Monday, July 27, 2020

August 2020 Edible Garden Planner

August bounty
Monday, July 27, 2020

August sees the full production of summer vegetable harvests.  Late sweet corn, summer squashes (like zucchini and yellow straight neck), peppers of all types (sweet and hot), Mediterranean herbs, cucumbers, okra, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, beans, melons, figs, eggplant, honey, artichokes, tomatillos are all in season this month.

A secret to maximizing your fruiting vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, snap beans, tomatillos, and summer squash is to harvest them continuously.  A plant’s driving force is to reproduce so by continuing to harvest, it causes the plant to put on more fruits.  There are many options to preserve the extras: Freezing the extras for winter, drying Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies, canning Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty, and pickling Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix.

Continue to fertilize with a natural, organic fertilizer every month for veggies in the ground and semiweekly for those in containers.  When fertilizing, scratch the fertilizer into the soil around the plant.  Nitrogen is the one component of fertilizing that is most used during the season.  If you leave the fertilizer on top of the ground, you will need twice as much as the nitrogen will off gas into the atmosphere if not covered.  Summer garden tips

Keeping consistent moisture to your plants is key.  Irregular watering causes tomatoes to crack.  Make sure your garden is getting water weekly either from rain or watering, being sure to water deeply at the base of the plant and not on the leaves.  Many warm weather lovers like squash, tomatoes and cucumbers are susceptible to fungal diseases.  If your garden is susceptible to fungal diseases, you can continue using a natural preventative spray weekly to keep it at bay and boost your garden's production.

If you had any lettuce from early planting, they will have bolted by now.  Take the flower heads off and save the seed.  You can shake the seeds into your self watering pots to get your fall lettuce growing.  I have pots at 3 different stages of growth going right now to keep us in fresh salads. 

Planting for fall and winter vegetables
I know it sounds crazy, but now is the time to start planting for fall and winter harvests.  You need to plant early enough for your veggies to be full size when frosts hit.  Add 14 days to the days to maturity listed on the seed packet and back it up from your last frost date.  Time to plant for fall and winter harvests!

Daylight hours determine the growth rate of plants.  Since the days are getting shorter, it will take longer for the plants to come to full maturity in the waning daylight hours of fall than the lengthening hours of spring.  By the first of November, all growth has come to a full standstill until the beginning of January.  Frost date look up

If you can't pick up transplants like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kale, and herbs at big box stores or a local nursery, you can get transplants from on line nurseries if you want to go that route.  Farmers markets may also have them.  

I have started doing more just from seed.  I re-use 6 pack containers, put starting mix in them, water well, then add seeds, lightly covering per packet instructions.  I just leave them on our covered deck in a tray so that I can keep them moist.  Seeds sprout super fast this time of year.  The other advantage is that they are already acclimated to the summer temps so do well when transplanted if grown outdoors.  Outdoor seed starting tips

Fall planting guide for cool season crops
August is the month for the rest of the greens (arugula, corn salad, lettuce, miner’s lettuce, spinach, mustard, endive), kohlrabi, onions, scallions, cabbage plants, radishes, peas, fava beans and turnips.  

In September, plant more greens, carrots, and radishes.  For our Zone 7a garden, the first 2 weeks of September are prime for planting lettuce.  Try different cold hardy varieties planted at the same time.  Different varieties mature at different times, giving you an on-going harvest.  Grow lettuce through fall and winter

October is the month to plant garlic for next year’s harvest.  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

For more details on varieties to plant, Cold season crops for your edible garden

Caring for your new seeds and transplants
Like in the spring, newly sown seeds need moisture to sprout.  Keep seeds and transplants moist until they get their first real set of leaves and are well established.  Then water as needed.

Many crops you can harvest into December and beyond, depending on how cold fall is.  Some get sweeter with some frost, like carrots, chard, and lettuce.  With cover, you can harvest all the way through winter!

I bought a new, larger portable greenhouse this past winter and used it this past spring.  It worked great!  It is super lightweight and accommodates many plants.  I can get 10 pots under its cover.  It could also be placed directly in the garden as well.  I'm going to use it to extend the fall and winter harvest for potted greens, broccoli and cabbage.   Prepare for hard freeze 

New, larger portable greenhouse
A quick reminder, save the seeds from your best performers to plant next year!  You can replant seeds from any heirlooms or open pollinated plants.  Not only does it save you money, but it also gives you the plants that do the best under your garden and zone conditions.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Time to plant for fall and winter harvests!

Fall cabbage
Saturday, July 25, 2020

It may seem crazy to be sowing seeds in July for your fall and winter garden, but it is the time to do so.  Everything you can grow for spring, you can grow for fall.  For winter harvests, just look for cold hardy varieties.  

September until your first frost is high time in the garden.  Your summer veggies will still be producing at the same time your cool season crops can be harvested.

You can garden edibles year round, even in a small space.  You can garden year round in small space  The trick to harvesting all fall and winter is to have your veggies to full size by mid-October.  With the shorter days of late fall and winter, your plants will not grow much after mid-October through mid-February.

The change I make from spring to fall plantings is for spring, I plant those varieties that are heat tolerant.  In the fall, I plant those varieties that are cold tolerant to extend the harvest as long as possible into winter.  Depending on the severity of the winter, many cold tolerant varieties revive in the spring and provide a really early, nice harvest surprise.

Because daylight hours are getting shorter in the fall, you will need to add about 2 weeks to the “Days to Harvest” your seed packet gives as the seed packet dates are based on spring planting.  Plants grow slower in fall because the days are getting shorter instead of longer.  Frost date look up

Just like in spring, seeds have to be kept moist to sprout.  You can also plant the seeds in peat pots or you can reuse the plastic annual trays you got in the spring.  You can put the plastic trays in a water catch pan, find a shady spot convenient to watering, fill with seed starting mix, sow your seeds and keep moist.  When the seedlings get their true leaves on them (second set), they are ready to transplant into the garden or a larger pot.

There are some veggies that the temps are too high to germinate in our Zone 7, like lettuce.  These you will have to start inside or on the cool side of the house in the shade or you can start inside the home and move outside into the shade after sprouting.  Just like in spring, you need to make sure your seedlings are hardened before planting into the garden bed or placing in full sun.  
Good choices for fall planting:
Root crops-Beets, Burdock, Carrots, Celeriac, Kohlrabi, Parsnips. Radishes, Root Parsley, Rutabaga, Salsify, Scorzonera, Turnips  All about beautiful beets All you need to know about growing carrots Another spring veggie-kohlrabi  Easy to grow crispy, peppery radishes All about turnips
Greens-Chard, Lettuce, Mustard, Collards, Chicory, Kale  Growing fabulous lettuce and greens
Fall and winter greens
Brassicas-Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower  Broccoli and cauliflower growing tips
Choose varieties that have terms like cold hardy, frost tolerant, overwintering to extend your season into early winter.

Fall garden
Below are some general planting times for cool season crops for our Zone 6/7 garden:
Beets, carrots, Asian greens (pak choi, tat-soi), cilantro, collard greens, endive, escarole, frisee, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, mustard, onions, parsnips, scallions, and Swiss chard.  Use transplants for broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage.
The rest of the greens (arugula, corn salad, lettuce, miner’s lettuce, spinach, mustard, endive), kohlrabi, onions, snap peas, scallions, cabbage plants, radishes, and turnips.  Peas and Fava beans can be planted in August for spring harvests in Zone 6 or higher.  
Plant more greens, carrots, and radishes.  September is also a great month for starting perennial veggies, fruits, and herbs as well as flowers, trees and shrubs.  Midwest Perennial Vegetable Garden
The month to plant garlic for next year’s harvest and over-wintering onions.  Order your favorites early as many sell out quick.  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

If you don’t want to start seeds, some big box stores and local nurseries have begun to have fall planting veggies.   If none in your area do, there are many mail order seed companies that carry fall bedding plants.  Late August, early September is the best time to get transplants into the garden for fall and winter harvests.

With cover, the following will allow you to harvest all winter: arugula, beets, chicory, corn salad, lettuce, mustard greens, parsley root, radicchio, radishes, spinach, and Swiss chard.  Extend the season with protection for plants
Potted winter lettuce and greens in mini greenhouse
The following don’t require covering: brussels sprouts, winter harvest cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, bunching onions or Egyptian onions, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips.

Fall and winter harvested veggies are at their crispest and sweetest after a light frost.  The cold temps concentrate the sugars, making them extra yummy!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Summer garden tips

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The dog days of summer see thriving warm season crops-tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, sweet potatoes, peppers and Mediterranean herbs.  To keep your harvests at their peak, there are few simple things you can do for your garden.
  1. Harvest frequently!  Plants are in the business of reproducing.  Their entire life is dedicated to giving the best chance possible of maintaining more plants for the future.  The more you harvest, the more babies the plant will produce.  I have noticed that my cucumber plant can only support one large cucumber on each vine.  As soon as I pick the big one, you can see one of the small ones jump in size by the very next day!  Harvest in the morning for peak juiciness.
  2. Mulch your beds. The mulch keeps the moisture from evaporating, allowing more infrequent watering.  It also moderates the temperature of the soil so it doesn’t get baking hot.  I use mulch in both my garden beds and pots.
  3. Water consistently.  The cause of cracked fruits is inconsistent water.   The plant gets used to very little water and when deluged the fruit’s skin can’t expand fast enough and the fruit cracks.  Over watering can also be a problem.  Too much water will cause your fruits to be tasteless and mushy.  If in the ground, your plants need either a good soaking rain each week or a good watering.  I use soaker hoses in my mulched garden beds.  It is best to water in the morning; you get maximum absorption (biggest bang for your water buck).  For pots, you will likely need to water 3 times per week during the height of summer heat.  I like pots with a water reservoir built in the bottom.  For garden beds, 1" per week is recommended, from a combination of rain and watering.
  4. Do not water the foliage of your nightshade plants!  They are very susceptible to fungal diseases and water on their leaves encourages fungal growth.  I started spraying weekly an all natural fungicide this year in May on all nightshade plants (tomatoes, potatoes, squash, watermelon, and cucumbers), Serenade and Southern Ag as a preventative.  So far, no fungus.
  5. Fertilize monthly with side dressing of compost.  It is also a good idea to add minerals to the soil.  You can purchase minerals just for gardening.  I like Azomite.  You can also use kelp or seaweed as a fertilizer that also adds other nutrients.  If your plants have more minerals, their fruits will too!  
  6. Pick insects off daily.  Keep a close eye on your plants to you can stop an infestation before it gets started.  If I do get an really bad infestation, I will use diacotomus earth or insecticidal soap.  It is organic and not a chemical.  Some people even eat DE!  DE works by scratching the exoskeleton of the insects which leads to dehydration and death.  Be careful, though, as it will kill good bugs too.  I use it very sparingly and only if desperate.  A few bugs don’t eat much :  )  Another option is the use of light covers to keep the bugs from your plants.
  7. Keep any diseased leaves groomed from your plants and do not compost them.  Diseases can be killed if your compost pile is hot enough.  I haven’t progressed far enough yet in my composting skills to trust I am getting the pile hot enough and I don’t want to spread diseases to all my plants.
  8. Compost.  For all the trimmings from the garden and the kitchen, start a compost pile or get an indoor composter.  I have both.  My husband built me a fencing ring outside that I throw the big stuff.  I have an indoor Naturemill electric composter in the garage and an outdoor tumbler for all the kitchen scraps.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Garlic harvest is here!

Garlic in foreground, starting to die back
Saturday, July 18, 2020

Garlic is rich in lore.  This allium has been around for thousands of years.  It originated in Asia, was cultivated in Egypt and has been a Mediterranean cooking staple for centuries. Over the ages, garlic has been reputed to repel vampires, clear the blood, cure baldness, aid digestion.  

Today’s studies have shown garlic has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral properties. And, it tastes great!  For a breakdown of specific vitamins and minerals, garlic nutritional value  It is easy to grow and has little pest issues.  All you do is put them in the ground in the fall and by early to mid summer, they are ready to harvest.
The clove puts out roots in the fall.  Depending on how warm the winter is, there can be green shoots showing through the cold months.  Garlic will be some of the first greenery to start growing in early spring.  The stems resemble onion greens.  The hard neck garlic flower, or scape, has a cute little curl in it.  They are great in salads.  Harvesting them also gives you bigger bulbs.
For more on fall planting and growing garlic, Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

Soft neck and hard neck garlic are slightly different in telling you when to harvest.  For soft neck garlic, you wait until the tops fall over and die off.  They are ready to harvest about a week later.  Typically this is mid-summer, but ours is ready now.  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 it's not ready, just wait another week or two.

                                               Garlic ready to harvest           Freshly harvested garlic
It is best to dig your garlic when the ground is dry.  When you go to dig up your garlic, proceed carefully.  If you cut the bulb, it will not keep and needs to eaten soon.  The garlic should be left in dry shade for 2-3 weeks or brought inside and stored in a cool, dry location with good air circulation.  They can be hung or placed in a perforated bin or paper bag to dry and store.  I keep mine in a paper bag on the covered deck.

After they are hardened, I will cut off the dry stalks above the clove and trim the roots.  I'll keep them in a  bag with good air circulation indoors until I am ready to peel them.

If you planted a combo of elephant garlic (which is actually a type of leek), hard neck and soft neck garlic and are wondering how to tell them apart now.

Leek flower
Garlic scape
You can tell the difference in the two by looking at the flowers.  Leeks have a onion type flower while hard neck garlic has a curly scape flower.

Your soft neck garlic will have a much smaller stem than the elephant garlic does.

For the longest storage, soft neck garlic is the ticket.  It is also the strongest flavored.  Hard necked is milder and easier to peel.  I like elephant garlic because you get so much from each plant.

To preserved my garlic, I peel them and put them in apple cider vinegar with a few hot peppers for pickled garlic.  A trick I saw recently for quick peeling is to just stab the clove with a paring knife and pull out of the skin.  I keep my pickled garlic in the frig and they have stayed firm for me for two years.  I had tried keeping the dried, fresh cloves in years past, but always lost some.  This way, I don't lose a single clove!

I use my garlic for garlic cheese bread, cooking, and salsa.  Quick, homemade salsa

Everyone knows of garlic in sauces and on cheese bread.  A few years back, we tried roasted garlic.  It dramatically mellows the flavor.  I just put a few heads in a small baking dish, add chicken stock to just about level to the cut heads, and let bake covered at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until soft.  It is a great spread on french bread!

For those on keto diets or have gluten issues, I found a recipe for bread that takes about 3 minutes to make with almond flour.  I mix in a small pyrex storage bowl, 3 tablespoons of almond flour, 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1 egg.  Microwave for 90 seconds and you have instant, hot bread!  You can use butter or coconut oil as a substitute for olive oil.  I also add about a teaspoon of dried herbs and mix in with the other ingredients for a more savory bread.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

What we are harvesting in the mid July edible garden

July garden at sunset
Saturday, July 11, 2020

This year's garden is behind previous years for summer vegetables.  We had a typical spring with cool days into May.  We have not had that in years.  The summer veggies were planted about 3 weeks later than in recent years.

We are harvesting white eggplants, zucchini, yellow prolific squash, cucumbers, hot peppers, sprouting broccoli, coriander, dill, summer greens, herbs, garlic, onions, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, goji berries, aronia berries and a few tomatoes.  The flowers are very happy, too!  

We had to start watering the garden beds 3 weeks ago.  We are not getting as much rain as we have in the last few years.  Garden beds need a deep watering once a week.  If I don't get at least 1" of rain during the week, I do a deep watering with a drip hose.  Summer garden tips

I need to dig the garlic.  Garlic harvest is here!  I'll pickle the smaller cloves and save the larger cloves for fall planting.  Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!  I've found this is the best way to preserve garlic for using year round.  I tried keeping the whole cloves, but most would disintegrate by early winter.

I just started getting ripe tomatoes this week.  Most look good, but a few look like they may have a root fungus.  I have done a bacterial drench and will do another before the next rain to get it watered in well to the roots.  I am using two different kinds to give a variety in the soil.  Most tomato plants are loaded with tomatoes.  For what we can't eat, I'll freeze to save for making soups, sauces, roasts, and salsa all winter.  Preserving the tomato harvest

Cucumbers just started producing this week.  I had to do a second planting this year as the transplants in May didn't make it.  I just direct sowed seed in the garden.  All came up and are going to town on the trellis.  I planted Fancy Green Slicer, White Wonder, and Long Green Improved.  The white ones are ready for picking.  The others are blooming so won't be long!  

If you have more cucumbers than you can eat, make pickles!  Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix

We have been getting summer squash for the last couple of weeks.  The Early Prolific yellow squash was doing great, but died this week.  Looks like the vine borer got to it.  With summer squash, the vine borer will lay eggs in the stalks if you plant before June 1, which I did.  I sowed more seeds this week to replace them.  To be more proactive, the best bet is to plant in May and then again mid June so your harvest is not interrupted.  The bush zucchinis I planted are still looking good so we'll continue to get summer squash for the season.  Everything you need to know to grow squash 

 We have been harvesting white eggplant for a couple of weeks now.  The other varieties I planted, Bianca Rosa and Amadeo are large, but have not started blooming.  I have been using insecticidal soap on the greenery when pollinators are not flying to keep the flea beetle population in check on the eggplants.  They just decimate the leaves in our garden.  All my eggplant are grown in pots.  I tried letting them "come in balance" for the last 5 years, but no luck.  Just be sure to not spray pollinators.  Even though insecticidal soap is an organic use insecticide, it does not differentiate between good and bad insects.  We don't typically have many extra eggplant to preserve.  I have tried the freezing route in the past, but have not been impressed with the taste.  I may try to dry them this year.  Dehydrate or sun dry your extra veggies

  I freeze the extra strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, blanching is not needed for these fruits to preserve the flavor.  I dry the goji berries.  

I am using purple and green orach, Hilton Chinese cabbage, kale, sprouting broccoli, New Zealand spinach, and cultivated dandelions for salads.   For kale, sprouting broccoli, mustard and other summer greens extras, I will blanch and freeze them.  Freezing the extras for winter

For all my herbs, there is plenty to use fresh with extras to harvest.  I will dry them.  I am currently doing cilantro, fennel, coriander, bay and sage.  As thyme gets bigger, I will dry some of it too.   Harvest and preserve your herbs  This year, I don't need to preserve basil as I have lots of pesto left from the last couple of years in the freezer.  Pesto is my favorite way of preserving basil.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil  

Oregano is in full bloom.  The bees love the flowers!  It could be cut and dried now, but I love the flowers and will wait until fall.

We are harvesting the vegetables and fruits that are synonymous with a backyard garden.  Soon it will be time to plant for continuing the harvest into fall and winter.  The garden keeps me busy year round.  It is so nice to be able to watch things grow and have fresh produce all year.