Okay, so now it’s June and you are basking in the joy of a job well done. You are probably sitting in your yard every evening, staring at those finely raked beds with all of their glorious little sprouts coming up, congratulating yourself for all the hard work you have done, and dreaming of ripe tomatoes to come. Maybe (if you are a real overachiever) you are even eating some greens already. You’ve gotten your vegetable garden planted (At least you should have. If you haven’t, put the paper down and go get it done. You’re behind the ball!). “What now?” you think, “I’m really only getting started.” Sure, there is the weeding and the watering, but isn’t there more to all this gardening thing than just tossing some seeds in the ground. Maybe you come from the camp of, “Dang, that was a load of work for a few freaking tomatoes that I have to wait for months to harvest. What the heck do I do in the meantime?” Either way, The Garden Guy is here for you (at least when it comes to your gardening needs).
First of all, you can keep planting some of your annuals. Here is where planning comes in really handy (For some of you, this may apply to next year because you have already maxed out your space.) Carrots, scallions, beets, radish, cilantro, parsley, dill, lettuce, and Asian greens can be planted pretty much all summer, in succession, in order to keep getting harvests of the choicest quality. If you have a little corner of a bed, or a row on the edge of the bed, or an area that did not germinate well, you can fill in that area with a few of these. Or after your first planting of lettuce comes out, when it begins to bolt (goes to seed) or gets bitter, you can follow with carrots, and vice versa; as carrots and radishes harvest, follow with lettuce or greens. I also like to do a succession of beans every two weeks until the about mid-July to keep bean harvests coming for a longer period of time (this is the same with peas in the cool season). After I harvest my garlic in July, I do a fall crop of carrots in that bed for storage crop.
Say you’re tired of annuals though. They are a lot of the three W’s: work, watering and weeding. What other options do you have? Why not try some perennials. “Perennials?” you say, “You mean like daisies and stuff?” Well, yes, but I’m talking about edible perennials. “Edible? You mean you can eat daisies?” (That’s you again.) Well, not exactly, but there are lots of great perennials for eating. This is a subject that I will get into in much more detail in future episodes, but I have some suggestions for a few great ones to get you started.
First off, perennials are plants that have a multiple-year life cycle. They come back year after year, whereas an annual that has a one-year life cycle. The benefit of perennials is that they require a lot less of the three W’s. One of my favorite spring greens salads is made up of sorrel, red veined dock, salad burnet, and watercress, mixed with a touch of lovage or bronze fennel. Another great perennial vegetable is asparagus. This fantastic vegetable comes in purple and green varieties and comes up earlier than any other vegetable in the garden.
More on perennials in later episodes but now I want to answer a few emails I received from folks.
From Sierra -
My plants are small and scrawny! Last year and this year I started tomatoes from seed inside. They started out great, but since I started trying to harden them off, they've kind of crapped out. They don't seem like they're growing. Many lost leaves or died altogether. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Any ideas? Thanks, Sierra
Well, Sierra, you may be putting them out too early. I received your email just after the last episode went to the editor in April. If you are trying to get them out before the middle of May, it’s just probably a little too cold. Tomatoes need warm soil to thrive. Starting tomatoes from seed requires a lot of direct sunlight to establish strong stems, otherwise they get leggy and weak and become very susceptible to rot. If you do not have a really sunny spot, try supplemental lighting with a T5 grow light.
Next from Jan -
Hi Garden Guy,
What can I do to remedy iron chlorosis in my raspberries? How can I make any iron in the soil more bioavailable? OR how can I add a bio-available source or iron - either as a dry fertilizer or foliar feed? We grow according to organic standards.
Oftentimes chlorosis in the soil is not a function of too little iron in the soil (Au contraire, there is quite a bit of iron in our soils.) It is more likely that the pH of your soil is too high (or alkaline) and the iron becomes unavailable to plants. Most all of the soil (and water) in our region is alkaline. Watering with high-pH water will increase the pH of the soil over time. The remedy is to lower the pH to a more neutral 7, or in the case of berries, even a slightly acidic soil is best. In my opinion, the best way to do this is to add compost, and water with compost tea (which we will discuss in another episode). Soil microbes occurring in the compost will naturally balance the soil. If you want to lower the pH more rapidly than our microbial buddies can, gently add soil sulfur over time to slowly change the pH. Rapid increases of one mineral can throw off the balance of other minerals in the soil. Adding an acidifying agent (like vinegar) to your water may also help if your water is highly alkaline. Again, gently change the pH by adding small amounts over time. As always, patience is key to building healthy, balanced soil. Nature has its processes and it’s best to allow it to work in its own way and time.
Thanks for the questions, folks…. and till next time, Happy Gardening!
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