Tag Archive | Vegetables

Now we Reap…

80777823000000_169_1024It’s a cliche, but August really is the month of plenty. Almost everything you’ve sown, planted, and nurtured through the spring and early summer will be coming to fruition now. Daily harvests should include everything from peas beans, carrots, beets, corn, peppers, potatoes, onions, and salads to berries, currants, plums, peaches, figs, and perhaps even early apples and pears. And tomatoes!! Determinate varieties, also known as bush tomatoes, bear all their fruit within the space of two weeks, so August is the month to put up your tomato store for the entire winter — whether you can or freeze them, or make spaghetti sauce instead.

Top tasks for August

  • Harvest your last broad beans and your first corn, plus summer fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, chilies, and eggplants.
  • Check French beans, runner beans, and zucchinis every day, and harvest them regularly. They seem to double in size overnight.
  • Pick plums, greengages, and blackberries, and perhaps your first apples, pears, and figs.
  • Sow your last batch of carrots and turnips for this year, plus Japanese onion seeds and spring cabbages for next year.
  • Feed your pumpkins if you want to produce Halloween giants.
  • Dry out garlic, onions, and shallots so that they can be stored for the winter.
  • Check potatoes and tomatoes for signs of blight, and spray in warm, humid weather.

Sow or plant in August

There is not much you can still sow or plant now in time for harvesting this year. Perhaps a few lettuces and salad leaves, and some of the faster-growing roots and leaf vegetables. That’s about it. However, space on your plot should become vacant once broad beans, onions, and shallots are all finished, so you can begin to plant out overwintering crops such as brussels sprouts, spring cabbages, and winter cauliflowers.

August pests & diseases

Vegetables:

  • Carrot flies are laying their eggs again this month. Protect crops with fleece or physical barriers.
  • Slugs and snails still need to be controlled, especially in wet summers and immediately after rain when the ground is damp.
  • Powdery mildews can be a problem in warm, dry summers, particularly on peas, zucchini, squashes, and cucumbers. Regular watering and a fungicide spray may help.
  • Spray potatoes and tomatoes against blight, especially if it’s very humid. If your crop is infected, cut down the foliage and destroy it. Lift potatoes at once — they may still be edible.
  • Water tomatoes regularly to prevent splitting and blossom end rot. Take care not to splash the fruits to avoid ghost spot.
  • Magnesium deficiency is often the cause of tomato or potato leaves tuning yellow between the veins. Spray with a solution of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate).
  • Check corn for smut and remove any affected cobs.
  • Inspect peas for caterpillars of the pea moth feeding inside the pods. They will have laid their eggs in June or July.
  • Check for blackfly on globe artichokes, beets, and broad, French, and runner beans.
  • Look under cabbage and other brassica leaves for the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies. Pick them off and squash them by hand, or spray. Keep nets in place.

Fruit:

  • Look for brown rot on apples, pears, plums, and quinces. Remove and destroy infected fruits.
  • Apple bitter pit is caused by calcium deficiency. Watering regularly and spraying with calcium nitrate solution may help.
  • Pheromone traps in apple, pear, and plum trees may need their capsules to be replaced in order to continue being effective in attracting codling moths.
  • Spray plums, cherries, apricots, and peaches with Bordeaux mixture or other copper-based fungicide to treat outbreaks of bacterial canker. Spray after harvesting but before pruning, and spray again next month.
  • Check raspberries, blackberries, and hybrid berries for the small, yellow-brown larvae of raspberry beetles.
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Our Vegetable Inheritance

downloadAmong food and garden lovers alike, the current buzzword for value is heirloom, a very good description of open-pollinated vegetable seeds. Unlike hybrids, heirlooms can be saved year after year, and although we always think of the word as extending toward the past, it’s just as relevant to the future: heirlooms aren’t just what our great-grandparents grew, they are also the varieties we can leave to our great-grandchildren.

Heirlooms are most famous for offering great flavor and for enabling the gardener to “grow your own” from start to finish. But they offer a lot more than freedom from the need to buy seed every year.

Adaptability, for instance. Heirlooms are the special province of individuals and of small, regional seed companies, who do not need to sell zillions of packets in order to make a profit; and that means they tend to be better attuned to specific local conditions (drought in the Southwest, humidity in the Southeast, cold in the North) than “one size fits all” hybrids.

Hybrids are created through carefully controlled parentage, and as a result they are uniform. Every plant will be about the same size, and it will bear its fruit in the same narrow time frame. These characteristics are important to the mechanized operations of commercial growers, but they don’t do much for home gardeners.

And though hybrid varieties are often disease resistant, they are identically so. If a disease strikes that they cannot resist, every single plant will suffer.

Heirlooms, on the other hand, are individuals. Even when they are grown from seeds that came in the same packet, each plant is subtly different from every other. They grow and ripen unevenly, so you get a longer harvest period. And they are unevenly vulnerable to diseases. When trouble strikes, some plants will no doubt be afflicted, but others may come through.

All this is not to say there’s no place for hybrids, but hybrids are not in danger. It’s heirlooms that rely on home gardeners for their continued survival, heirlooms that offer independence, and heirlooms that give gardeners a chance to do their part for the preservation of genetic diversity.

To learn more, and to gain access to a huge assortment of delicious possibilities, consul the Garden Seed Inventory, available from Seed Savers Exchange, 3076 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA 52101; (563) 382-5990; http://www.seedsavers.org. It explains, eloquently, why heirlooms are important. And it is the source of sources, listing very nearly all the open-pollinated (nonhybrid) vegetable seeds available commercially in the United States, along with the names and addresses of the companies that supply them.

Within OCMGA, we have a dedicated group of members working with Seed Savers — watch this blog for an article about their efforts.

Flowering and Fruiting Issues in Solanaceous and Cucurbit Crops

by Lisa Johnson, horticulture educator for Dane County UW-Extension

GettyImages-107981379-584ba6b35f9b58a8cd1bc980Often, this time of year, I get calls from gardeners asking why some vegetables are not fruiting. Unpredictable spring and summer weather temperatures can adversely affect crops, especially tomato, pepper, and eggplant in the Solanaceae family, and winter squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, and summer squash in the Cucurbitaceae family. These plants rely on a certain range of temperatures to initiate flowers, bring them to maturity, and produce fruit. Fruit production can be affected any time during this process.

Temperatures at night have the greatest impact. If temperatures are too hot or too cold for even a few days during flowering, plants may abort flowers or fruits. For solanaceous plants, daytime temperatures above 85 F for several days, nighttime temperatures above 70 F, or nighttime temperatures below 55 F cause fruit to abort. If you think back to 2012, which had high daytime and nighttime temperatures, low fruit production is understandable. In fact, temperatures over 104 F for four hours can cause tomato flowers to abort.

Temperatures and Pollination

tomatbbee2018wTomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are self-pollinating, but cucurbit flowers must receive multiple pollinator visits for complete pollination to occur. Squash, for example, requires an average of 12 visits by a pollinator to set fruit. And it has to happen fast. Pumpkin and squash flowers open at temperatures above 50 F; cucumber and watermelon, above 60 F; and muskmelon above 65 F. But these flowers only stay open and viable for a day in the case of watermelons, muskmelons, and cucumbers, and half a day or less for other cucurbits.

Also, all cucurbits are not alike. Some plants have separate male and female flowers, or female flowers only, or have perfect flowers, with male and female parts in the same flower. If they have separate male and female flowers, usually male flowers open first. Early in the season, more male flowers are open than female flowers, but you need both to produce fruit! As the plant ages, the proportion of female flowers increases. Cucurbits are affected by other factors that influence whether a flower will be male or female. Cool temperatures promote female flowers in cucumber, squash, and pumpkin. Conversely, high temperatures promote male flowers and delay female flower development. In pumpkins, temperatures of 90 F during the day and 70 F at night lead to abortion of female flower buds.

Light levels also affect flower development in cucurbits. High light levels promote female flowers; shade can reduce those numbers. The bottom line is that a lot can happen between flowering and fruiting!

July Already?!

vegetable-garden1Seems like summer has barely started and we’re already looking ahead to July — the height of summer. Days are long, temperatures are most likely at their highest and may even exceed 100ºF for days at a time in the South, Southwest, and Midwest. If all goes well, you’re harvesting something delicious from your garden almost every day, and this is also the peak time for picking herbs. But, like June, July is often a dry month, too. Watering is crucial. Most crops need a steady, unbroken supply of water. Interruptions cause problems such as flowers falling, fruits failing to form, skins splitting, premature bolting, and diseases such as tomato blossom end rot. Spreading mulches helps conserve moisture from any rain you do get — and will also control weeds.

Top tasks for July

  • Harvest French and runner beans, zucchinis, carrots, beets, onions, shallots, new potatoes, and summer salads.
  • Pick cherries, strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, and blueberries.
  • Sow salad crops and the last of your beets, Florence fennel, French beans, and peas for this year.
  • Climbing beans don’t really know when to stop. Pinch out the growing tips when they reach the top of your canes or they will quickly become tangled and top-heavy.
  • Plant out cabbages, cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale for the autumn and winter.
  • Continue to ensure that peas, brassicas, and soft fruit are all securely netted to keep off scavenging birds.
  • Pull earth up around the stalks of brussels sprouts and other brassicas if they seem unsteady, and give them a top-dressing of nitrogenous fertilizer or an organic liquid feed. Keep an eye on potatoes and if necessary continue to earth them up.
  • Start regularly watering tomatoes and peppers with a liquid feeding as soon as you see that the first fruits have formed. Feeding encourages both flowers and fruits.
  • Water as often as you can to keep crops growing healthily and to prevent them from bolting.
  • Feed tomatoes regularly and pinch out side shoots.
  • Thin out apples and pears if it looks like you’re going to have a bumper crop.

“Weed, water, mulch” should remain as much of a mantra as it was in June. All three are still high on the list of the most important tasks of the month. Regular watering, in particular, is vital for the successful growth of crops. July is the month for summer-pruning certain fruit trees and bushes as or just after they finish cropping — cherries, currants, gooseberries, and summer-fruiting raspberries.

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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‘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.

 

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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

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‘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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Grow Your Garden to Match Your Cuisine

Whether you have a large plot or a small patio garden to work with, fresh veggies and herbs that highlight different countries around the globe are both fun and functional. Some tips:

  • When designing a cultural garden, choose only a few edibles — specifically the ones you cook with most. You can always add on or switch out plants.
  • Consider how much sun the proposed site receives in a given day. Most edibles need around eight hours a day to thrive.
  • Edge edibles with ornamentals to keep the look pleasing and pretty. Just consider any ornamental plant’s growth habit, so they don’t end up eventually overshadowing low-growing vegetables and herbs.
  • Include one vertical grower, which provides interest. Cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, and pole beans are good considerations.

French

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Beautiful Rainbow Chard

Ooh la la. A high-style potager (kitchen garden) featuring these favorite French goodies is tres magnifique!

  • Alpine strawberry
  • Chard
  • Chervil
  • Culinary lavender
  • French green bean
  • Garlic
  • Leek
  • Savory
  • White asparagus

Mexican

Cook up the freshest fare around with these must-have ingredients. The number of chili varieties out there is endless — choose a few to spice up your life.

  • Chili pepper (jalapeno, po
    tomatillos

    Ripe tomatillos

    blano, 
    serrano)

  • Cilantro
  • Epazote
  • Heirloom corn
  • Heirloom squash (summer and winter)
  • Red Mexican bush bean
  • Tomatillo

Italian

The vegetables and herbs in this region are as varied as the cuisine itself.

  • Broccoli raab
  • Cipollini onion
  • Fava bean
  • Fennel
  • Heirloom cantaloupe
  • Italian parsley
  • Roma tomato
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Sweet basil

Asian

These exciting vegetables may be used in stir-fries and salads, or to accompany Chinese dishes. Use fermented cabbage in kimchi.

  • Bitter melon

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    Bok Choy in the garden

  • Bok choy
  • Daikon
  • Edamame
  • Green onion
  • Lemongrass
  • Napa cabbage
  • Snow peas
  • Thai basil

If you get a chance, visit the Cleveland Cultural Garden in Cleveland, Ohio. Featuring 31 gardens that are each inspired by a different ethnic group — Polish, Greek, Italian, German, Hebrew, Irish, Chinese, African-American, and Indian, to name a few — the Cleveland Cultural Garden in Rockefeller Park is a must-stop destination in Ohio. For more information, visit culturalgardens.org.