Note: Small Space Gardening by Diane Dryden is a series of garden articles that will run the entire summer with information for both new and experienced gardeners. Every two weeks the articles will update as the gardening year progresses; from picking out a site up to harvest in the fall.
Previous Small Space Gardening Articles:
- Sun Patterns And Soil Types
- How To Read Seed Catalogs, Packets And Difference Between Perennials And Annuals
- Plot Planning, Bulb Starting, Crop Rotation, And Saving Toilet Paper Tubes
- Seed Starting Using Grow Lights, Heat Pads, And Toilet Paper Tubes
- Seed Starting, Determining How Much Of Each You’ll Need, Soil Types
- Growing Herbs And Starting Potatoes
- Early Crops, Container Tips, And Creating A Successful Compost Pile
- 3 Sisters, Watching The Moon, And Finally, Planting Your Garden
- Garden Update, Berry Bugs, Annuals Vs. Perennials, And Trees
- Ponds And Water Features, Wild Flowers, And Garden Update
- Blight, Mildew, And Mulch. No, They’re Not Lawyers, But Just As Intrusive
Small Space Gardening – #12
Second Cropping, Seed Saving, a Garden Visit, and a Few Summer Recipes
WASHBURN COUNTY — It’s hard to believe it’s almost August, and we’re halfway through the growing season already. By now, you’ve harvested your early crops of radishes, lettuce, and spinach, so it’s time to plant them again if you’re not worn out.
These are called mid-season crops, and they are a sneaky way to use up the rest of the seeds in the package. Not all vegetables can be planted at this time of year, and the back of the seed package is your best friend to see which ones are doable.
You’re safe with anything that has 50 days as its time until harvest. The Autumnal Equinox is September 22, and then the cooler temperatures with frosts follow.
Bok Choy, Chinese cabbage, radishes, table onions, spinach, basil, and lettuce are all candidates for a second planting. Some people even sow pea pods and Swiss chard again.
I’ve never grown kale before, and I scatter-planted a 4 x 4-foot bed this year. Raw or cooked with bacon and onions, we didn’t care for kale and weren’t willing to wait for a frost when it ‘sweetened.’ Out they came, fodder for the compost pile, and in went 3 rows of bok choy. Not only can these green be harvested as babies, but they can also stand a few light touches of frost. They are usually only available at farmers or Asian markets.
The thing to remember about second crops is to re-evaluate their location. It often pays to put these second plantings in a cooler spot due to the long, hot, and sunny days still ahead. This is a great advantage of container gardening; you can pull it into the shade if necessary.
Another nice thing about second planting is that the seeds come up quickly because the soil is nice and warm. We’ve under-planted a small amount of basil and spinach with the tomatoes in their containers, hoping for a small second crop.
Spooner’s Ginger and Doug Strunk each have their own gardens. He prefers to plant a wide variety of hostas, and she plants her entire garden in containers. It’s just enough for their needs.
In these raised beds, she’s growing several varieties of tomatoes and peppers along with the marigolds she plants annually as a companion plant for the tomatoes. The back deck is replete with containers of herbs and flowers like rosemary, thyme, and basil. “We have very spotty sun in our yard, so containers work for us. I can locate my plants in the sunniest spot, and I don’t have to bend down so far to tend them.”
Doug has always been a landscape person preferring to plant mainly hostas due to their very sandy, rocky soil and lots of trees, making for very shady conditions.
A year after they built their house in 1965, he bought his first host, Francis Williams. Since then, he’s added around 30 more varieties from the giant Sum and Substance to the tiny Tiara series. He’s partial to the variegated leaf varieties. Because perennials need to be divided every few years, now they have over 75 hostas that grace their rocky, sandy, shady back half acre.
Seeing that they live with a lake in front of their house and woods behind, the deer made a steady path through their property. And deer love hosts. It wasn’t easy, and it took years, but they were able to re-route their hungry guests by using a spray of 1 beaten egg to a gallon of water sprayed on the plants. Now they rarely have anything that wanders into their yard for a snack, and they’ve switched to Milorganite as a deer deterrent.
If you’re determined and do your research, you can garden just about anywhere.
I’m pleased to report that our little 5 x 5 foot Three Sister’s Garden is coming along beautifully. All three crops are up and thriving. I’m researching the art of parching so I can process the Indian corn like it was done during prairie days. After its parched, it will be ground into cornmeal.
The only reason our pea pods, which are quickly coming to the end of their lifespan, are seven feet tall and have already produced almost 2 gallons of pods is due to where they’re planted around two sides of the old compost pile. If you don’t think it’s worth it to create a compost pile, this year’s pea pods are proof that the stuff is indeed gardener’s gold. Typically a pea pod vine is close to 3 feet tall at best, and we only have the equivalent of an 8-foot row. We’ve got cucumbers planted in the middle of the old site, and it’s going to be interesting to see how many they produce.
If the plants you’re growing aren’t hybrid, you can save the seeds. This usually ends up being a Google question for individual plant types if it hasn’t been stated as such on the seed package. If the seeds are not hybrid, the easiest ones to save are tomatoes, peppers, and various beans.
Napkins and those small plastic containers full of coleslaw or dressing that come with a meal are perfect for seed saving. If we’re talking peppers, remove the seeds at harvest, dry them a few days on a plate, and slip them in one of the containers with a note inside as to what they are and which year they were saved.
Tomatoes are easy. After cutting into one, take some of the seeds encased in their ‘jelly’ and smear them on a napkin. Write the date and what the seeds are on the napkin and let them dry thoroughly. To be sure they’re not brushed off at some point, put the napkin or multiple napkins in a plastic bag. The following spring, pull the seeds off the paper and plant them in starter pots.
Pinto’s, Black, Navy, and Kidney beans that are harvested after their pods have dried completely can be put directly into containers. One container for use during the winter for food, yum, baked beans, and a smaller one with seeds to save for the following year’s garden.
Store all your seeds in a dark, dry place until the urge overtakes you in the spring and you have to start something.
A quick family favorite recipe for cucumbers is:
- Fill a pint jar with 2 cups of sliced cucumbers and onions
- Cover with 1 c. white vinegar and ½ c. beam
- Dash of both salt and pepper
- Cover and place in the fridge
These can be served several hours later as a basic condiment or drained and covered in sour cream and sprinkled with dry or fresh parsley. Double the recipe for a quart. These will keep in the fridge for a week.
Okay, I have to add one more recipe that uses just about any vegetable and is super modern.
Quick Pickled Vegetables:
- Mix 1 c. rice vinegar- it’s milder than the others with ¼ c. water
- If you use regular vinegar, white or apple cider, add ½ c. of water
- Cover 2 cups of assorted vegetables, cucumbers, zucchini, red onions, carrots, radishes, peppers, etc., with the liquid for at least 30 minutes.
These keep for several weeks in the fridge.
Due to the position on the moon, weeding is most effortless between July 20 and August 5. The dark of the moon arrives on July 28.
Next time, a garden visit with a retired family physician who doesn’t like to weed, so he’s into straw bales big time, more recipes, and drying your harvest.
If you have suggestions, comments, or wisdom, let me know. It’s always appreciated.