crops-Dragon's Tail radish, Icicle radish, beets
Snow peas
Asparagus-Martha Washington
Flowers-Borage, Heavenly Blue morning glory, Red Hummingbird vine, marigold, pot marigold, Pride of Madeira, Platinum Blue, Alyssum Gold Dust, Blue Bird Forget-Me-Not, Fantasia Delphinium, Blue Fescue grass, Zinnias (Red Lime Queen, Red Cactus, Pink SeƱorita, Queen Lime Orange), Blue Stokes Aster, Love Lies Bleeding

Seeds can be stored in ziplock bags in the refrigerator for years.  I just use a few more for the older seeds in case they don't germinate as well.

It is not too late to start a garden in June!

June garden
Sunday, June 7, 2020

You can start a garden at any time in spring, summer or fall.  If you are deciding to start your garden in the summer, there are a few techniques to use to figure out what to plant and help your plants survive and flourish. 

Step 1-I think the best way is to make a list of what you like to eat, then see which of your favorites are best to start right now in your garden!  This is the time of year of the heat lovers like eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers.  There is no time like the present to get moving on your gardening dreams.
Planning for a four season garden  Time to plant summer veggies!  Start a kitchen herb garden!  
Summer garden veggies
Step 2-Now that you have your list, take a look at your garden, patio, deck, porch, front yard to see how much space you have that gets 6 hours of sun a day.  There are so many dwarf varieties of every kind of vegetable to grow in pots or small spaces that you should not be put off thinking you don’t have enough space!
Get the most from your space-plant intensively!  
How to decide what to plant for small spaces? 
Companion planting tips    Edible shade gardens shine in summer

Step 3-Buy your supplies for your garden bed or pot.  Pots are easy-just buy some organic potting soil and the decorative pot.  Most potting soils come with fertilizer already mixed in.   You do not want to use garden soil as it is too dense for pots.  Make sure you buy the right size pot for the vegetable you are growing.
Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer  Re-energize your potting soil!
Decorative container gardening for edibles  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds  

Step 4-Buy your plants.  I prefer to buy plants that are raised without chemicals so I look for an organic nursery to see if they have what I want.  The brand carried at many big box stores started carrying organic this year.  My next stop is my local nursery or big box hardware store.  Choose the plants that are green and look sturdy.  If they already have blooms, be sure to remove them.  You want all the energy of your plants going into good roots initially.  The heat lovers like tomatoes, beans, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and eggplant will also sprout from seed easily this time of year.  I have pepper and tomato seeds started in the deck in a pot right now.  They sprout in just a few days.  I transplanted the sprouts into larger pots to give them room to grow sturdy.  I'll transplant them into the garden when they are around 5" tall.
What to plant in the June edible garden
Newly started seeds
Step 5-Plant!  Water each plant well before planting.  The best time to plant is before a rain or cloudy days.  Gives the plants a little time to get their roots jump started.  I add plant starter and fertilizer to each hole, mix with the soil and then place the plant.  Water again after planting.

For potted veggie or herbs, fill the pot with organic potting soil, water to get the potting soil settled, plant the veggie, and water again.  You can top with mulch to keep lengthen the time between waterings.  I also plant flowers in my pots to add color and attract beneficial insects.
Decorative container gardening for edibles

If planting in your flower bed or garden, the best thing to do is a soil test (you can buy a kit or take it to your local co-op extension office).  If this just seems too much trouble, buy an organic balanced fertilizer and compost.  Pull back your existing mulch, apply a 2” thick layer of compost, top with the fertilizer (following the label’s directions), plant your new veggie or herb, readjust your mulch back around your plants, and water.
The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals

I like to put a handful of worm castings into each hole with the new plant along with a balanced organic fertilizer like Espoma.  Worm castings have lots of beneficial microbes in them that helps the plants absorb nutrients from the soil.

Newly planted pepper plant started from seed

Step 6-Monitor and water.  Keep an eye on your plants.  They may look sad the first week if it is really hot when they first go into the ground.  Consistent water is the key for success.  Like a lawn or flowers, the best time to water is in the mornings.  When you water your flowers, water your veggies and herbs.

One watch out on watering, many summer crops are susceptible to leaf fungus, like cucumbers, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes.  Be sure to water at the base of the plant and not the leaves.

Here are a couple of garden ideas:

If you have a picky eater, try the kid’s pizza garden.  If they grow it, they want to eat it!
Tomatoes-any you can’t eat, you can easily freeze for winter pizzas
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, and sprouting broccoli for a little green in your pizza toppings (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 for a summer garden)
8 garlic plants (planted in the fall for summer harvest)
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sown

It is great fun, a time saver, and nutritious to grow your own food in your yard!