JUNE GARDEN CHORE LIST

By Heather Stone

Buckets and gardening tools lined up along a fence.

Photo courtesy of pixabay

  1. Cage or trellis any vining vegetables such as cucumbers, beans and tomatoes. By training these vegetables to grow up you are saving precious garden space and keeping the fruit off of the ground and away from critters. Click here for trellis ideas!

 

  1. Continue watering your vegetable and perennial beds. Try to keep water close to the roots and off of leaves. Checked potted plants often, they tend to dry out faster.

 

  1. Keep up with the weeds! This can start to feel like a never-ending battle at this time of year, but keeping the weeds under control means more nutrients, water and sunlight for your vegetables and flowers.

 

  1. Mulch around vegetables to help conserve water.

 

  1. Side dress with compost for a mid-season boost.
An oldfashioned wooden wheel barrow..

photo courtesy of pixabay

  1. Begin replacing cool season crops that have begun to wind done or have bolted from heat.

 

  1. Plant successive crops of summer greens like collards, kale, chard and lettuce (Protect them from hot afternoon sun).

 

  1. Transplant any remaining warm season vegetable starts.

 

  1. Plant your squash, melon and cucumber seeds if you haven’t already.

 

  1. Keep an eye out for pests.

 

  1. Keep your birdbaths full and clean.

 

  1. Plant a new patch of bush beans every couple of weeks.

 

  1. Pinch out suckers on your tomatoes.

 

  1. Keep deadheading perennials for continued bloom.

 

  1. Sit back, relax and enjoy your garden.
 

TOP 10 VEGETABLES FOR PART SHADE

by Heather Stone

Do you have a garden that gets more shade than sun, but you still want to grow vegetables? No problem! There are plenty of vegetables that will grow well with partial sun. We’ve put together a list for you of vegetables that perform well with 6 hours or less of direct sunlight. Read on to find out how to keep yourself in fresh veggies all season by making the most of your shady spots.

 

 

  1. Mesclun Greens (Needs 3 hours of sun)

Mesclun is simply a “mix” of various greens. All of them doing well with just a few hours of sunlight. They germinate quick and reach maturity in a matter of weeks. Try our Mesclun Mix– a great combo of arugula, mustard greens and Chinese cabbage.

  1. Arugula 3-4 hours

This delicious peppery green is easy to grow and loves the cool weather. Plant in early spring about 1 month before the last frost and continue sowing every 20-30 days until mid-summer. Grows well in containers. Try our Wild Arugula!

  1. Lettuce 3-4 hours

Lettuce is a cool-season green that isn’t a big fan of direct sun. The varieties are endless and so easy to grow in the ground or in containers. Plant in early spring and again every two weeks for a continuous supply of lettuce. Make sure to provide shade for the late spring and summer plantings.

  1. Spinach 3-4 hours

The nutrient-packed leaves of spinach love cool weather and protection from the full sun. Spinach is an easy to grow and productive crop that every garden should find a spot for. Like lettuce and arugula plant in early spring and sow successively every 2 weeks for a continuous supply of spinach. Try our Bloomsdale or Nobel Giant varieties.

  1. Kale 3-4 hours

A powerhouse of nutrition, kale is easy to grow in the ground or in containers. The young tender leaves of kale are great in salads. The mature leaves are excellent sauteed or added to soups and stews. Start in early spring and continue you to sow for fresh greens all season long.

  1. Swiss Chard 4-5 hours

Easy to grow from seed and looks fabulous all season long Swiss Chard’s beautiful leaves are easily planted in the perennial garden as well as the vegetable patch.

  1. Radish 4-5 hours

There’s nothing like a fresh spring radish. They are quick to germinate, fast to mature and come in a rainbow of colors. We carry 5 different varieties! No garden should be without radishes.

  1. Peas 4-5 hours

Peas do fine in partial shade in either the garden or the container. They are pretty quick to germinate and prefer cool weather. So get them in the ground early and you’ll have peas to snack on in early summer.

  1. Beets 4-5 hours

Beets can thrive along the shady edge of the garden. The roots might not get quite as big, but if you keep them well watered they will produce excellent tasting greens and sweet, tender roots.

  1. Bok Choy 4 hours

This cool season vegetable germinates in a few days and can be eaten raw or cooked.  Bok Choy is an excellent addition to the part shade garden.

 

 

Vegetables That Grow In The Shade

Vegetables for Shade

by Sandy Swegel

OMG, Can you believe how hot it is? That’s the refrain from everybody I talk to. I’ll work in the garden when it’s below freezing or when there’s light rain, but I draw the line at working in the sun when the temperature is above 90. Unfortunately, temps around Denver area are in the upper 90’s. Poor Phoenix was 118. As one of the weather services said, “millions of people in the US are experiencing temperatures 10 – 20 degrees above normal this weekend.

So as I stood under a big tree and looked across the yard at my lettuce wilting under the hot sun, I started rethinking what my vegetable garden should look like. All those leafy vegetables don’t need full sun….and they’d deeply appreciate some relief on hot afternoons.

So, note to self: next year make some new beds in the shade. Dappled shade is best and dark shade won’t work, but the only vegetables that need lots of sun are those fruit producing vegetables like tomatoes and peppers.

There are lots of lists on what to grow in shade, but blogger Empress of Dirt has the most thorough, showing the gradient of shade tolerance. Your area will vary. Shade in Denver is different from shade in Seattle, so experiment. You know you have too much shade when the plants are barely growing. But I’ve watched arugula thrive under a big apple tree where it barely got any direct sun.

 

What to do about those poor greens out in the hot sun now? Give them some temporary shade. A shade cloth structure is ideal. I’m going to pull out the winter frost cloth and drape it over the garden till these extreme temperatures subside.

 

Keep your garden well watered but don’t drown it. No amount of water can compensate for extreme heat.

In the meantime, we’re grateful to all the firefighters out battling wildfires erupting throughout the Southwest in this record-breaking heat wave. They are true heroes.

 

Photos and information:

 

Cabbage and Clover Husbandry

Cabbage and Clover Husbandry

by Sandy Swegel

St Patrick’s Day is this week…a traditional day for planting peas. But you know that….so get ready to plant your peas. This year I’m thinking about Ireland and two plants usually associated with Ireland: cabbage and clover (not necessarily the four-leaf variety.) A little internet browsing led to an interesting connection to these two plants. One…they both like to grow in cool humidity like Spring and Fall. Cabbage is a cool season crop. Two… old country wisdom and modern science show that cabbage and clover are excellent companion crops.

Books in England dating back to the 1700s recommend cabbage “Husbandry” the old word for farming. Cabbage was highly regarded because it lasted well as a stored food for winter and because cows and sheep that ate cabbage in the winter made sweeter milk than those that ate turnips. Standard practice in England in the olden days was to plant a clover cover crop and follow that with cabbage or potatoes. Turns out that cabbage that grows in clover or where clover had been grown and tilled under are larger and have significantly fewer pests included the cabbage looper. Cabbage moths are still the bane of cabbage growers. Modern no-till farmers have adopted this centuries-old wisdom to plant cabbage right into a field of clover.

 

Besides being good for cows and sheep, cabbage is healthy for us and a staple in many cuisines. I am particularly fond of the red cabbages because they are pretty! Here are a few tips to grow cabbage:

It’s a cool season crop.
That means you have to get it in early. Or plant it in mid-summer for fall harvest.

They do well from transplants.
Start seeds indoors or in a cold frame 8 weeks before last Spring frost. Then transplant it about 2-4 weeks before last Spring frost. Cabbage is a “heavy feeder” so you need good soil or extra fertilization and regular irrigation.

Watch out for pests.
Cutworms and cabbage loopers love cabbage too…but they are pretty easy to pick off if you stay after them. Little paper collars protect transplants from the cutworms. If you don’t like to pick off the worms, it is good organic control.

Cabbage makes great microgreens.
Cabbage germinates in about two days in your warm kitchen. Another superfood from the brassica family.

 

For more on the science of winter-sowing clover and cabbage and other brassicas
http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/IP-27.pdf
http://www.modernvictorygarden.com/apps/blog/show/2015631-in-praise-of-cabbages
http://microgardening.newearthmicrogreens.com/red-cabbage-microgreens-vitamins/

 

Fall Equinox

by Sandy Swegel

Fall Equinox is upon us which suddenly spurs me to lament all the gardening I didn’t get done this year. In particular, I don’t have much of a winter garden growing. Am I going to have to start buying store-bought greens? I thought maybe I could outsmart Mother Nature by using row cover and soil heating cables to get some lettuces and kales going, but a farmer friend broke the bad news to me. Can’t be done. Sure I can get some growth. But lettuce and other greens are affected more by photoperiodism, than heat. Huh? I asked. She said Farmers know to get all their Fall and Winter plants going well before Fall Equinox because once the days start getting shorter, plants don’t grow as vigorously. (This, of course, doesn’t apply if you are further South where your days stay longer.) The farmer said I can get the lettuce to grow, but I won’t have the vigor and growth I need to provide myself with enough food for Fall into Winter. Lettuce is what they call a “long-day” plant. This is also the reason, more so than heat, that lettuce goes to seed in the middle of summer….because the days are long.

Who knew? Well, farmers and people who live off the land know. They start their winter lettuce in late summer.

Besides me, there’s another group of people who want to outsmart Mother Nature. Astronauts. One of the obstacles to living in space and inhabiting other planets is food. NASA has run food experiments on the Space Station for years, but now for the first time, astronauts are growing their own lettuces to eat instead of just to experiment on. What a treat for them instead of all those dried space foods.

Photo credit
http://collectspace.com/
http://gardenofeaden.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/how-to-grow-winter-lettuce-from-seed.html

 

 

BBB Seed

Best organic heirloom vegetable seed

Wildflower Seed

Grass and Wildflower Mixes

 

Start your Seeds…Again.

by Sandy Swegel

This time it’s going to be a lot easier. You don’t need lights and cold frames. You don’t even have to use trays and little pots. You can put the seeds directly into the earth.  You don’t need much time.  Seeds germinate in warm soil really fast. All you really do need this time of year is water.  Seeds you start mid-summer are at risk of germinating and then drying out, so you have to remember to sprinkle them daily and keep the soil moist.  But that’s about it.

  1. Why Start Seeds Now?

The least romantic reason is to Save Money.
The second least romantic reason is to Save Time.
The romantic reason is Beauty and Abundance.

Veggies
Lettuces. In most gardens, your lettuces and even spinach have bolted and gone to seed.  You’re probably trying to salvage individual leaves here and there, but they are pretty bitter because of the heat.  Seeding new beds will give you young sweet leaves and plants that will feed you well into Fall and even Early Winter.

Cold Hardy Greens.  The key to being able to eat out of the winter garden is to have big plants with enough leaves to feed you all winter.  Chards and Kale and Spinach seeded now will be big enough come to Fall that even in cold climates you can pile leaves on them and harvest from under the snow.  But you need big plants because come October and November the plants aren’t going to be re-growing much.

Peas.  Peas germinate and grow easily this time of year.  By the time they reach maturity, the chill of Fall nights will make them sweet and yummy.  In Colorado we kind of got cheated out of our peas this year because it became so hot so fast, the peas dried up.  But we have a second chance.

Root crops.  Carrots and beets planted in summer have time to grow to maturity and wait in the soil until cooling Fall weather turns them into sugar. As long as the ground isn’t frozen solid, you can continue to harvest delectable root veggies that taste much better than the spring and summer harvests.

Herbs.  Parsley and thyme are among the many herbs you can harvest all year.  Thyme can be frozen solid.  Even parsley that has frozen will plump and be bright green on warm sunny winter days.

Perennials
You know the adage about perennials. First, they sleep, then they creep, then they leap.  Perennials need their first year to establish roots and many don’t even make flowers until the second year.  Perennials that you seed now will still consider this their first year and then be ready to bloom next year.  If you wait until next Spring to plant perennial seed….you won’t get flowers until 2016.  Planting perennials is one of the most thrifty things you can do in your gardens.  Foxglove and lupines are both underused magnificent bloomers in gardens.  And they can easily cost $8 each in garden centers. You can have dozens and dozens of them blooming next year if you seed now.  All those flowers for cutting you’ve always wanted — daisies and echinacea and rudbeckia – they are simple from seed. One packet of seed will give you dozens and dozens of flowers next year.

So save an entire year of time by planting perennial seeds now. And save a bundle of money by growing your own perennials and by having greens you can pick from for the next six months.

 

Photo credit:  www.modernfarmer.com

 

 

 

Heirloom Vegetable Seeds

Wildflower Seed Mixes

Grass Seed Mixes

 

 

 

Grow Your Own Food: Best Return on Investment

by Sandy Swegel

 

There are so many vegetables you can grow in your garden. If only there was enough time. If you have limited time or space for your garden, think about what is the best return on your investment of time and money as well as the best outcome of flavor and nutrition. Three things I grow even if I don’t have time to grow anything else are:

Salad greens.
Loose-leaf lettuces, spinach, kale, chard, and arugula are up and ready to eat in as little as three weeks after planting. You can pick what you need for tonight’s salad, and let the plant continue to grow for another night’s salad. Baby greens and mixed lettuces cost $6 per pound (and up) at the grocery…and they aren’t necessarily that fresh…sometimes they’ve been traveling in a semi-trailer from California for a week already. Grow your own greens to get maximum nutrition and taste for a couple of bucks worth of seed.

Tomatoes.
You’ve tasted one of those grocery store tomatoes that look perfect and taste like absolutely nothing? Enough said. You have to grow tomatoes because home-grown tomatoes taste so much better than anything you can buy. But tomatoes have also gotten really expensive. One or two tomato plants easily save you a couple hundred dollars if you regularly eat tomatoes in your salads and sandwiches. Cherry tomato plants are especially prolific.

 

Herbs.

Fresh herbs are the best way to give oomph to your cooking. They taste so much better than dried herbs and can often star in a simple dish …such as basil leaves served with mozzarella and tomato. Many herbs are perennial (like thyme and oregano) and only have to be planted once. Annual herbs, such as basil and dill produce lots and lots of flavorful leaves.

It’s always fun to grow everything there is to grow, but if you’re strapped for time or space, let the local farmers grow the long-season crops like winter squash, the root crops like onions and carrots, or the water-hogging melons. You’ll be enjoying your own magnificent home-grown healthful salads all season.

 

How to Become a Plant Nerd

by Sandy Swegel

You know you are a Plant Nerd When…
(Or How to Become a Plant Nerd)

You know every garden starts with graph paper. You draw a scale drawing with trees and fences.

You create an Excel file listing the times to seed and days to harvest. Your file shows when to plant second crops for fall veggies.

You automate your garden
You put a timer on for watering. Your smartphone calendar alerts you six weeks before the last frost. You have to use a moisture sensor to know when to water.

You know the scientific names of your weeds.

You make the most of what you have.
You never plant in rows…you know it’s more efficient to plant densely in quadrants. If space is limited, you grow vertically. If all you have is a balcony to grow on you figure out how to make a hydroponic system out of a Rubbermaid container.

Your garden is full of experiments.
You test everything before you believe it. You have one section of peas planted with inoculant and one section planted without inoculant to see if it matters. You plant carrots with tomatoes and measure yield to see if it made a differences

You collect data.
You have a max-min thermometer to see the actual temperature in your yard. You write down how many days it took pepper seeds to germinate. You record when the apple trees blossomed and when you got your first tomato. You weigh your giant pumpkin to see if it weighs more than you do.

You make use of technology.
You use frost cloth and low tunnels to extend your season, and red plastic mulch to increase tomato yield.

 

You have taste testings to see which tomato tastes better.

You know the variety names of the vegetables you eat.

You love problems in the garden because it means you get to come up with a solution!

In other words, you garden smarter not harder.

You’re my superhero.

 

Photo Credit:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/174796029262705028/

 

 

 

 

Is It Time?

by Sandy Swegel

Is it too late?  Can I still plant seeds?  These are the questions I heard this week.  In our Zone 5 area, garden centers are already starting to discount plants and seasonal workers will get laid off by the 4th of July. Does that mean it’s too late to plant seeds and you should just buy the biggest plant you can find?

Generally, the answer is, of course, there is still time to plant seeds…It’s only June!  For gardeners, the truest answer is always, “It Depends.”

There are a few seeds that it is too late to plant. In Zone 5 or other short growing season areas, it’s too late to plant watermelon or winter squash or tomatoes by seed.  The “days to maturity” info on the back of the seed package tells you that you need 90-100 days before the plant makes its first ripe fruit.  100 days from now is mid-September before you might get a watermelon…that doesn’t work when we might have frost by then…or at the very least cold nights.

The flip side of this question is, “Are there seeds I should plant rather than buy plants?”  Absolutely.  It makes no sense to buy a broccoli or cauliflower plant now for $4.00 when it’s just going to bolt in the summer heat.  It likes cooler weather.  And you could probably buy the broccoli itself cheaper.  But in a couple of weeks, market farmers are starting their broccoli seeds to get their fall crops going. Planting broccoli and cauliflower soon is a great idea!

Annuals are still a great bargain to plant.  I went into sticker shock when I went plant shopping this year.  Plant prices are up about 30 percent in my area.  For less than the price of a 4-inch pot with a marigold, I can get one seed packet of marigolds and have dozens and dozens of plants in bloom in only 45 days.  They’ll be super cute all over the garden and in the vegetable garden, they’ll help repel pests.

It’s the same for cosmos and California poppies and zinnias and all the annual wildflower mixes.  There’s still time.  For perennial seed, some plants might not bloom till next year, but the plants will be strong and it’s a lot easier to start seeds now in the garden where you want them to grow instead of inside under lights in the middle of winter.

Buying bedding plants is great for instant gratification, but gardeners know that if you want a garden full of hundreds of flowers (without breaking the bank), SEEDS are the way to go!

So there IS still time. Lots of time for annual flowers like cosmos and zinnias and sunflowers and bachelor buttons and zinnias and for big flowery herbs.  Then there all those vegetables to seed.  And the perennials you are admiring in bloom now. You get the idea. There is plenty of time to plant by seed and enjoy them this year.

 

Heirloom vegetable seed

Wildflower Mixes

Pollinator mixes

 

What to Unplant

by Sandy Swegel

I’ve been watching my neighbor Tory’s vegetable garden with great interest this year. She worked as a farm intern (ie. Full-time farming, almost no money) the last couple of years and has brought farm techniques to her home garden. Yesterday as we enjoyed the latest harvest of arugula she announced it was time to dig these up and plant something else.  I was surprised since she just seeded these arugula in early March.

From a market farming perspective, you grow greens to harvest a lot of food quickly.  She seeded the arugula early and when they are big enough to harvest she cuts them to just an inch or so above the soil level.  Then she lets them grow again and the cycle repeats.  Plants grown like this produce a lot of food, but they also get tired and worn out.  The plant itself is depleted.  Tory made her decision to dig under the arugula because the plants weren’t growing as vigorously as before and, the biggest factor, they didn’t taste as good. Whether it was the hard fast growth or a recent week of warm weather, the arugula was getting a little too spicy.  It seems harsh, but if you want to keep eating from your garden, you have to unplant the less productive plants.

Things I’ve unplanted this week:
Arugula that has been harvested three times and is losing vigor.HERB, Organic Arugula, Wild
Kale that had overwintered. It was great to have kale from last year’s plants, but the old woody stems are no longer producing as well as the new plants.
Radishes that got bitter.  A week of rain followed by a week of heat made huge bitter radishes. They look great but we crave sweet young vegetables.

Garden more productive and more beautiful.

In the perennial garden, I’ve been unplanting too.
Poppies that have spread everywhere.  They are at risk of becoming a weed.
Plants that have grown too big for where they are planted.
Plants that are blocking sprinkler heads.
Plants that I’ve never liked.

Gardeners are often loathe getting rid of plants. They feel sorry for them.  They’ve come to know them as friends.  But there is a time and season for every plant and a good gardener learns to be a little ruthless. If you want to have succession gardening, you have to create the empty space for the next plant. It may seem harsh, but you have to declutter and make space for new growth!