Time to Reboot the Veggie Garden

by Sandy Swegel

We ate the last of the Spring Peas this week. They were gnarly and kinda tough, but I savored the sweet Spring memories. Even though the peas were planted in a little shade and watered regularly, a pea plant can only take so many blistering hot days. Pooped-out peas are a sure sign that it’s time to start thinking about the Fall Garden. It seems slightly absurd since we still don’t have a single red tomato here in zone 5, but if I want a lush fall and winter garden, the time to reboot the spent Spring garden is now.

But it is July and it’s hot, so let’s start the fall garden in nice easy baby steps. These week’s plan is simple:

1. Pull out the finished pea plants. Pull out the weeds. Scratch in some fresh compost and keep the area watered for a few days as the soil settles down.
2. Plant some seeds. Keep the patch well moistened (or throw some row cover over to keep the water from evaporating so fast.
3. Have something cold to drink and flip through your seed cache or favorite seed website to plan something new and different the next time a little patch of soil is ready for replanting.

Some excellent July planting choices:

Leafy greens: arugula, Asian greens, collards, more kale or chard
Cool-season herbs like cilantro and dill
Root crops you want to enjoy after frosts like carrots and beets
Rapini (Broccoli raab)

Don’t stress yourself in the heat….just plant that one little patch that’s just growing weeds now and reap the rewards in September.

Photos:
http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Healthy-Recipes-Winter-Vegetables-Fruits-21357784#photo-21357809

Choices… as your cool season veggies go to seed

by Sandy Swegel

Gardening is always about choices.

There are the early choices about what to plant.
Choices about whether to treat pests.
Choices about when to harvest.

Now as your cool-season greens and herbs and alliums go to seed, you have some choices.

Your first choice is more food. If you are growing your garden primarily to feed yourself, you need to harvest as the market farmers do. When it’s time to cut kale, you don’t just take a few leaves, You get your knife and cut that plant to within two inches of the soil. That shocks leafy greens that they immediately triple leaf production and you will get two more big harvests out of each plant. Ruthless cutting produces more food.

Your other choice is for beauty and generosity. If you let some of those plants bolt and put out seed heads, you end up with a garden that generously feeds the pollinators and butterflies and birds with flowers and seed heads. The swallowtail butterflies ignored all the dill I planted for them and congregated on one old parsley plant to lay their eggs. The nature creatures have reasons for choosing we don’t always understand.

 

But Beauty is why I make my choice this week for letting edibles go to seed.

With the rain this year, bolted lettuce is statuesque. They are four feet high and visible across the yard. Purple Merlot lettuce at this size is stunning next to the sweet peas. The dill is taller than me in the well-watered garden and surrounds all the tomatoes like protective warriors. Yellow mustard flowers and white arugula flowers lean out across the walk begging to be nibbled. Broccoli heads opening up into flowers are beguiling.

So once again you have a choice. You can go out in the hot sun and tidy up your garden, or you can let Nature’s idea of Beauty run amok.

 

Photo Credit broccoli, Todd Dwyer www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/broccoli/bolting-broccoli-growing-broccoli-in-hot-weather.htm
Leeks: http://www.koanga.org.nz/category/all-blog-entries/
Lettuce: http://gardeninggonewild.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/dscf4311.JPG

Beautiful Food

by Sandy Swegel

Romanesco broccoli is a favorite of gardeners, chefs and mathematicians.  Gardeners love its exotic shape and lime green color. Chefs adore its presentation on a platter and its great flavor, especially roasted.  And mathematicians laud Romanesco as a perfect example of fractal geometry in nature with its swirling spirals.

My first glimpse of Romanesco broccoli was on a trip to Italy as a 21-year-old with a backpack doing the great European hosteling trip.  I was in love with everything Italian and spent the day in the Italian farmers market where strange exotic vegetables and fruits were displayed alongside great salamis and pungent cheeses.  I wasn’t much of a cook back then, but Italy is where I learned that all vegetables taste best roasted with some good olive oil, salt, garlic and served with a nice pasta.

Broccoli, Organic Romanesco

Romanesco broccoli, popular in Italy since the 16th century, is a favorite here at BBB Seed, especially now that we’ve found an organic source for the seed. It grows just like any of the broccolis or cauliflowers (good soil, water, and cool weather bring out the sweetness). Steaming it or serving it raw in salads preserves the great color.

One more great thing about Romanesco broccoli?  It’s just weird and alien-looking enough that you might be able to get the kids to try it.

Photo and Recipe: www.gastronomersguide.com/2010/11/pasta-with-roasted-romanesco.html

 

Get Your Diseased & Gnarly Tomatoes OUT!

It’s August and hot, not the most fun time in the garden, but you’ve got to go out and EVICT all the diseased and dying stuff out of your garden.  You’re not doing for this year’s produce…you’re doing to save your garden next year.

In Colorado with our warm winter and early hot Spring, we are inundated with pest problems.  Most on our minds today is the spotted wilt virus on tomatoes which makes pretty concentric circles on the tomatoes, but leaves the fruit tasteless and mealy…and kills the plant long before frost.  As depressing as it is to toss plants you’ve nurtured since they were just baby seeds, they’ve got to go. They aren’t going to get better and the virus will just get spread around your garden.

So get out there with your wheelbarrow and do some decluttering.

Tomato plants with spotted wilt virus or mosaic virus or even some nasty blight:  OUT! And not into your compost pile…they go right in the garbage.

Other plants with serious disease problems:  OUT!  You’re never going to eat those gone to flower broccoli covered with powdery mildew.

Weeds that have grown four feet tall when you weren’t looking are now going to seed.  Somehow huge prickly lettuce and thistles keep appearing out of nowhere with big seed heads.  OUT!

It won’t take long to clean up the big stuff….this is one of those 15-minute projects.  15 minutes now will make a huge difference later. 15 minutes now gives the good healthy tomatoes more light and space and water to make lots of fruit before frost.  15 minutes now means you pull all the diseased fruit and leaves out easily now instead of trying to retrieve dead rotting fruit and diseased leaves after frost has caused leaf drop.

And while you’re at it:  those big huge zucchini bats:  OUT.  Pull ’em off the plant so that nice tender young zucchinis can grow.  You’re just not likely to eat as much giant zucchini as you’re growing.  Let go of the guilt and send them to enrich the compost.