After you’ve cut the main heads from your plants, fresh broccoli enjoyment can go on and on! To prolong your harvest of broccoli, use mulch to protect its roots from hot sun. Keep on harvesting the side shoots after you cut the main heads. And be generous with the broccoli’s water supply, because tough stems are a result of not enough moisture to the roots.
If you didn’t grow your own broccoli this year, try it next spring. It tastes a lot better than the stuff that comes from far away, and you’ll be impressed at the brilliant green color when it’s cooked and on your plate.
(“Taku”, a recent houseguest from Bella Coola, delicately sniffs the beans)
If it’s not deer or marmots lurking around your yard, what next? Aphid season has arrived again in the Okanagan. Want to encourage aphid-eating, beneficial insects such as ladybugs to hang around your garden? Here’s a recipe for an easy to make spray which can be applied to the leaves of flowers and shrubs near your vegetable plants, or to the leaves of broccoli, carrot tops, potatoes, etc:
In a small container with a lid, mix the following: ½ cup sugar, 2 tsp. honey. 4 tbsp. brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast, and 2/3 cup warm water. In a spray bottle, mix 2 tbsp, of the solution in a liter of warm water. Use the spray bottle to apply the solution to your plants. Apply every few evenings, right after watering down the leaves, or after rain. Keep the container of concentrated solution in your fridge for up to 2 weeks.
A “pocket-gopher-free” garden. . .
Pocket gophers spend most of their life underground, but their presence is shown by mounds of soil at intervals along their runs. They tunnel to the plants, snip off the stem at or just below ground level, and can destroy a planting in short order. Sometimes they pull the whole plant into the tunnel so you wonder where it went to!
The following was developed for moles which are not in the Western part of North America; however, pocket gophers perform a similar role of stirring up soil, bringing deeper soil to the surface, all of which is good for the soil, but not your plants if they find and fancy them. Non-lethal remedy (adapted with remaining amusing comment from Josephine Nuese. The Country Garden) Take equal parts of castor oil and a liquid detergent (2-3 tbsp for a large watering can), add a: little warm, repeat WARM, water and with a beater (egg or whatever) whip up this repulsive mess until it is foamy. Then put two or three tablespoons of this into a watering can of warm—repeat, warm—water, mix well and, using the sprinkler cap, douse the soil where the pocket gophers are (see below). Best time to do this is when the soil is wet, after a rain or hosing, so that the oil can penetrate more deeply. And saturate the area, really soak it, not only the runs but the adjacent soil as well. Two or three dousings may be necessary where gopher numbers are high. This treatment will keep the area free of pocket gophers for from three to six months depending upon how serious the problem. They particularly love pea plants though, so be warned as to where you plant peas!
This does not harm the Pocket gophers or the plants, but the animals recognize the toxin in castor oil and tunnel elsewhere.
Are you picking peas yet? Whether edible pod or shelling peas, those first bites are a delicious early-summer treat. They won’t stay that way long, however, unless they are picked regularly. To keep them at their tender best, peas need to be harvested every second or third day, particularly during a hot spell. That sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but the difference between sweet young peas and starchy over-mature ones is worth the effort.
And in case you’re short a few crops in your own garden, here’s a link to fresh local produce sources on the Okanagan.
Last week we talked about cool nights causing basil to suffer. Cool nights can have a slowing effect on other growth, too. A number of you have expressed concern about the small size of your tomato plants. They particularly don’t like those cold winds, and the drops in temperature after rain storms. When I plant my tomatoes out in early to mid-May, I put a plastic wall about two feet high around each one. In my location, the main purpose is to shield them from cold north winds, but the plastic also holds in a little of the day’s warmth. Now, in the third week of June, the plants are peering above the plastic, and I can safely remove the walls.
It’s the middle of June and time to plant basil out into the garden. What? You planted it out in early May and it’s just sitting there? That’s because basil doesn’t like night temperatures to fall below 15 degrees and most of our nights so far have been several degrees colder than that. John from the former Benchland Nursery said that some spots in the South Okanagan experience night frosts up to the middle of June. Baby your basil, and you’ll be rewarded with branchy, bushy plants that will provide plenty of leaves for pesto and salads.
Check this link from a PUAA member who has been inspired by C.URB to start her own garden. Click here to read her post! Below is a photo of some of her efforts:
A C.URB vegetable gardening course last fall provided an informative section on planting and growing garlic. We learned that it’s a good idea to cut off garlic scapes before they flower. You’ll be rewarded with larger bulbs when you harvest your crop.
For those new to garlic growing, the scape is a tubular shoot that grows from the centre of the plant. The seed pod may be at the top of the tube, along the middle, or at bottom of the tube, as in the above photo.
If you have many garlic plants, and want to cook with the scapes, you can look up various recipes such as garlic scape pesto, sautéed scapes, etc. A little “pre-harvest” taste of your forthcoming stash of home grown garlic bulbs!
Many of you will be starting to enjoy the lettuce, mizzuna and other greens that you planted in April. Did you know that you have choices as to how you harvest? Some gardeners pull the entire plant for a one-off feast. Others pick the largest leaves from each plant, leaving the others to grow. Still others grab a pair of scissors and quickly shear part of the row or patch, knowing that the shorn plants will renew their leaves at least twice for future harvesting.
I haven’t had luck shearing spinach or bok choi; if you have, let us know your secret.
Much of May has been warm, windy, or both. Such weather dries out our garden soils very quickly. We need to keep fragile young vegetable plants from drying out, too. As a general rule, they (and most other annuals) don’t survive long if the soil around their roots dries completely, so we need to check regularly to make sure there is moisture in the soil. Contrary to my usual rule of “Water seldom, water deeply” we may need to irrigate our veggie gardens more frequently, especially if we are gardening in raised beds. Just make sure there is always some moisture in the top three inches of soil.
A good way to keep the soil moist is to mulch it. A light cover of grass clippings when you are planting can be increased as the seedlings grow taller. If you can’t obtain grass clippings, newspaper, cardboard, even boards laid between the rows or plants will all help to keep the soil’s moisture from evaporating when the sun burns and the wind blows.
We may no longer have a place to give gardening courses, but we can use our Facebook page and website to offer tips on how to get the most from your gardening efforts. This week’s tip is for all of you who have bought bedding plants these past two weekends. If you haven’t already set them out, make sure you harden them off, especially if they came out of a greenhouse. Put them in a shady place for a day or so, and then into morning sun, before finally planting them into their sunny final location. If you have already planted them, and they look a little wilted when the afternoon sun hits them, shade them with boards, pieces of cardboard, fabric—whatever you can find to protect them from the full force of the sun. Their roots have been shocked and they can’t take up water fast enough to keep the leaves crisp. They will thank you with more vigorous growth once they are established.