Monday, May 30, 2022

June 2022 Edible Garden Planner

Potted edibles and flowers in the June garden
Monday, May 30, 2022

June is a productive time in the garden.  Cool season crops are peaking while summer vegetable crops are just starting to produce with herbs in full swing.  Everything is a lush green at the beginning of the month.  As your fruit producing veggies flower, they will need a boost of fertilizer.  As the rain slows down, consistent soil moisture is key.

What’s growing in the garden right now
Most of the lettuce and spinach I planted in March and April as well as the sprouting broccoli and cress that overwintered are in stages of "bolting".  The lettuce transplants we bought last week are so far doing fine.   I have started heat tolerant lettuce seeds in peat pots this week end and will resow about every 3 weeks for the summer lettuce harvesting.  I'll start all the seeds in pots so I can keep them in a cool spot or with a shade cover as lettuce doesn't like it hot!  Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

I also have heat loving greens going that are volunteers from last year's plants.  Red Malabar spinach has a bumper crop going from last year's seeds.  I will be thinning them and giving away a few.  Their leaves are of harvestable size now.  New Zealand spinach and Chinese Multi Colored Spinach amaranth also have a few volunteers.  I will thin them by moving to new pots and giving away a few.  They do great in a pot and are quite pretty together.  Red Malabar has pretty purple vines and flowers that just keep on growing.  New Zealand spinach is a pale green that really fills out a pot and the amaranth has pale green and purple leaves that grows upward.  All thrive in our hot summers.

Don't worry about insect damage to the leaves on the cabbage and broccoli as long as the heads are forming nicely.  A little insect damage will not affect the quality of the head produced.  If you are getting over run with worms, you can use an organic Bt spray that only affects worms and not bees or other pollinating insects.  Natural, organic pest strategies and how to make your own bug sprays   Broccoli and cauliflower growing tips  

I had overwintered sprouting broccoli in the garden.  The sprouting broccoli has bolted and seed pods are ready to resow themselves.  Sprouting broccoli great for salad greens during the summer months, but cabbage worms do love them.   Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav  

Arugula, sorrels, chard, plantain greens and cultivated dandelions are all harvestable.  As it gets hotter, these greens become stronger.  Since they are perennials, they are the first up in the spring for fresh salads.  Harvest the new leaves in summer for the mildest taste.  You can cut them back, too, to get fresh new leaves.  It doesn't hurt them at all.

This year I am also growing new varieties of mustard and other types of greens along with a winner from last year Hilton Chinese cabbage.  A listing of what I am growing is in this blog.  What I planted this week end for the edible garden  

Dragon's Tail or Rat's Tail radish is fun to grow and the seed pods are tasty in salads.  I am growing Dragon's Tail radish again this year in a pot.  It has purple stems and the pods have a mild radish flavor.  I planted snow peas in pots in earlyApril.  I used the type that the vines don't get too long.  The pods, flowers and leaves are great in salads and stay sweet tasting into summer.  

The rosemary, sage, chives, oregano, lavender, tarragon, and thyme are filling out nicely.  There are no flowers yet which is later than the last few years. The flowers from herbs are edible, too.  They are fun to use in salads or as a garnish in cooked meals.  Very pretty to add in baked potatoes and grill.  We slice our potatoes, add some diced onion or chive flowers, butter, seasoning, wrap in foil and throw on the grill.  Yum.
Start a kitchen herb garden!

Another great thing about herbs is they are a good deterrent to deer.  Deer do not like strong smells so avoid fragrant herbs.  I plant them and marigolds all around the garden to keep the pesky critters away.  We now live out in the country and deer will even bed down in the yard.  What has worked to keep them out of the garden is a combination of herbs throughout the garden, a pod deer deterrent, WD40 on socks, and marigolds around the perimeter of the garden bed.  
Flowering chives
Tomatoes have started flowering so it won't be long before we will be able to eat fresh tomatoes!  I started peppers, eggplant, okra, beans and squash later so they are not flowering.  They come on quickly, though, this time of year.  Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes    Peppers are for every taste and garden

This year, I will treat the tomatoes, squash, beans and cucumbers with an organic fungicide.  We have hot humid summers here in the Midwest and fungus loves those conditions!  Keeping fungal growth down should greatly improve the plants' health and harvest.  I'll alternate a Copper fungicide with Serenade fungicide after each rain.  I always try to spray when it is cool so they plant does not get stressed.  

I am staying with the best performing pole snap bean this year along with a pole Lima bean Christmas Speckles.  I planted purple Blauhilde instead of Purple Podded beans because it is more disease resistant.  I am trying an early winged bean as well for fun.  The type I tried last year never produced pods.  I prefer pole beans because you get so much from one plant and they produce over the entire summer.  I grow them on a trellis so they are easy to harvest.  The advantage of bush beans is that the harvest duration is short so you don't have to worry about picking fresh beans all summer.  Growing beans

I am growing a bush cucumber Bush Slicer this year since I still don't have my garden bed in place and will be growing them in pots.   I started them indoors and will transplant them outside in a couple of weeks.  You can also direct seed this time of year.  Seeds should be up in 7 days.  For cucumbers, keep an eye out for cucumber beetles and caterpillars.  Just pluck them off and throw into a can of soapy water.  How to grow cucumbers-in pots or in the garden

For squash, I am growing a couple that I will use as a summer squash that are resistant to pests and disease, a Trombetta and Serpent of Sicily I am growing from seed.  They are in peat pots and will be transplanted in about a week.  They are very long growing vines with very long fruits.  Don't be afraid of not being able to use all your zucchini, there are great ways to preserve them.  I am still using the zucchini spaghetti noodles out of the freezer from last year and Spaghetti squash "noodles".  I never need to buy pasta.  Veggie noodles are low in carbs and high in nutrition.  What to do with all that zucchini?!   Everything you need to know to grow squash 

Overwintered carrots are flowering.  Garlic and Egyptian walking onions Egyptian walking onions.  are filling out well.  I am harvesting the walking onion any time I need onions for cooking.  The green stalk is great as a fresh chive, too, for salads or potatoes.

I am still getting strawberries and raspberries.  Both seem to be pest free in our garden.  You just have to get to the strawberries before the birds do!  I am growing a couple different kinds of Alpine strawberries from seed, Regina and Mignonette.  I love Alpine strawberries because they produce small, sweet berries all summer long.  Back yard strawberries
Ripe Alpine strawberries
 The blackberry bushes my hubby planted last year have some flowers.  The wild blackberries have been blooming for a couple of weeks.  Won't be long before there will be ripe berries.

This is the second year for the Chicago fig tree.  Much of the tops were killed over the winter, but it is leafing out nicely on the surviving branches.  I got many figs last year and should have even more this year.  I have it in a pot that I overwintered in my portable greenhouse.  Growing “exotic” figs  There are other varieties of fruit you can grow if you are space constrained.  I am growing a kumquat, lemon, goji berry, raspberries and aronia all in pots.  Fruit for small spaces and pots

Now is the time to provide shade for your lettuce and sow bolt resistant varieties like Summer Crisp Magenta, Green Towers and Jericho Romaine, Simpson Elite leaf.  The Red Sails will typically stay sweet even after it has bolted.  You can move your lettuces if in pots to a shadier part of your patio or porch.  Shade cloths can be used for those in the garden.  You can also plant taller veggies on the south and west side of your lettuces so as they grow, they provide shade to the lettuces.  I move most of my greens around to the northeast, shady side of the house this time of the year to keep them sweet as long as possible.
I always have to have lots of flowers interspersed in the garden for color, fragrance and to attract beneficial insects.  In addition to the perennial jasmine, daylilies, hollyhocks, gardenia, gladiolus, mums, irises, bachelor button, and lilies, I am growing Cardinal basil, petunias, sunflowers, blue morning glory, Pride of Madeira and wildflowers.

Best time to harvest
The best time to harvest almost any vegetable is mornings or right after a rain; this is when they are the crunchiest, fullest and sweetest.  Harvest greens in the morning before you go to work and store in the frig with the stems in water for the day.  Just don’t store tomatoes in the frig; this ruins the flavor.

The best time to harvest aromatic herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano is in the afternoon when the oils are most concentrated.  Harvest herbs like parsley, cilantro and dill in the cooler part of the day.

For more tips on preserving the extra, see Preservation garden

Watering & fertilizing tips
With the heat coming, it is time to start watering.  In general, garden plants like about 1" of water each week.  Pots require more.  Keep consistent moisture to your lettuces to keep taste sweet and your lettuce from bolting as long as possible.  When your lettuce does bolt, let it go to flower and seed.  The bees and beneficial insects enjoy the flowers and the seeds can easily be saved for fall and next spring planting or allowed to self sow.  

Fertilize all your fruit bearing veggies when the first flowers appear (right now we have flowers and small fruits on our peppers, eggplant and tomatoes).  Provide only compost tea or kelp the rest of the season.  Too much nitrogen will cause your plants to grow lush foliage with no fruits.  Nitrogen stimulates green growth so is great for greens but should be used in moderation for fruiting plants.  I like to add Azomite or kelp to each plant once a year.  Both have a variety of trace minerals that can really boost a plant's health and harvest.  Kelp has hormones which stimulate growth.  I learned last year to not use kelp on my tropicals I have in pots because the kelp caused them to shoot up in height.

For more on summer garden care, Summer garden tips
Summer greens and herbs
Can I still plant a garden in June-Yes!
There are many vegetables and herbs that you can still plant right now.   Any of the summer vegetables love these temperatures and sun.  As a matter of fact, this is the best time to plant cucumbers and squash to avoid the vine borer.  Even if you have planted zucchini and tomatoes already, late June is a good time to plant a second crop.  If your seeds don't come up within a week, it is likely that they were either bad or they rotted.  Seeds can rot when the ground is really wet and chilly.  It is still a great time to start seeds.  You can also buy transplants to get a jump on the harvest.  

A list of all veggies that can be planted in June:
Broccoli raab  
Brussels sprouts  Growing Brussel sprouts
Bulbing fennel  Growing fennel
Lettuce (heat tolerant varieties)  Everything you need to know about growing lettuce
Mediterranean herbs (basil, thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, chives)  Start a kitchen herb garden!
Sweet potatoes  Growing sweet potatoes

Savory, thyme, lettuce, onions with day lilies in the background
Here are a couple of garden ideas

If you have a picky eater, try the kid’s pizza/spaghetti garden.  If they grow it, they want to eat it!
Tomatoes-any you can’t eat, you can easily freeze for winter pizzas, salsa, or sauce
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, broccoli and peas for spring and fall pizza toppings (also 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)
8 garlic plants
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sown

For other garden themes and ideas:
Small space French kitchen garden

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

Sunday, May 29, 2022

What I planted this week end for the edible garden

Seedlings started in peat pots on the patio
Sunday, May 29, 2022 

I did another round of planting this week end.   I am late getting seeds started and transplant planted out, but there is plenty of time yet to get your summer garden growing and producing.  You can start a summer garden well into June and still have a productive harvest.  For some edibles, like squash, it is even better to wait a bit to plant to avoid pests.  

For summer harvests, I transplanted the tomato plants I started in mid April into the garden bed.  I planted eggplant and pepper seeds on the back deck in peat pots at the beginning of the month and squash, cucumber and okra seeds last week.  I directly planted bean seeds in their long term pot.  This week, I started perennial artichoke seeds for Colorado Red Star and Violetta varieties.  

At this time of year, most seedlings sprout in about 7 days due to the temperatures being warmer than in early spring outdoors.  After they sprout, I keep them in a sunny spot on the deck so they can get used to the summer sun and wind.  I wait until the seedlings have at least two sets of permanent leaves before I transplant into their permanent pots or garden bed spot.  Eggplant and pepper seedlings take longer to get going than the bigger seeds of squash, cucumber, beans and okra.  It looks like they will all be ready to transplant in another week.
Newly planted tomatoes and marigolds
I succession planted more greens this week end in peat pots.  This time of year, I plant the heat tolerant varieties to have greens that don't bolt and turn bitter in the heat of summer.  I am always trying new varieties to figure out which ones have the best taste, do the best in our garden, and can stay sweet during the dog days of summer.  I have a few that I now plant every summer and am just trying new ones for variety and best texture.

The ones that are doing well for summer salads are these heat tolerant lettuces-Red Sails, Royal Oakleaf, Butter King, Bronze Beauty, and New Red Fire.  For spinach like taste, Red Malabar and New Zealand spinach do very well in our hot summers.  Lettuce substitutes that are proven in our garden are Hilton Chinese cabbage, Chinese Multicolor Spinach amaranth, any color orach (lime green, rose, double purple), Perpetual Spinach chard, and Fordhook chard.

The new types I am trying are Giant Blue Feather Leaf lettuce, Yedikule lettuce, Waterleaf Bokoboko Spinach mustard, Chijimisai Greens, Chinese Giant Leaf Mustard, Komatsuma Tendergreen Mustard, Oyster Leaf (a perennial), Big Leaf Tong Ho, Golden Beauty Chinese cabbage, and Spiros F1 spinach.

One watch out for starting seeds of the cool weather lovers is that when the soil temperature gets too warm, germination comes to a crawl.  Lettuce seeds don't sprout hardly at all at soil temperatures 75 degrees or warmer.  As summer heats up, you may have to start your seeds in a cooler spot to get good germination.

For the tomatoes I planted out in the garden, I planted marigolds all around the perimeter of this garden bed.  I love color in the garden.  Every garden should be pretty and functional, even the ones filled with edibles.  Marigolds also attract pollinators and deter deer.

I started a few herbs, too.  Dill, a couple varieties of cilantro and 3 varieties of basil.  2 are for pesto and other dishes-African Nunum and Italian Sweet; the other Cardinal basil is for their beautiful maroon tops.  Cardinal basil is also very flavorful and can be used for cooking as well.

I have Cock's Combs seed started, too.  I planted the dwarf variety this year.  They are just fun to have in the garden.  I may plant more flower seeds after I get the latest round of seedlings planted.  I'll focus on perennial flowers to add into the garden.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

All you need to know to grow summer squash

Zucchini bush in center
Sunday, May 22, 2022

Bush type zucchini squash
Squash is amazing.  It spans from huge pumpkins to small petit pattypan squash.  From the summer kings like zucchini to the fall princes like pumpkins,  squash has an amazing array of sizes, shapes, and tastes.
Squash originated in Mexico.  There are cave drawings from 8000 to 6500 BC depicting squash and the oldest remains found are from 8750 BC.  Squash was grown extensively by Native Americans as part of the “Three Sisters”-squash, corn and beans.  These three support each other's growth.  Beans provide nitrogen to the corn and squash.  The corn provides the stalks for the beans to grow up on.  The sprawling squash vines shade out competing weeds and keep moisture in the soil.  

Squash love organic matter.  If you throw a few seeds in your compost pile, you will be rewarded with exuberant vines.

Zucchini is a favorite summer squash and full of nutrition.  It contains antioxidants, carotenes, lutein, folates, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and B vitamins.  For more specific nutritional information, Summer squash nutrition info
Plant squash when nighttime temps are 55F or warmer consistently.  Add a fertilizer rich in phosphorous a week after transplanting, when flowers first appear and again when fruits begin to form.  They love water, too.  If growing in a pot, keep well watered and don’t let dry out.
Don’t panic when the first blooms fall off without producing any fruits.  There are male and female flowers.  If yours falls off, it was likely a poor guy that withered without the love a gal.  There can also be some false starts with malformed fruits.  Don’t worry, the plant will put on more blooms and you will be on your way to zucchini overload before you know it!
Baby acorn squash, blooms still attached
There are two basic categories of squash-winter and summer.  
Winter squash are those that take until late fall to ripen and can be stored inside for months.  Each vine does not produce many fruits.  Winter squash are hardened after picking so that their skins become hard so they will keep over the winter.  Winter squash includes pumpkins, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, acorn squash.
Baby zucchini squash, blooms still attached
Summer squash on the other hand has a soft outer skin and can be harvested all summer long.  They need to be eaten or preserved within a few days of picking or will spoil.  Summer squash includes the infamous and popular zucchini, patty pan, crookneck, tromboncino, cousa, zephyr and more.
Squash can be grown in pots or in the garden bed.  If growing summer squash in a pot, look for the bush varieties.  These are much more manageable.  I would recommend putting in a pot with a water reservoir as well since summer squash love moisture.  Decorative container gardening for edibles
Zucchini is notorious for getting huge overnight.  It is important to pick summer squash when smaller.  As they grow large, they become very seedy, their skin starts to get tougher and they just don’t taste nearly as good!  Check them daily.  If left to grow too large, you can always use them for zucchini bread which is delicious.  One of my favorite ways to preserve zucchini is to make it into spaghetti noodles with a spiralizer.

Since summer squash produces so many fruits, it needs to be fertilized and watered regularly in dry conditions.  I fertilize with an organic, granular fertilizer at least once a month.  I'll use tomato fertilizer on all my fruiting vegetables when I fertilize my tomatoes as it is good for all fruiting vegetables as well.  You can also make your own.  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

The two biggest pest problems are squash bugs (left) and squash vine borer (below left are eggs and right is the adult).  Inspect the plant for squash bugs.  You can wear gloves, pick them off and throw them in a bowl of soapy water.
Natural, organic pest strategies and how to make your own bug sprays

The squash vine borer is best thwarted by planting early or late.  They fly in mid-June.  If planting early, be sure to inspect regularly the stems for any eggs.  Scrap off any that you find.  When the eggs hatch, the catepillar will dig into the vine and eat its way through its length.  You will have a strong plant one day and a wilted on the next.  You can wrap the stem base as a preventative.  The good news is that your plant does get infested, you can replace with another one.  They grow quickly in warm temperatures and soils of summer.  Plan on putting out a second crop in July to keep a strong harvest all summer long into fall.

The cucumber beetle can infect the plant with a bacterial disease called wilt or cucumber mosaic virus.  The cucumber beetles we get here look like yellow/green lady bugs (left).  There are also striped varieties (below).

Again, the gloves, pick and throw in soapy water technique works.  Or if you are not squeamish, you can just squish them.
In late summer in areas with high humidity, you can get powdery mildew.  This can be treated by spraying with baking soda, copper, fresh whey and other organic fungal sprays and soil drenches.  When watering be sure to not get the foliage wet and water in the morning so any extra is quickly evaporated.  I have found that planting a second plant around the first of July is the best approach.  This plant will be kicking in as the second starts slowing down.  Summer garden tips

With zucchini, you are begging people to take them come mid-summer.  I found some great ways to use all that extra  What to do with all that zucchini?!   I make into spaghetti noodles, use as a substitute for lasagna noodles, stuff, dry, and freeze.  You can also pickle or high pressure can.  There are many ways to creatively use and to preserve your zucchini harvest!  

I have started trying varieties that aren't as prone to disease.  I planted Trombetta last year in our community demonstration garden.  It is a vining type that was very productive and did not succumb to disease.  I am growing it and another vining type Serpent of Sicily.  Both produce very long curving fruits.  If picked young, you prepare them as you would a summer squash.  You can leave them on the vine and they will develop a hard skin and will keep like winter squash for 1-3 months.  The taste is similar to butternut squash.  If you decide to try this type of vining squash, be sure to grow on a trellis or leave plenty of space as they can easily grow 12 feet long.

If you are growing an heirloom or open pollinated variety, you can easily save the seed to grow next year's plants.  From your best plant with no disease, let one get large, remove from the vine and leave it out in the garden bed.  The inner flesh will deteriorate leaving the seeds.  Just scoop out the seeds, put in a plastic baggie, date and keep in the frig for next year.  You can also scoop out the seeds from the fruit right off the vine and leave the seeds indoors to dry on a paper towel or plate.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

If there is a variety that you love the looks and/or taste of from the store or farmers market, save the seeds and grow some of your own next year!  If it is an heirloom, it will come back "true" to the parent.  If it is a hybrid, it will be a surprise squash.  Either way, it is fun to try.

Summer squash is a fun one to grow because it is so productive and easy to grow.  Just a few seeds will provide so much food!

Saturday, May 21, 2022

What's happening in the mid May edible garden

Herbs and lettuce in the garden
Saturday, May 21, 2022

Everything is lush and green this time of year.  The edibles are growing quickly.   Salad fixings are in their prime with the summer edibles just getting started.  Herbs are filling out nicely.  By this time of year, we no longer need to purchase produce from the grocery store and can get fresh herbs to add to dishes that make them taste wonderful.

The greens we are eating-French sorrel, chard, spinach, dandelion greens, cress, arugula, chick weed, sweet clover, green onions, Red Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, Giant Red mustard, sprouting broccoli leaves, Chinese multicolor amaranth, many varieties of lettuce and snow pea greens.  All are either overwintered or volunteers from last year.  I did plant a few varieties of lettuce to supplement those that sprouted from last year's seeds.

Herbs to add to dishes and salads-garlic chives, regular chives, rosemary, oregano, thyme, horseradish, Egyptian walking onions, tarragon, sage, young garlic.  All are perennials so they come back year after year.

The fruits and veggies-wild strawberries, cultivated strawberries and carrots.  Strawberries are perennial and carrots overwintered and came up from last year's seed.

The flowers that are blooming-irises, coreopsis, spiderwort, and roses.  The herbs and veggies going to seed-yellow flowers of the sprouting broccoli, mustard and cress, white flowers on the arugula.  Soon, the beautiful purple flowers of sage, the white flowers of thyme, and lavender chive flowers.  All veggie and herb flowers are edible.  A fun way to add flavor and beauty to salads or other dishes.

The lettuce is beginning to bolt so soon there will be the white, yellow and blue flowers from the different kinds of lettuce.  Several carrots are starting to bolt, too.  If not pulled, they have beautiful white flowers resembling Queen Ann's Lace, which they are from the same family, that bees love.

The pink peonies and lilacs have already come and gone.  The white peony has buds on it.  

Potted lettuce
This week end, I weeded in the garden and pots.  I planted out broccoli, Brussels sprouts, 3 tomatoes and some petunias.  I have tomato seedlings going outside that I planted about a month ago.  A couple of weeks ago, I started nasturtium, eggplant and peppers from seeds outdoors in pots.  These have sprouted but are tiny.  I just started basil, cucumber, squash and beans a few days ago in outside pots.  They have not yet sprouted.

It is a good idea to wait 10 days after planting new plants before you give them much fertilizer.  I'll add a diluted liquid fertilizer to all that have their first set of true leaves in the next week.  When I transplant them, I will add char, worm castings and starter to each planting hole.

I am going at a much slower pace than usual this year with the work going on at the house.  That's okay, though.  You can plant a summer garden into June and still have a nice harvest.
I have also have very enterprising voles in the garden.  The good part of this is that they do a great job of loosening up the soil.  The bad part is that if there tunnels go under your plant, there is a good chance, the plant will die.  My vole deterrents that I use all quit.  I tried ones that you put batteries in and they give out a vibration that is supposed to deter them.  Not sure how much they actually helped.
Volunteer Red Malabar spinach and Chinese Multicolor amaranth
I have been harvesting the greens by taking only the outer leaves so that the plants will continue to grow.  By harvesting, it stimulates the plant to grow even more leaves.  If you have extra greens, besides lettuce, you can blanch and freeze them.  I still have plenty left in the freezer.  Preservation garden

I do need to start more lettuce seeds.  If you start seeds every 2-3 weeks, it keeps you in lettuce all the way until winter.  This time of year, start the heat tolerant varieties.   I have also moved to using greens that stay sweet during the dog days of summer.  The greens I have found so far that are great lettuce and spinach substitutes in salads are Red Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, Perpetual Spinach chard, Chinese Multicolored amaranth, all colors of orach, Chinese Hilton cabbage (doubles as a great wrap, too), sprouting broccoli.  Keep salads going all summer long.  

Saturday, May 14, 2022

All about the summer edible garden

Early May garden
Saturday, May 14, 2022

A summer edible garden has the crops must of us associate with gardening like peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and the fresh favorite tomato.  The summer garden is started in May to early June.  Summer crops love warm soil and air temperatures.  Most are subtropical in origin so a frost can kill them.  Plant seeds or transplants after all danger of frost has passed.  Since summer lovers thrive in warm temperatures, they don't really grow until the soil has warmed up so starting early outdoors isn't an advantage.  You can start them indoors early and then transplant when conditions are right to get a head start.  

For the summer garden, you plant in late spring, early summer for the heat lovers and then in the middle of summer for fall and winter crops.  You will need to save space to plant edibles for fall and winter harvests in July through early September.  For more on timing and types for planting the fall and winter crops, Time to plant for fall and winter harvests!.  

 There are two categories of edible garden crops, cold crops and warm season crops.  Cold crops like lettuce, spinach, peas, radishes, carrots, cilantro, kale, chard, cabbage will get bitter and bolt as the temperatures start hitting the 80's.  For us, this is the end of May.

Warm season crops love the warm days of May through September and start waning in October.  Most will continue to have some production into November or the first hard frost of the year.  There are many herbs and vegetables that love the heat and humidity of summer.

You can start your warm season crops indoors or buy plants to get a jump start on getting harvests.  There are many options nowadays at the local hardware store, local nurseries and big box stores.

For indoor seed starting, here are some pointers.  Indoor seed starting tipsIdeal soil temperatures for starting your seeds

Crops that do well with just planting seeds directly into the ground are corn, cucumbers, melons, squashes, and beans.  They have large seeds and very sturdy stems.  Outdoor seed starting tips  Sweet potatoes are started using slips that you buy or start indoors and then plant directly into the ground.

Summer garden crops should be planted outdoors after all danger of frost is past.  Everyone loves to brag about their first ripe tomato, but tomatoes don't appreciate cold feet so resist the urge to plant too early.  Once it warms up, they will really take off.  If you just can't resist, use a plastic covering to get the soil warm to plant early.

Be sure to fertilize when planting and then monthly.  Water during dry periods.  Even moisture is important.  Letting the soil get very dry and then giving a good watering can give you split tomatoes.  For more on summer gardening, Summer garden tips

Warm Season Crops for the Summer Garden-Vegetables
Beans (fresh and shelling)  Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer 
Cultivated Dandelions,  Grow Cultivated Dandelions
Edamame (soy beans)  Growing beans
Malabar Spinach  Growing summer salads
New Zealand Spinach

Mid-May garden
Herbs are the easiest thing to grow.  They thrive on heat and don't mind dry conditions.  If you are just starting out, this is a great one to start with.

Warm Season Crops for the Summer Garden-Herbs
Bee balm
Chives (Garden and Garlic) Add chives to your garden
Cilantro (heat tolerant variety)  Growing cilantro (coriander)
Egyptian walking onions  Egyptian walking onions
Lemon verbena
Salad Burnet
Summer savory

Mid to late summer is the time to plant for fall and winter harvests so be sure to have a spot for these tasty vegetables.  For more on late summer plantings for fall harvests, here is more information.  Time to plant for fall and winter harvests!

Crops Planted in Mid to Late Summer for Fall and Winter Harvests
Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower (for fall harvests)
Beets, Carrots, Radishes, and Turnips (for fall and winter harvests)
Escarole, Radicchio, and Frisee (for fall and winter harvests)  Fall and winter greens
Greens (Lettuce, Kale, Mustard, Pak Choi, Spinach)
Leeks (for fall harvesting)  Everything to know about growing onions

 You can procrastinate until June and still have a productive edible summer garden.  It is not too late to start a garden in June!

I always interplant my garden with flowers.  Flowers bring pollinators and other beneficial insects into the garden.  For fruiting veggies like tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, the more pollinators around, the more fruits you get.  If you want, you can grow edible flowers.  Flowers that are edible

I use zinnias, marigolds, petunias, snapdragons, old fashioned Cock's Comb which is ruby red and grows 4 feet tall, red flowering Hummingbird Vine, Moonflower vine, Blue morning glory vine, heirloom sunflowers, and alyssum for annuals.  For perennials, there are delphiniums, hollyhocks in a variety of colors-Summer Carnival and Peach, red hot poker, day-lilies, irises, dahlias, fairy lilies, and gladiolas.

Summer is an exciting time in the garden.  Every day you go out, you can see things growing.  Just be sure to keep ahead of the weeds and provide even watering.  I garden in my flower beds so they are always mulched, providing protection against weeds and keeping even moisture.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds