Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

May Planting Tips

Dear Folks,

Time for my monthly planting and gardening information.

But first news from the garden now.

Through the end of April I will be harvesting the last of our Asparagus for eating. THEN I let the plants grow all of their "feathers" (fronds) all through the summer and winter, and we cut the plants back to the ground around December 15th or so.  The fronds feed energy bay into the roots for more production next year.

I was so pleased with the way my dense plantings of sugarpeas performed this winter, I decided on a tomato/cucumber "hedge".  Normally I allow, and recommend, my tomato plants to sprawl, which keeps them "out of" the heat high up and down nearer the moist ground.  The except is if you plant a hedge or forest of them where their combined size and associated humidity help the plants.

The zig/zag hogwire (hardware cloth) trellis was what worked so well with the sugarpeas and I am looking forward to it assisting with this tomato/cucumber hedge.  Most of these plants I grew in my greenhouse, some of the cucumber plants I sowed extra seeds in and one of the tomato plants was a volunteer.  We shall see.

I LOVE my Johnny Jump Up lawn each year, filling the space with green and then a parade of lovely little faces.  These edible flowers are just plain fun to grow, freely re-seed each year (some winding up in garden beds which is just fine with me.

My limequat keeps us in limes pretty much all year as limes and lemons tend to flower and produce fruit multiple times through out the year.

I used the lime juice to make a salad dressing and to squeeze over soups.  Gives them all that nice sparkle.

I tucked some last minute tomato and eggplant seedlings into a bed with cardboard tube collars to protect from bugs and one of our chicken wire "hats" just to visually keep the birds away.

I have been using chicken wire "hats" in different shapes and sizes for years to get young plants going well protected from the critters.  Works great.  After a while I can take the hats off and the critters, unable to get to the plants, have basically forgotten they are there.

Slivered raw asparagus, lime juice, fresh cilantro, dill and chervil finely chopped all wound up in this barley/quinoa salad I made for a friend's party.  I added other veggies too and topped with a piece of Dark Opal Basil I pinched off to make the plant bush out and some Johnny Jump Ups parading across the top of the salad.

I hope you use your edible flowers whether something like the Johnnys or others to decorate and enhance your meals.  I have floated them is soups too!

May here in the desert garden means 'hot' weather is coming for sure.  This year we had an unusually warm winter and our first official 100 degree day was April 10th.  Several days later our HIGH temperature was 25+ degrees cooler!  Global weirding as its best.

May Gardening Tips

Artichoke, Jerusalem
Beans, Soy
Fig Trees
Fruit Trees (With Care)
Melons, Musk
Peppers, Sweet
Peppers, Chilies
Potato, Sweet
Squash, Summer
Squash, Winter
SEED IN:  Basil, Chive (Garlic or Onion), Epazote, Egyptian Spinach (Corchorus olitorius) Perilla, or Catnip-- making use of the canopy of flowering or vegetable plants.


Impatients Wallarana
Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii)
Roselle (sow)
Scented Geraniums

    By the end of the month harvest the rest of your potatoes, keeping the smallest ones as “seed” potatoes for next January — store in cardboard egg cartons in your crisper -- don't store near other vegetables or fruits.

Planting sweet potato, and sowing Roselle and Egyptian Spinach will give you a wonderful selection of “lettuce” leaves options all through the summer.
    As more and more flowers open and fill the air with their perfume, all the pollinators enjoy the garden as much as you, including bees.
    Swarming is where a new queen goes looking for new digs, taking with her some of the workers (as many as 50,000).  Swarming bees are a challenge to deal with because of the Africanization of the honey bee population.
    But intelligent handling of any contact will not result in a problem for you. First, the bees are not interested in you.  They are usually filled with honey for the new trip and interested in finding a new house before the supply runs out.
    Wear white or light colored clothing while gardening.
    Do not do stupid things to bees!  That should be self-evident, but some of the reports of bee encounters makes me wonder how we have survived as a species.
    If you are near a swarm or they get near you:
    a.  Move slowly and do not make aggressive moves.
    b.  Walk slowly to a house or car and get inside until the swarm moves off.  Keep all pets, children and other people from the area.
    c.  Do not go into the pool!  If the bees have been aggravated, they--will--wait--for--you!
    d. Usually the swarm will move off within a short time.
    e.  If they do not move off, then you have to call a professional service or the fire department.  They will kill the bees.  They do not have a choice because of the danger — and you do not have a choice as a homeowner — they either have to kill the swarm or you have a hive full of dangerous 'neighbors.'

Transplanting and Sowing

This time of year we are in one of those transition times, where going from mild to hot can occur in one felled swoop of heat.

Transplanting vs sowing can be a challenge as transplanting can stress the plants.

1) Harden the plants off by placing in the sun 1 hour then moving to shade, next day in sun 2 hours, move to shade - repeat until the plants have been in the sun for 4 hours and you can transplant then with a whole less stress and shock to the plant.  If the temps are already in the 90+ range double the days for each hardening, e.g., 2 days for 1 hour, then shade, 2 days for 2 hours then shade.  Your plants will thank you by being less likely to die as soon as they are put in the gorund!

2)  Use my "flower mulching" technique for transplant in warm/hot weather.  Get a six pack of flowers at the nursery and either plant your target plant (basil for example) and surround the basil with the flowers (about 5 inches apart), OR plant all at the same time -- imagine a 12 inch circle and plant the basil in the center and 4-6 flower plants around.  Flower mulching canopies the soil and shades the sides of the basil, while allowing the basil to get all the sun it needs.

Use edible flower plants like impatiens wallerana and portulaca to provide 'mulch' around the new transplants.  You can also use Sweet Allysum another edible flower but it can be a bully if it is really happy.  The portulaca does the gardener the supreme favor of dying off completely when the cool weather comes in the fall, although it may reseed next late spring.

3) Sow seeds under existing plants, just under the edge of the plant/flower canopy.

Both the "flower mulching" and the "edge sowing" are variations of the "nurse plant" concept seen in the desert where the cactus seed settles at the base of a Mesquite tree.  Shielded from birds and other critters, the seed, is held in place, watered with the rain and grows up with the mesquite protecting it.

Consider SWEET POTATOES to be planted in late May through early July.  They need 90-120 days of warm weather to grow properly.  I've planted in huge containers and in-ground using leaf cover as I do with the Irish potatoes.  In fact I sometimes use the same bed, planting the sweets after I harvest the Irish.

In case you don't know sweet potatoes, unrelated to the Irish (Solano) family, are completely edible, tuber, leaf and vine.

The sweets can produce an amazing amount of leaf and vine cover so be prepared.  Some varieties are more bushy than others.

Seed Saving

Catching the seed from winter crops like sugar peas, lettuces, celery, parsley, radishes etc. is a way to save money AND get stronger plants the next year.  “Regional adaptation” grows plants more and more suited to your backyard and the area you live.  Remember to perfectly dry them.  I store in paper envelopes labeled with harvest date, in a cool, dry, dark place until next planting time.

Looking at head to June and July, there is little suggested planting options for June, but by mid-July be ready to start seeding (not transplanting) for the fall garden.

If that sounds counter-intuitive, think about wanting pumpkins for Halloween or Thanksgiving and count backwards 90 - 120 days.

Mid-July you can under-seed tomatoes (choose short-maturity varieties) and basil for a fall crop, if you do not have tomatoes or want more.  Tomatoes give us two crops a year (spring and fall) if planted in February.  They stop setting flowers in the middle of the summer because the nights (not the days) are too hot for the pollen to activate.

Save Wood Herb Stems

Harvesting or pruning herbs?  Save woody parts to throw on the grill coals the last 15 minutes to add herb smoke flavor to the food - or better yet do it from the inside out, use woody, soaked branches of herbs to make kabob skewers.

Have a wonderful time in the garden and kitchen!

P.S.  Thank you to all of you who watched the Free Grow Your Own Food Workshop videos.  Thank you also if you chose to sign up for the full workshop.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Gramma Connie said...

Your gardening experience here in the desert is invaluable! Do you give tours if your garden? I would love to see it!

Catherine, The Herb Lady said...

Hi Gramma Connie,

I am so pleased you find my posts helpful. Our gardens are private so we do not offer tours, but I try to give you and other readers a good idea of what grows and how they grow in the garden.