Archive | June 2018

Ornamentals for Flair (and they’re delicious!)

Trying to decide between growing flowers or food? With these pretty choices, form and function go hand in hand. They’ll fit right in amid your garden blooms.



Gretel Eggplant

Gretel Eggplant (Solanum melongena ‘Gretel’) – grown as an annual. This 2009 All-America Selection produces clusters of white eggplants on 3-foot-high plants. The mild-flavored fruits can be harvested when they reach 3 to 4 inches long. The eggplant is susceptible to cold, so wait for the soil to warm and the danger of frost to pass before you plant outdoors.


Ornamental Pepper (Capsicum annuum) – annual. Unlike their kin, which hang beneath foliage, new cultivars of ornamental peppers produce upright clusters of fruit that face the sky. As peppers ripen, a single plant may sport three or four different shades, from yellow to orange, red, purple, or brown. Ornamentals may be super-hot or exceedingly pungent, so be sure to choose cultivars that suit your taste buds and growing area. Also, be sure to keep the plants out of the reach of small children or pets. These work really well in containers. The ‘Black Hawk’ variety was a 2016 All-America Selection.



Scarlet Runner Beans

Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) – grown as an annual to zone 7. Draw in hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden with scarlet flowers on vines that grow to 20 feet. Plants bear 6- to 12-inch pods holding purple and black hued beans. Support vines with a trellis, arbor, fence, or teepee.


‘Purple Ruffles’ Basil



Purple Ruffles Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Purple Ruffles’) – annual. Frilly, flavorful purple leaves make this herb a great choice. Growing to about 18 inches high and wide, this simple-to-grow, cold-tender herb can be used in containers or mixed in a sunny perennial or annual border.



Papaya Pear Squash

Papaya Pear Squash (Cucurbita pepo ‘Papaya’) – annual. You’ll get lightbulb-shaped yellow squash with this semi-bush plant, which was a 2003 All-America Selection. Pick the fruits when they measure 3 inches long and wide to encourage plants to set more squash so you can enjoy it all season.


Bright Lights Chard (Beta vulgaris ‘Bright Lights’) – annual. This easy-growing choice brings rainbow hues to any garden. Reaching 20 inches tall, Bright Lights produces large mild-flavored leaves on thick yellow, red, orange, and white stems. When harvesting, cut the biggest leaves about 2 inches from the crown to encourage this 1998 All-America


‘Bright Lights’ Chard

Selection to put out new leaves. (Note: I learned this the hard way when I grew it in a tub on the ground that was not quite tall enough to discourage the rabbits. While they ate what was there, it did grow back and I had a lovely harvest from the tub that I had moved to a higher spot!)

All-America Selections is an independent non-profit organization that tests new, never-before-sold varieties for the home gardener. After a full season of anonymous trialing by volunteer horticulture professionals, only the top garden performers are given the AAS Winner award designation for their superior performance.

For further information about AAS, and to download a complete list of all selections, click here.





Yes, Virginia, You Can Mow Your Lawn Too Often!!

I have a neighbor that loves his yard work. He’s out cutting the grass, trimming around the sidewalks, and blowing away the debris at least 3 nights each week. I’m incredibly aware of this because of the noise that continues for about 2 hours. Despite all of this work, I’m sorry to say that his lawn is not the beautiful carpet that he wishes it to be. Like many homeowners, he makes the mistake of cutting his grass too short and too frequently. Coupled with the use of non-organic fertilizer (which creates very short roots in the grass, thereby drying out rapidly in between rains), mowing too often or putting your mower blades too low creates a lawn that struggles to survive when the sun gets hot and the rain clouds fail to appear.

The University of Illinois Extension has created a nice one-page guideline for mowing lawns properly. Click here to read it.

Veggies to sow in June

PUB0001716_457102The danger of frost should now be completely behind us and it should be possible to sow most seeds outside, even if some go into seed trays, modules, or pots for planting out later. If nights are still chilly, and if you’re concerned that temperatures may not be high enough for germination, you can always cover seeds or bring trays and pots indoors.

  • Beets:  You may have started these in May, but continue sowing beet seeds in June — perhaps a few at the beginning of the month and a few at the end so that in September and October you’ll have some to harvest that haven’t grown too large. They can be stored for the winter if necessary.
  • Broccoli: Sow late sprouting broccoli seeds either where you want to grow them or in a seedbed for transplanting later. Depending on the variety and your climate, you should be able to harvest them in autumn or overwinter them for picking early the following year. This late in the year, calabrese is better sown where it is going to stay as it is a crop that doesn’t like being moved once the weather is warm.
  • Carrots: This is the last chance to sow maincrop varieties that will be ready for harvesting in September or October.
  • Cucumbers – Outdoor cucumbers are usually started off earlier in the year in pots or under cover, but if you sow some seeds outside this month they should give you a crop in August or September.
  • Endive – Sow curly or broad-leaved varieties outside for a crop in autumn and early winter. Germination may be erratic in hot weather.
  • Herbs – June may be your last chance to sow seeds of herbs such as coriander, basel, chervil fennel, dill, and parsley before the weather becomes too warm for them to germinate reliably.
  • Peas – The beginning of June is probably your last chance to sow maincrop peas, snow peas, and snap peas. Toward the end of the month, switch to a fast-maturing early variety. These will be ready for harvesting in about September.
  • Pumpkins and winter squashes – These are usually started off earlier in the year in pots, but they can be planted straight into the ground in June. Prepare the soil by adding lots of well-rotted compost or manure.
  • Radishes – Sow a few salad radishes in small quantities throughout the month for a constantly replenishing crop.
  • Zucchini and summer squashes – If you don’t already have plants you’ve raised in pots, you can sow seeds directly outside now that the soil has warmed up thoroughly. Sow two seeds together and, once they’ve germinated, remove the weaker of the two. Make sure you leave plenty of space between plants because they spread widely and need a lot of room.

Some additional veggies that can be sown in June: Kale, Kohlrabi, Runner Beans, Rutabagas, Scallions, and Turnips.