s we progress towards the official start of summer, crops should be growing nicely and almost set to provide us with our first harvests. The first harvest of the year is always my favorite, the first tomatoes usually end up on the kitchen counter sliced and eaten raw. Then we do BLTs, salads of all sorts, tomatoes in our omelets, on toast, and we still have a ridiculous amount to store for later. Our basil is usually on the same trajectory. Over the years storing the food and learning different ways to do so has become a hobby itself. Canning, dehydrating, freezing however you choose proper storage allows you to extend the life of your harvest well into the next growing season.
Lakewood Victory Gardens
As the calendar flips to June, most of us have planted our gardens and are now tending to them diligently. Early crops are being harvested while summer crops are setting root and reaching for the sun. Now is the time when a little extra effort can make the difference between failure and filling your pantry and freezer for winter. The month of June should be dedicated to pruning, feeding, and planning.
Pruning or pinching your plants encourages branching, builds stronger stems, reduces disease, and increases your harvest. Two plants that are fun to pinch to promote branching are peppers and rosemary. Pinch the top set of leaves once your pepper plant has 6 or 8 leaves. You should also pinch the first set of flowers on your peppers or at least harvest the first peppers a little early to promote much larger crops later in the season. Tomatoes should be pruned to promote air circulation and allow sunlight to the fruit. Greater air circulation in the garden helps fight blights and mildews. If you planted row crops such as radishes or carrots, your pruning now is also called thinning. Make sure you provide adequate space for your crops to reach maturity.
Feed. Feed. Feed. Making sure your garden is well fertilized is essential to bountiful harvests. Regular feedings of an all-purpose fertilizer should be applied as recommended as well as any supplemental feeds. For the all-purpose consider Plant Tone or Happy Frog All Purpose, these organic granular fertilizers should be applied monthly for most vegetables. Additionally, for plants that bear fruit, consider a calcium supplement. Bone meal and lime are good choices for tomato gardeners looking to avoid blossom end rot. Do not spend all summer tending to your plants for little to no harvest, because you didn’t feed them. Container gardeners should consider more frequent feedings as nutrients are depleted from pots at a quicker rate than the ground.
A woman approached the checkout at the garden center last week and asked if there was anything we offered that would successfully repel squirrels from her vegetable garden. Another lady, six feet away at the closest, chimed in, “You know how we got rid of them at our church?”
“No Ma’am, how?” I inquired wondering where this was going.
“We made them members, now they only show up on Christmas and Easter,” she answered as the room broke into laughter.
If you have fought critters in your vegetable garden, you understand how maddening it can be getting to harvest. The suburban garden is under relentless attack by the animals and insects around it as well as the families that grow them. Properly preparing for such an invasion can save hours of frustration and countless profanities.
Squirrels are consistently the pest we seem to be helping customers fight off at the shop. Although we have tried numerous approaches over the years, the best defense against squirrels is always an enclosure. Some sort of frame with a chicken wire wrap is the best defense. In our own experience a combination of repellants paired with aromatic herbs around the edge of the garden has been the most effective approach. One approach we are excited to test this year is hanging Christmas ornaments on tomato plants that have yet to fruit. The idea is to use a red ornament in the shape of a tomato, the squirrel comes to claim its prize and finds out this tomato is not appetizing and avoids your plants for the duration of the season.