6/22/11

June in the Vegetable Garden

June has seen many changes to the vegetable garden. We've had about 1" of rain in the last week, after nearly 8 weeks of dry hot weather. I resorted to watering with the sprinkler, which you can see outside the corner of the garden. On the longest day of the year, June 21st, our area officially got 12 hours and 34 minutes of daylight, with sunset at 8:56pm. Here's the garden update:

  1. SWEET POTATOES - I planted 11 sweet potato plants, half as many as last year: two which I grew from last year's potatoes (my other efforts failed) and a 9-pack of "slips" I bought,  all "Beauregard," a dependable variety for our area, and the most common supermarket sweet potato variety. I planted where the edible pea pods had been, after they had stopped producing in late May. About 2 weeks ago I noticed the sweet potato leaves were being eaten, and, when I sprayed my Garlic Barrier on them, I saw grasshoppers jumping away. I've never had a grasshopper problem, but I've heard they can devour the garden. In addition to spraying, I've also been scattering cut-up garlic greens around the plants and this seems to have solved the problem.
  2. EGGPLANTS - I bought 2 mesh laundry hampers and turned them upside down over the wire cage on each eggplant to help protect the plants from the bug which eats the young tender leaves. I used wicket-type garden stakes to hold the handles of the hampers in the soil. It's helping so far. I'll have to remove the coverings when the plants flower, so the bees can pollinate. As the season progresses last year, the bugs became less of a problem and the plants flourished, so perhaps I can go into flowering with healthier plants this year. These laundry hampers do not have netting on the top, but rain or sprinkler spray gets in on all sides. They fold down flat for easy storage too.
  3. JALAPENO - I kept one jalapeno plant in the red Kozy Koat and it already has pods! Couldn't resist planting a second seedling I had started, but there is a noticeable difference in the size of the two plants.
  4. MELON - One "casaba" melon is growing well and has a green fruit about 6" big already. I keep checking the plant for insects which attack squash family plants (see photo and zucchini info).
  5. LEEKS - Most of the transplanted leeks didn't survive, but I'll still have plenty. Don't think I'll try them again though.
  6. CUCUMBERS - My attempt to grow the cucumber plants in vertical cages is going well. They send out tendrils, and I usually just have to coax them to grab and wrap around the cage wire. The fruit is clean and perfectly shaped. I've been picking both varieties, one pickling size and the other a 6-8" salad cucumber. I keep watching the undersides of the leaves for the brown eggs of the squash bug (see photo), and discard any leaves with eggs.
  7. TOMATOES - The photo shows the growth of the tomato plants in the past month, but I nearly lost them to an attack by big fat healthy tomato hornworms. The earliest plant I had put in the garden, which had looked gorgeously healthy just one day earlier, was totally defoliated. The other 5 plants each has one or more worms eating away. Fortunately, I caught them right away (it pays to visit your garden daily) and successfully treated with "Dipel," an organic biological insecticide for leaf-eating worms and caterpillars ("bacillus thuringiensis"). I dug up the defoliated tomato and replaced it with one of 3 cherry tomato plants a friend gave me, which I had planted in the cold frame. I've also kept the bottom 10" of the tomato plants trimmed to the center stem, which seems to be helping me avoid tomato blight, which is a fungus spread from the soil to the lower leaves. When I see a leaf with yellow spotting I immediately pick it off and discard. With all this effort, I've now been picking juicy red tomatoes for 3 weeks from the Riessentraube and the Al Kuffa heirloom varieties. I'm keeping a close eye out for pests.
  8. BEANS - My favorite variety of green beans is Blue Lake. I plant the "bush" version vs. "pole" beans, which grow only about 12" tall and don't need trellising. Blue Lake tastes great and freezes well. I planted marigolds around the beans and keep breaking up the spent marigold flower heads on top of the bean plants, to deter an invisible insect which eats holes in the bean leaves, and potentially, in the beans. L:sat year the bugs ruined my crop. I've picked just a couple of ripe beans in the last couple of days and eaten them raw, and I'll have lots to harvest for dinner starting in a few days. I've also started a small bed of Golden Wax bush beans and a long bean from Thailand.
  9. GARLIC - Before we got last week's rain I harvested about 2 dozen garlic heads. Garlic is ready to dig up when the green tops turn tan and dry. It's best to dig them when they are not wet. I rinsed them off right away, which is not recommended, but our clay soil is either like peanut butter when wet or like concrete when dry. Then I dried them in the sun for a few hot dry days before moving them onto newspapers in the shade of the porch to dry for a few weeks. This prepares them for storing.
Also in the garden...



CARROTS - I've finally been harvesting carrots and they are delicious. I like that it's a crop I can leave in the ground, just pulling what I want to use immediately. I've decided I have the patience to grow them, and I've continued to do more plantings from seeds.

BEETS - We ate beet greens initially, and now I've been roasting the pink and white zebra striped Chioggia beets. I'm proud to say I successfully grew them from seeds I harvested from my own plants in their 2nd year. The size of the beet root seems more dependent upon how much room you allow between plants than on how long they are in the ground.

ZUCCHINI - Pulled up the one zucchini plant which had quickly gone from lush and healthy to wilted and sickly. I think it suffered from a squash vine borer. I'll try another plant again in July.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS - I also had to dig up the brussels sprouts. Just as the little Barbie-doll size cabbages began to form on the stem, the leaves unfolded immediately. This is due to our hot weather. I'll try growing it again in the fall, which is what is recommended for my zone.

LETTUCE - We ate the last of the romaine and Little Gem Lettuce. So far I haven't been able to get any of my heat-tolerant varieties of lettuce to germinate well. :-(

BASIL - With lots of pesto still in the freezer from last year, I only put in 4 Thai basil plants, which have a really strong flavor. This way I have some to pick fresh, which I love in a Salad Caprese, with tomatoes and mozzarella.

FENNEL - I moved small fennel plants which had over-wintered and now they are flowering. I will save the seeds which follow the flower, a licorice taste used in Italian cooking, and I've been slicing up the stems and adding to roasting vegetables.

PARSLEY - Both curly and flatleaf parsley plants I started from seed are growing well. This week I picked lots and made tabouli, and I'll share my recipe on this blog soon.

POPPIES - In another garden bed I am growing "Breadseed Poppies" and the flower is an old-fashioned purple shade. I grow red poppies and the seeds they produce are tiny, so I am hopeful that this variety will be larger and suitable for me to use in cooking.

GARDEN HUCKLEBERRIES - My two garden huckleberry plants have suffered from bug-eaten leaves since I first set the seedlings out, but this hasn't hampered the production of flowers and berries. I picked a cup full one day recently, put them in a saucepan with a small amount of honey and some cornstarch dissolved in blueberry juice, to thicken as it cooked. I mixed the cooled sauce into plain yogurt and it tasted great. The raw berries sort of taste like blueberries but with a slightly bitter bite, but were great when cooked.

STRAWBERRIES - My strawberries ended production in late May, and I dug up approximately 12 dozen plants from the big mass I had left to grow at the west end of the strawberry border. I am trying to keep the baby plants clipped off the established bed, but will allow some to root later in the summer for more friends who want to start their own bed. Let me know if you want any.
I removed the coldframe covers, and the frame itself is permanently attached to the garden corner. Two little cherry tomato plants are all that is growing inside now.

Happy gardening!