Summer Garden Veggies
VEGETABLES FOR THE SUMMER GARDEN
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.
This has been another cool spring – our third cool spring in a row! So it is not too late to get your summer veggies in the ground, even though ordinarily we’d be planting them in mid-May.
How does YOUR garden grow? Some people think buying the variety-of-the-year vegetable guarantees them success. Alone, this spells failure. A successful garden starts with the “bones” of the garden – the quality of the soil, sufficient sunlight, and proper drainage among other preparations. That is followed by the proper care of your vegetables. For detailed information about preparing and maintaining a successful summer food garden, check out Master Gardener Joe Michalek’s article,When to Plant Vegetables in Sonoma County.
Once you have followed Joe’s suggestions for preparing your garden beds, make a list before plant and seed shopping. The choices at your local nursery are tantalizingly endless and, if you are not prepared, can lead to impulse-buying. Don’t overbuy. Most small families only need one or two of most plants or one seed packet when direct-seeding.
If you are new to vegetable gardening, personalize the following list of ten vegetables which might fill a typical raised vegetable bed:
1. Slicing or salad tomatoes such as ‘Beefsteak’ and/or an heirlooms
like ‘Brandywine’ or ‘Purple Cherokee.’ If you make fresh sauce or can tomatoes, consider a plum tomato such as ‘Roma.’
2. Cherry tomatoes. They generally ripen earlier, and bear later in the season than slicing tomatoes, and who doesn’t want a snack in the garden? Click here for variety suggestions.
3. Eggplant. Try a long, slender Japanese variety which usually matures sooner; or grow ‘Rosa Bianca’ which is delicious stuffed.
5. Summer squash. If you do not have the room for it to wander, grow it upright on a frame on the north side of the bed or select a bush variety. It doesn’t have to be green zucchini. I prefer yellow summer squash (check out ‘Cube of Butter’ which has a tender skin).
6. Cucumbers also can be grown on a frame and include bush varieties. Personally, I like to eat the small, crunchy pickling cukes but most people prefer a slicing variety (‘Raider’ is a good performer).
6. Sweet peppers. Unless you love, love, love green peppers, try a red sweet pepper (e.g., ‘Sweet Cherry’ for stuffing or ‘Italian Long’ for frying).
7. Hot peppers. If you don’t like it too hot, try an Anaheim pepper.
8. Scallions or bunching onions. Sow again in July for a later harvest.
9. Beets. Not a beet fan? Grow ‘Chioggia’ or a golden variety and serve it roasted. You will be a convert.
10. And, don’t forget some culinary herbs to season your dishes. Some common easy-to-grow herbs include parsley, thyme, sage, chives, basil, oregano and rosemary. Pinch off any flower buds for best leaf flavor and to keep some plants from bolting. If your veggie garden is elsewhere (community garden or “back forty”), consider planting herbs in a sunny area near your kitchen so that they are convenient for snipping.
Of course, you are not limited to the ten suggestions above. Plus, some garden beds still include vegetables planted last fall or in early spring that still may be producing such as string beans, peas, garlic, onions, carrots, cabbage, etc. Plan to replace these plants once they are no longer productive. See our Vegetable Planting Guide for an extensive list of vegetables that can be planted at this time and throughout the summer.
Local nurseries can fill most of your plant needs. But, some varieties are only available through catalogs. If you are new to food gardening, forgo the faddish and difficult varieties and look at the catalog descriptions for “reliable,” “hardy,” “slow-bolting,” “disease-resistant,” “prolific,” and similar favorable characteristics. Also, check the days-to-harvest. It is disappointing to plant a vegetable mid- or late-summer and not have enough summer days for it to mature. Refer to Choosing Vegetable Varieties for varieties recommended for Sonoma County.