by David Hinks

It has been another great week for the vegetables such as broccoli and onions (shown in the following photo) that like cooler temperatures and a lot of moisture. These onions were planted from sets in the later part of April and will be ready to harvest in mid-to-late August. I continue to be very grateful that nature continues to provide rainfall in abundance. (I do know that we would all like to see just a bit more sunshine!)

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The following photo shows yet another advantage of creating raised beds. This is perhaps a bit of an extreme situation with heavy soil and a site that does not drain well but you get the picture. Just a few days of having the roots submerged keeps most plants from breathing and generally leads to their demise. 

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One of the benefits for me of creating a garden is the habitat that it creates for many other living creatures. Some birds, such as the robin in the photo, are quite happy to coexist in close proximity to us.

IMG_7162 About six weeks ago I mentioned the need to know what type of weeds you are trying to eliminate in your garden. Some like dandelions have a long tap root – if you are able to get the whole root the plant will not come back – however any piece of root left in the ground will regenerate. Perennial grasses are difficult to eliminate as they have long horizontal roots that may stretch half a metre or more. These are best removed with a spading fork. A rototiller will break those roots into little pieces, every one of which will send up a new plant. The following photo shows what this looks like. The whole area was rototilled and growing beds were prepared but the perennial grasses had not been eliminated before hand. Now they are back with a vengeance.

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The garlic continues to grow very well. They too like lots of moisture. The flower/seed heads that grow on a long stem from the middle of the plant are called ‘scapes’ – they can be snapped off and then minced and used in cooking. They have a strong garlic flavour. Connoisseurs recommend that they be used as soon after picking as possible as they become tough quite quickly.

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 The theory is that if the scapes are removed the garlic will put more energy into the bulb which after all is the part of the plant that we want to harvest. The garlic will be ready to harvest by early to mid-August when most of the leaves have withered and died. They should not be left in the ground much longer as they can split their skins and then will not store well.

I am continuing to weed, hill-up, and add more straw mulch to the potatoes. Now is when we start to learn if we missed any eggs that the adult Colorado potato beetle was able to lay before we hand-picked them and tossed them into a bucket of soapy water. When the eggs hatch the pupae are voracious and can strip the leaves off a plant in short order. The pupae are small and extremely numerous and by far the hardest stage at which to kill the pest. The following photo shows a small group of the pupae that are chowing-down on the potato plants that by the way are loving the cooler weather and lots of moisture.

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The beets and beans in the following photo were planted a month ago. They took a long time to germinate and are growing quite slowly.  They could certainly use more heat and sunshine.

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While we are still a long way away from a meal of fresh beans from the garden, nonetheless it is time to think about planting another bed with beans and beets and maybe carrots. A month or so ago we talked about the concept of succession planting.  Rather than plant all of the beans at once, plant some every two or three weeks thus spreading out the harvest over an extended period. This can continue over the summer. The average bush bean takes about 50 days from seeding until harvest (beets 55 to 60 days). Given that the weather will likely start to cool off considerably by mid-September, I will want to plant my last crop of beans about mid-July. This also creates the opportunity to have more than one harvest from the same plot of land – I will be planting my later plantings of beans and beets in areas where I have harvested lettuce, spinach, peas and early onions and potatoes.

Mid-August will also be an opportunity to plant vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and other greens that will grow very well as the days get shorter and cooler in the fall. The trick is to get them to germinate in warm soil. Frequent watering may be necessary.

So as you can see 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