Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Going Green: Early July Vegetables

In the past few weeks, the garden has changed a good deal. We have already harvested green beans twice. They are lovely cooked slow and low with a little bacon or lightly blanched with salt and butter. But, my oldest son prefers to eat them raw from the colander as we pick.

The lettuce continues to produce in abundance. We have provided lettuce for our neighbors and the children's grandparents. Green salad is our preferred potluck dish of late, too. The response is always the same, "this is from your garden?!? You're kidding!" (There is usually very little left to bring home.)

There is something wonderful about feeding your family produce that you've grown at home. We all participate in the planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting. It really is a family enterprise. But the eating is the fun part. It is nutritious and so, so tasty. And I cannot believe how much money I am saving at the grocery store by growing my own food. My second son told me the other day, "Mom, guess what? We're farmers!" I guess he's right.

In an attempt to be a better 'farmer', I've recently taken out a couple of books from the library on year-round gardening and succession planting to extend our growing season. I'm thinking of putting together some cold frames to grow my own seedlings next year too. The books are helping me to plan my fall chores and to begin the layout for next year's garden. The hottest time of year is good for that -- and I don't need sunscreen to do a little research.

This is also the time of year to think about a watering program. I watch the weather each week, and if we've gone three days without rain, I give a good, soaking evening watering to all my beds. I use a sprinkler with a timer, set to between 1/16 and 1/8 inch depth. That works out to about 40 minutes to one hour for the widest path. It may seem like a lot of water, but fewer, more drenching waterings are better for plants than frequent, more shallow spraying. When the water soaks down deeper into the ground, it encourages plants to send their roots deeper. As an alternative to the sprinkler, we also water individual plants with the water from the kids small swimming pool. It is good not to let 'recreational water' go to waste, and the plants don't seem to mind if kids have been splashing around in their evening drink.

Our water table has been so high with the wet May and June we've had that I want to encourage further root development. I've begun a bi-weekly feeding of some my vegetables, to ensure they have enough nutrition to fruit well. The heat has helped our pumpkin and muskmelon/cantaloupe vines begin to take off. They are already in full flower. The tomatoes and peppers are already setting fruit. They seem very healthy with few pests so far. (Keep your fingers crossed.)

Since I took out the last of the Spinach at the end of June, I have planted eggplant (a first for me) and cucumbers. All the plantings are doing extremely well so far, but we'll see how they progress. The oregano and cilantro/coriander are in bloom, as is my dill. The heat is really making the basil -- self-seeded from last year's crop -- take off, too.

That's the veggie update for now. I can't wait to begin harvesting later in the month. When I do, I'll be sure to share some recipes on my family recipe blog, http://allsecretrecipes.blogspot.com/ .

Until then, happy gardening!

Midwest Mom
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