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Beacon Senior News

So many ways to spend time in the garden

Jul 04, 2018 05:22AM ● By Paige Slaughter

In July, we get to be gardeners in every sense of the word. There are so many ways to spend time in the garden, from tending to our crops and harvesting the fruits of our labor to sowing more seeds for fall and winter bounties.

But amidst all the things to do, be sure to take time to rest in the shade, smell the flowers, watch hummingbirds and enjoy the paradise you’ve created.

Harvest broccoli crowns while they’re still tightly in bud, before the florets begin to open up and lose flavor. You can also harvest the lower leaves of broccoli and cabbage plants, slice them into strips and simmer them in salt water.

Harvest lettuce in the morning and soak in cold water before putting it in the fridge. This process of hydrocooling your greens makes for crisper, longer-lasting greens.

To encourage fuller growth and vitality, harvest basil by cutting the main stem, taking about a third of the plant. Cut just above a leaf pair, rather than leaving a stub. Keep your basil in a small vase of water, as you would a cut flower, or set it out to dry, instead of storing it in the fridge.

Seed now, plant later

We are at the peak of summer’s heat, so continue sowing lettuce seed every three weeks for a continuous harvest of tender greens. You can also sow another round of root vegetables to harvest through fall and into winter.

Brassicas like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower thrive in cooler temperatures. Start brassicas from seed this month so you can plant them in August and enjoy a fall crop of these hearty veggies. Brassicas germinate best at 65 to 75 degrees, so start seedlings indoors if you can.

Be a seed saver

Saving seeds opens up a whole new door into the world of gardening. By saving seeds from the plants you grow, you’re helping preserve biodiversity and sustainability. When seeds are grown, saved and replanted in the same place, adaptations develop that make for tastier, more resilient food crops. By selecting seeds from stand-out crops and replanting them the following year, you are participating in the evolution of plants, encouraging specific traits like frost and heat tolerance, pest resistance and richness in flavor to carry on.

If you’re new to seed saving, start with self-pollinating crops like lettuce, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. To save seeds from wet-fruited crops like tomatoes, leave a few fruits on the vine past the time you would harvest the fruits for eating so that the seeds are fully mature. For dry-fruited crops like lettuce, simply wait until seed pods form and begin to dry, then harvest and make sure they’re completely dry before storing.

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  • Seed another succession of tender herbs like dill and cilantro, bush beans, lettuce and green onions.
  • Direct sow carrots, beets, bush beans, lettuce, spinach kale, chard, turnips, parsnips and rutabagas.
  • Plant cover crops in bare sections of the garden to keep the soil alive and happy.
  • Start broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts in trays, preferably indoors.
  • Continue to trellis tall plants like peppers and tomatoes, pinching off suckers from indeterminate tomato plants.
  • Deadhead annual flowers and spring-blooming perennials.
  • Water plants in the early mornings, especially if using overhead watering systems, so as not to damage leaves.
  • Water perennials and your lawn deeply, not daily, to encourage deeper roots and healthier growth.
  • Harvest tender summer squash and cucumbers before they get too big on the vine.
  • Harvest vegetables, flowers and herbs on cool mornings.