In our area of East TN, we are in Zone 6b. I thought I’d give a little update about our garden and list some tips and ideas of things you can be working on in your own garden. If you are in a different zone, don’t worry, much of the information can still apply to you.
We have had a few thunderstorms this week, and I have been out to the garden daily to check on the plants. I am beginning to think that the bell peppers will need staked, as they have taken such a beating with the heavy winds and rains. We picked the first bell pepper of the season today! While I could have waited a little longer to pick it, I am planning to bring a salad to a friend tomorrow, and it was the perfect addition.
Tip—Visit the garden daily if possible. This will help you keep track of what needs picked, staked, weeded, or attended to in some other way.
We have not needed to water this week because of the rain. We used 5 gallon buckets, watering cans, and the kiddie pool to collect more rain water to reduce our usage of water from the house when we do need to water. If you collect water like this, it is best to later cover the buckets with the lid for both water safety and to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. (We also have a rain barrel, but we try to conserve water in every way we can).
Tip--If your area has not received as much water as ours, check the plants and ground daily to see if they need watering. It is best to water in the morning and to water the ground at and around the plant rather than the leaves of the plant.
I thinned the butternut squash today and passed the extras on to friends. The beauty of the butternut squash is that they were grown from seeds saved last year. If we continue to save seeds, we could indefinitely grow them for free.
Tip—Plan to save seeds for next year. It requires very little effort and is so rewarding. If I had bought those organic butternut squash seeds, I would have paid over $2 a small pack. I shared the seeds with 3 other friends and the seedlings with 2 other friends. I still have more seeds if I wanted to do a succession planting. Talk about saving money!
This week I received two of my favorite bulb catalogs in the mail Beauty from Bulbs and Van Engelen. Both companies are under John Scheepers, and Van Engelen offers wholesale pricing for bulbs. I enjoyed looking at all of the many varieties. I plan to put some more daffodils and galanthus in the garden this fall. If you have never planted galanthus, I highly recommend them. They are a small species with a white and green bloom. They are often the first of the spring bulbs to bloom, and I have seen them come up with snow on the ground before.
Tip—Begin planning your fall vegetable garden and fall plantings of perennials now. Many of the fall vegetables are planted in the garden in late summer (end of August/early September). If you do not already have seeds for your fall garden, you might want to go on and order them. Many companies are running sales on garden supplies this time of the year. Ask a friend if she wants to order with you to help save money on shipping. Bulbs are usually planted around mid to late October in our area, and they can be ordered at any time. The people who order earliest are able to get the best selections.
Perennials fair best in our zone when planted in the fall. If you are looking for varieties of daylilies to put in your garden, check out the daylily festival at Oakes Daylily Farm in Corryton. The Daylily Festival takes place Friday and Saturday, June 26 & 27, 9 am - 3 pm. The benefit of attending festivals such as these is being able to see the plants in bloom up close. When I first attended, I had marked a number of daylilies I liked in the catalog. Then when I saw them in person I only liked about half of them. I found other varieties that I had not noticed in the catalog but were beautiful in person.
Keeping up with the garden and CSA has been both fun and challenging. We receive a large basket full of organic produce each week for $30 as part of the CSA (community supported agriculture) to which we belong. The hardest part thus far has been the lettuce because I do not know a way to preserve it. One of the joys of having so much is being able to bring lettuce to friends and neighbors. As far as waste, we have only had to compost a bag worth of turnip greens, and I hated that I had let them go to waste before I cooked them.
The photographs are of this week’s CSA basket. Included are 2 yellow onions with greens, a bag of sunflower sprouts, a bag of sugar snap peas, mixed cooking greens (collards, turnip, mustard), turnips with tops, Swiss chard, beets with tops (red, yellow and striped), green cabbage, a grocery bag of kale, a gallon of mixed salad greens, a head of lettuce, and 3 heads of green garlic. With all that we have in our home garden added to this, we have already been able to start preserving foods for the winter.
Tips—Stay on top of your produce. Learn ways to preserve foods through dehydration, canning, and freezing. If you plan a trip away from home this summer, ask a friend to come and pick your produce. This will encourage your plants to continue to fruit. If you have not already started a garden journal, do so now. Start recording when you begin to harvest different vegetables and fruits so that you can have a plan for next year. For instance, I know that last year around the 22nd of June we harvested blueberries from a local farm. I know that I need to call the farm and plan on canning and freezing berries this weekend. In your daily trips to the garden, make a mental note of when plants are in bloom. I know that when our zucchini blooms we have another few days before it is ready to pick. This helps me to plan our meals and consider what will need preserving.
Consider joining a CSA next year. If you are new to CSAs, I recommend that you split a share with a friend. We split a share the last two years, and this year we decided that we were ready to try to have our own basket. If you are planning on being out of town, ask friends who might be willing to take your basket that week or would pick it up for you.
Weeding is probably the most frustrating part of gardening for most people. I try to weed a little here and there when I am out in the yard so that it does not become an overwhelming feat. Other than the grass problem in one of the beds I have told you all about before, the weeds do not get out of control in most of the gardens.
Tips--If you haven’t already added mulch or ground cover, consider adding it now. Weed a day after a rain so that the ground is loose.
I hope these ideas and updates have been helpful to someone out there. Sorry that there were not more photos. I’ll work on that for next week. Happy Gardening!