Vegetable garden in June

Vegetable garden in June.

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It’s time for a June accounting of the vegetable garden, seen above in a photo taken June 6. The tomatoes, planted out between May 19 and May 23, were covered with bed covers for a week or so. I took them straight from the indoor grow light to the garden and covered them immediately. This strategy substituted for hardening them off by taking them outside to a sheltered spot for a few hours each day. They haven’t really taken off growing yet, but the weather has been cool so that may also be a factor.

The tomatoes are now in cages, as can be seen in the photo above, except for the Celebrity tomatoes, a determinate tomato that does not need support. For details on tomato varieties, please see the post Tomatoes in June.

The larger plants, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, pole beans, peas, garlic, leeks, and onions are mulched with salt hay. Drip irrigation hoses have been laid out under the mulch. Everything, except the asparagus bed, has been weeded once. The salt hay mulch will help to keep the weeds from growing and the moisture from evaporating. Much of the heavy work was accomplished in May. Now it’s time for the garden to grow and produce an abundance of good food.

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Pepper plants were planted out from May 23 to May 25. Since I ran short of superhoops for bed covers, I decided to cover the peppers with white waxed paper caps, as can be seen in the photo above. As the weather warms and the peppers grow, the waxed paper caps can be torn back to allow more light and water in. In the end the caps can be composted. They seem like a good thing although, of course, they are not reusable. The white waxed paper caps are still covering the peppers because the night-time temps continue to be in the 50s. The forecast is for 80°F. daytime temps for next week, with night-time temps in the 60s. Hopefully, with warmer weather, the tomatoes and peppers will flourish. Right now, they are just sitting around. Please see the post Peppers in June for all the details on June peppers.

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The only other bed that is covered, seen covered above and uncovered below, contains Toscano and Red Russian kale. The cover is protection from cabbageworms or loopers, not because of cool temps. You’ve seen those fluttery white butterflies around gardens. They are the parents and progenies of cabbageworms. If you’ve ever plopped a batch of carefully washed–or so you thought–kale or broccoli into hot water or broth and watched in horror as little green worms float to the surface, you know why I find it necessary to keep the kale bed covered at all times. The cover is water permeable, so the kale thrives beneath the light-weight cover and the butterflies don’t get in.

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Otherwise, the June garden contains leeks, garlic, onions, peas, eggplant, pole beans, spinach, carrots, lettuce, radishes, arugula, turnips, Swiss chard, asparagus, strawberries, summer squash, and cucumbers. In no particular order, some photos and descriptions are given below to set a benchmark for how the garden grows as the summer progresses. Or doesn’t. Additional posts will be written about each vegetable as their progress warrants some extra attention. It’s fun. Watching a garden grow. Better than grass even.

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Above is a photo of my favorite Fortex pole beans, planted on May 15. Already they are fulfilling my expectations for vigorous growth. A bamboo teepee with twine added supports their growth upward. Beans and peas don’t seem to like climbing up bamboo, but they like twine just fine. They also like to grab hold of the fence surrounding the garden, so they have 2 avenues of climbing support. Lengths of twine are looped over the crosspiece of the teepee with each end tied to an earth staple pushed into the ground near a plant. As many lengths of twine as seem necessary can be secured in this fashion.

In previous years, I often planted too many pole beans in one bed. They became so heavily entwined in the teepee that they didn’t produce well. They need sunlight and air circulation. It’s hard to thin them once they start twining upward, so thin early. Hmm. I’m thinking I should follow my own advice. These may be too thick once again. I always have trouble with planting too thick and not thinning enough.

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OK. I just now went out to the garden and thinned the pole beans. Boy, this posting business is a wonderful thing. Writing about the gardens focuses my attention on what should be done now, not later. I thinned from 3 plants per pole to 2 plants per pole. Now I will know next year if that is a good amount of bean plants or what.

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My next favorite vegetable to grow is the garlic. As I have written previously, I’m very proud of my garlic-growing prowess. I’ve been replanting the same garlic stock for many years now without fail. Planted in the fall on Columbus Day, the garlic develops roots in the fall and starts growing and thriving as soon as the ground warms up in April. When other spring crops fail to germinate in April, look to the garlic to keep faith that all plants will grow in their own good time. Or not. But they will grow if they can, so the gardener’s bargain with the plants is to find the causes for success or failure and adjust accordingly for another season.

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64 cloves of garlic were planted in the fall. 64 plants are now growing robustly. I’m so proud. On June 13 I first noticed their blossoms, called scapes, as seen in the photo above. 64 plants. 64 scapes. I broke the scapes off after admiring them for a while. Most of them go into the compost pile, although a few are saved out for scrambled eggs, a favorite use of them, or any other recipe calling for garlic.

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Much more disappointing are the sugar snap peas. I used old seed, so it’s my own fault. I think I won’t use old seed again. It’s silly to spend the time and effort to do so when seed is not that expensive. I’ve also decided that I won’t plant anything except onions and leeks, and garlic of course, until May 1. I just had no luck with early spring plantings of peas, spinach, and lettuce. Above is a photo of 1 of the 4 pea vines that made an appearance, and that was after 3 replantings. I can almost guarantee that no peas will make it in to the kitchen. They will all be snacked on in the garden. Better luck next year. I love peas. Please see the post Peas for all the particulars about pea planting this spring.

I’ve already written particular posts about spinach, June spinach, and radishes, Radishes, a comparison, so I won’t repeat myself on their account here.

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Onion plants were planted directly into the vegetable garden on April 2, as I reported in the post Planting onions. They’ve been sitting around looking wimpy for several weeks. Perhaps they are developing root structure, like the garlic does in the fall. But at last they are starting to show some life. The photo above was taken on June 11. I planted the same onion varieties last year, one bunch of each, as I wrote in the post Onions. Drip irrigation hoses are running through the beds, and the onions have been mulched with salt hay.

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A few remaining onions and garlic from last year are still being used up. Some have sprouted. They get sent to the compost pile, but the majority are still cookable and eatable. Some are developing a core, which would make them unmarketable, but I’m not marketing them. They still taste fine when used in cooking. Considering the fact that they weren’t stored in optimal conditions humidity- and temp-wise, they’ve done very well to last this long.

I’m reminded of an amusing anecdote relating to the green core in a garlic clove. Ming Tsai, on the TV cooking show Simply Ming, once remarked that he always cut the green core out of a garlic clove and threw it away. He never used it in cooking. Then he felt compelled to go on and confess that his grandmother had taught him this, but she never told him why. A cooking myth. Which brings to mind my mother-in-law’s kitchen rule that the little tail on a turkey carcass should be cut off and disposed of. So I always do. I wouldn’t think of roasting a turkey with the tail on, or a chicken either. My mother-in-law called it the pope’s nose. Now don’t go calling me politically incorrect for saying this. She’s the one who said it. She wasn’t Catholic, but her husband was, and he never seemed to mind. OK, 1 last cooking myth and I’ll stop. A friend’s family of cooks always cut a little piece off one end of a beef roast. I don’t remember what kind of roast it was. Then, when a younger member of the family got around to asking why, it turned out that a great-aunt had a small roasting pan. She always cut a little piece off the roast to make it fit into her pan, so then the whole family of cooks starting doing it too. Cooking myths. There must be hundreds.

But back to onions. The truth is I’m looking forward to using the old onions up and having some fresh new onions from the garden. Some scallions. Maybe some bunching onions, which I discuss below. Some scapes from the garlic plants. I do hope, as far as storage onions are concerned, that  this year’s onion harvest is as successful as last year’s.

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Here is a June update on the onion plants. As the photos here, taken June 19, plainly show, the onion plants are starting to lose their wimpiness. The stalks have grown much thicker. They look healthy now.

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The recent rain, increased drip irrigation, warmer temps, mulching–all these things have helped the onions, I’m sure. I think the idea that they develop root structure first, as garlic does, also helps to explain their wimpy showing in April and May. Remember that for next year.

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Bunching onions, or scallions, are a great embarrassment to me. I thought they were from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, but Johnny’s has only seeds for bunching onions, and I think these were plants. I thought I planted them with the spring onion and leek plants, but there is no record of planting them. I must start keeping packing lists of plants and seeds I order. They will be a backup if I fail to record something in this blog. One of the reasons I decided to start a garden blog was to focus my attention on record-keeping.

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The new onions, or scallions, from one bunch can be seen in the photo above. They are delicious.

Please see post Lettuce in June for a detailed report on lettuce varieties planted so far. Lettuce germination was disappointing in April and sparse in May. Don’t use leftover pelleted seed. I tell myself for the umpteenth time.

There is a spinach update post as well. See June spinach, an update for that report.

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These carrots are not so broad-shouldered or straight as I dreamed of in the post Carrots. Still, they are better than I’ve ever raised before. They are a variety called Nelson, an early variety. They are sweet, that’s for sure.

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Next, I will plant a new variety called Nutri-red with a strong carrot flavor good for stews and vegetable dishes, according to Johnny’s catalog. Will probably replant the Nelsons as well as raw carrots for salads. Remember to think like a carrot. Lighten the soil. Work it well and deep with the broadfork and garden fork before planting. Add compost. Maybe a little leaf mold, which I happen to have at present. See what happens.

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See the posts Leeks and Planting leeks for all the history and planting information on leeks. They have grown well since the last photos were taken.

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Photos taken on June 7 of Soleil summer squash and Diva cucumbers are shown above and below. Summer squash, above, and cucumbers, below, were planted directly into the garden the first week of June. These photos are simply benchmarks to compare future growth and productivity.

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Below are photos of the summer squash and cucumbers on June 16. Growing fast. The summer squash should be thinned. Hmm.

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Weeding and mulching will get the squash and cucumbers ready to grow and produce. There’s a trellis for the cucumbers that will be put back in place.

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Over 2″ of rain has fallen in the last 3 days, mostly in thunderstorms passing through. But the rain has come nicely and soaked into the thirsty soil. The fears of drought in New Jersey have subsided along with talk of water restrictions. That’s good news.

More June vegetables news will be in future posts about individual vegetables as they grow and produce. I hope to record observations that will help me to choose varieties of each vegetable more wisely next year. A worthy goal for a vegetable garden blog.

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