June 22, 2009
By Jill Schatz, NW VEG Membership Coordinator
July is looming, and hopefully all our veggie gardens are delighting in a warm spell—especially the heat-loving melon starts I've held back until now to plant. But aside from basking in summer's abundance and the harvest of my first zucchini, I'm also still firmly rooted among the gardening decisions I made last winter, while simultaneously strategizing for the coming fall and winter.
I'm contemplating all the soon-to-be-open ground as I pull out the overwintered chard, the corn salad left to self-sow, and the last of the spinach and early lettuce. More space will open up later in July and then August with the harvest of the overwintered garlic, the spring carrots and peas, storage onions and a miscellany of other edibles.
Meanwhile, can a garden ever have too many greens? I ended up with double plantings of kale and collards after I panicked and replanted starts in March, thinking my initial, overwintered plants had perished in last December's fiercely cold winds (before being mulched in by the snow). But the withered and blackened stalks revived, so by April 1st I was eating from both plantings. In mid-June the recovered plants were still healthy and sending out yummy flowering shoots, yet I reluctantly weeded them out to make room for the squash and tomatoes I had planted amidst them in May. And now, despite feeling past ready to move my grazing on to other greens, I'm overwhelmed with the dark green bounty of the "replacement" planting. Rest assured it will be eaten up, if not altogether enjoyed, and not just by the caterpillars and slugs!
I am excited about lettuce and orach (mountain spinach) plantings. The lettuce comes from a seed mix of all types, plus a few of my favorite varieties, so there's a subtle mix of tastes and textures - plus colors in multiple shades of green, red and purple, some with contrasting speckles and splotches. I set out my first lettuce starts in early April, more in late May and then a third planting from seed in early June. I'll tuck in small fourth and fifth plantings wherever I can find space in July and August. I can usually count on at least a two-month harvest from the first planting, but all the later ones rarely last longer than a month before bolting to seed.
My earliest harvest of orach came from self-sown seeds, which I'm following up with staggered sowings (like the lettuce) for continued harvest all summer. Orach tastes a lot like spinach, but has thicker leaves that work well thinly sliced or in a smoothie, and it doesn't cook down to nearly nothing, like spinach. It comes in shades of green, chartreuse, pink and purple; is easier to grow than spinach; and is more heat-tolerant and resistant to leaf miners. A good seed source for orach is Wild Garden Seed: www.wildgardenseed.com.
Mid-June through mid-July is also the time I set out leek seedlings and plant my main crop of beets, chard and carrots for harvest all fall and winter. I have learned to heavily mulch carrots and beets with flakes of straw or blankets of leaves right before the first really cold weather so they won't freeze; this is also helpful for leeks in winters as severe as 2008/9.
But if I want to eat greens fresh from my garden year-round, I can't escape the ubiquitous cabbage family. I know I'll relish it all again come November; especially Savoy cabbage, which I got off to a good start with an early June seeding. Cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts do get a bit buggy for me, but I may still seed some early maturing varieties now or plant starts a little later. And there's still plenty of time to plant fresh kale, collards, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, turnips and rutabagas for fall and winter eating. In my garden, that happens in late July through mid-August.
If you're interested in participating in Northwest VEG's veganic gardening group, please contact Jill@nwveg.org for information.