Sunday, April 21, 2024

The summer edible garden

Early May garden
Sunday, April 21, 2024

A summer edible garden has the crops must of us associate with backyard vegetable gardening like peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and the fresh favorite tomato.  The summer garden is planted 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 bolt and become bitter as the temperatures start hitting the 80's.  For us, this is used to be the end of May.  Now, we can get 80's in April.

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, too.  Folks here in Kentucky say Derby Day week end is the time to plant out summer veggies.  The Kentucky Derby is always the first week end of May.

You can start your warm season crops indoors from seed 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, from hybrids to heirlooms.

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 outdoors 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.

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 on the ground to get the soil warm to plant early or use something like Wall o Water around each tomato to give it a coat to keep it toasty in spring.

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 that are fun to add to salads.  Flowers that are edible

I use borage, amaranths, 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 spiderwort, delphiniums, hollyhocks in a variety of colors-Summer Carnival and Peach, day-lilies, irises, dahlias, fairy lilies, and gladiolas.  Three years ago I started a pollinator garden that is primarily natives like yarrow, echinacea, Black-eyed Susan bee balm, sedum, violets and many others.  It is finally starting to fill in.  Starting perennials from seed takes 2-3 years for them to really start filling out.

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

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