by David Hinks

It has continued to be great growing conditions for vegetables such as broccoli, kale garlic and potatoes that like cooler temperatures and a lot of moisture. I continue to be very grateful that nature continues to provide rainfall in abundance. Not only does it allow me to spend less time watering it also is benefiting the trees and shrubs that suffered badly in last years drought. The following photo shows a broccoli plant just starting to form a lush succulent head. I will keep an eye on this so that I can harvest it and steam it at the peak of its flavour.

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The following photos show a couple of groups of kale. These two kale cultivars (cultivar is just a contraction of the two words cultivated variety) are very edible and at the same time they add beautiful shape and colour to a front-yard herb garden.

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The other plants in the herb garden also continue to grow very well. The following photo shows a grouping of sage (in the foreground), lovage in the centre and French Tarragon in the background. Lovage is not as well known in North America as it is in Europe where it is known as Maggikraut and is used to make the flavouring extract called Maggi. The plant can grow up to five-feet in height and produces more leaves than any cook could ever use. But it is a stately plant well worth having in the garden. As well the blooms attract hosts of tiny, beneficial parasitic wasps that prey on many common garden pests. Lovage is a preeminent soup herb with its leaves that taste sharply of celery and parsley. The leaves can also be chewed as a breath-freshener.

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The garlic and potatoes as shown in the following photos have now been weeded and a fresh new layer of straw has been applied as mulch. Now the hard work of the past couple of months should begin to pay off. These two crops are virtually maintenance free (with the exception of patrolling once a week for the larvae of the Colorado potato beetle) until harvest time which for the garlic will be about mid-August and for the potatoes I may start pulling a few hills about that time in order to have the most delectable new potatoes that you can imagine. The main potato crop will likely be harvested towards the end of September when it can be put into the root cellar.

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IMG_7236 Both the chilli peppers and the bell peppers have started to form fruit as shown in the following photos. However the eggplant has hardly grown at all since being transplanted into the garden. Both they and the tomatoes and zucchini could really benefit from some sunshine and heat. Bring it on!

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Speaking of tomatoes the following photo shows tomato plants that have reached and exceeded the top of their cages. I will probably add some much higher stakes to keep these tomatoes growing upward.

In very general terms there are two basic categories of tomatoes – determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes grow to a relatively short height of three or four feet and much of the fruit ripens at the same time. Many of these are paste or Roma tomatoes and these are the tomatoes that you might grow if you wanted a lot of tomatoes at one time for processing or canning. Indeterminate tomatoes just keep on growing and tend to ripen just a few fruit at a time. At the end of the season the vines might be eight to ten feet in length. These are the tomatoes to grow if you just want one juicy red tomato to slice for your BLT sandwich at lunch.

In terms of pruning or suckering tomato plants there is a lot of mythology about the best way to grow tomatoes. Many people believe that suckers (the branches that develop where the leaves join the main stem) should be removed so the plant puts more energy into the fruit on the main stem and that lower leaves should be removed to help prevent blight. Generally I do not sucker or prune my tomatoes. I tend to believe that it is a waste of time and may even contribute to sunscald as it reduces the foliage canopy. The key to healthy plants is to set down mulch under the plants and have them all caged. That being said tomatoes are very vigorous and adaptable plants and whatever has worked for you is the best way of doing it.

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As I said last week it is not at all too late to start a vegetable garden. Seeds of short season vegetables such as beans and zucchini can be planted now with a reasonable expectation of success. Vegetable seedlings such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers may still be planted as well – in all likelihood seasonal garden centres at box stores will have these plants on deep discount soon as they wrap up their operations for the season.

There are still a few growing beds available at the AugustaParkCommunityGarden. There is absolutely no charge. If you would like to have a garden bed please let Jeff at Mills Community Support know that you’re interested. Jeff can be reached at jmills@themills.on.ca