Gardening, cooking and eating, I love to do all three. What better way to combine these passions than by vegetable gardening. There are so many reasons to grow your own produce: the joy of getting your hands dirty, the thrill of seeing the tiny starts grow and mature, knowing exactly what went into and on your vegetables and enjoying the fresh picked flavor in every dish.
I have been growing and harvesting vegetables as long as I can remember. It was a family ritual that I thoroughly enjoyed. I have gotten very good at cramming a lot into a small space, starting when I was first married and living in a second floor apartment with a small balcony. Currently my landscape is filled with mostly ornamental plants, a side yard of herbs and fruits and two small raised beds. After much experimentation, I plant the larger bed in spring/summer producing plants like beans, tomatoes and zucchini and leave the smaller bed for either longer term plants, like onions and shallots, or for shorter and off-season plants, like lettuce. Right now, in the larger bed I have an overgrown mess of zucchini, basil, volunteer dill, glads, tomatoes and beans. I’m not sure what happened to my bed lay-out. I swear I planted less than last year. But that is the subject for a different article. In the smaller bed, I have onions and shallots I need to harvest. In the back I have prolifically growing beans. Why these are doing better than the beans in the other bed I don’t know.
So, right now I am really ready to get the onions out of there because now is the right time to plant fresh vegetable starts for fall and winter harvest. In the past I have planted too late and not gotten the prolific growth I would have expected. When I think of the term “fall and winter vegetables” I think of planting time not harvest time. But August is the right month to be doing most of planting of starts in the garden. Direct seeding is done anywhere from early July to mid-September, depending on the type of vegetable. Planting of starts happens in August and early September. I am itching to get more lettuce planted. The slugs have been missing their greens, too! I’m wondering if I can fit in some spinach, too. I have some kale and swiss chard in the other bed, so I don’t think I will make room for them. I am having a problem with leaf miner on my swiss chard. The last time I planted spinach I had it on those, too. I am told that using a floating row cover (remay, or Harvest Guard are other names) will keep the leaf miner out. The row cover also keeps out the moths that lay eggs that grow into the green worms on broccoli. If I use it for the leaf miner, I could grow broccoli and not have a repeat of the “extra protein” experience the last time I grew it. (I’m not super queasy but the sight of green worms in my beautiful, steamed broccoli just didn’t work for me).
The biggest question is will I use all of what I grow? I’m eating salad once a day, almost every day, so it really does make sense to grow lettuce. Plus I love the sight of the rows of red and green lettuce. It almost looks like a quilt or a painting. I will be sharing, intentionally or not, with the slugs and snails. If I grow something different than she does, I could trade some produce with my sister for chicken eggs. At the nursery, we just got in a fresh shipment of vegetable starts. I’m going to pick out my plants tomorrow.