Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

May Planting & Sowing Tips -- "To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow" -- Audrey Hepburn

Dear Folks,

[Pictured Borage Flower buds and flower.]

This cucumber flavored herb with stunning flowers is one of the mix of edible flowers I sowed months ago and is a joy to behold.

Flower buds are a promise of beauty to come to the garden.

Right now it may seem like viewing tomorrow is difficult for many.  Your garden can be many things to you - solace, recharging your enthusiasm, therapy (pulling those darn spring-charged rains is a nice venting activity --- BUT many of them are edible ones you can add to soups, salads and stews :-) and of course FOOD.  Do not let that fact go by too quickly.  Our gardens and learning how to preserve the bounty has never been more important.

There are conversations surrounding the old fashioned idea of a Victory Garden now during the crisis.  Embrace the concept by doing it and learning more skills (like preserving) as you go.  This excellent article on why the virus crisis has caused so much shopping frenzy is a lesson on what happened when we too-much, and too-quickly embraced "someone else" doing all the food system work.

The article makes a great point:  "When you look at what is flying off the shelves right now, it's flour for baking, it's pasta and tomato sauces and things in bottles and cans . . .People recognize that when things get serious, you want shelf-stable food that doesn't need refrigeration."  

This crisis will pass - keep on gardening and you will be rewarded with harvest, soon -- and also after the crisis passes.

Greg Peterson at Urban Farm interviewed me as a returning guest on his podcast program.  I have to say if you have never attended one of my lectures in person this is a great option to learn what I "learned" from years of gardening in the desert and how it will help you garden more successfully.

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

I have several garden art critter statutes.  One of them is AnnaBelle the goat.  Goats like to climb trees :-), so I placed AnnaBelle in our Saturn Peach tree.  I received some decorate butterflies from my little niece's birthday party and we decided to place the butterflies around the garden - one went on AnnaBelle's nose and the other one on Daisy Mae's nose.

This gorgeous Male Cardinal as been around but mostly I just hear his chirp.  Then he landed on AnnaBelle and was pecking at the butterfly!!  We missed the "peck" but got this cool photo of him checking it all out.  [Taken through a window so a little blurred.]

    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. 

Be safe, be kind, be patient - and keep on gardening,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My perpetual planting calendar and gardening book give you month by month planting information right at your fingertips.  See my website.

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