Okay my dear friends, gardening season is in FULL swing. Which is part of the reason why I have been hanging around on the blog a little less often lately. I’ve been busy outside playing in the garden and soaking up the sun. Also we’ve been going on random beach adventures and impromptu frozen yogurt dates. You know, the important things in life. How have you been enjoying your summer? Doing anything super cool? The weather here has been a lot hotter and drier than typical years, but my plants are loving it so I am not complaining! My two raised beds are off to the races and I am getting excited for some fresh produce! So here is a roundup of my July 2016 vegetable garden along with some helpful tips for your home gardens!
BED 1 (NO TRELLIS)
So, my first garden bed I did some different stuff in this year! I attempted (and sort of failed) at doing the “three sisters” of gardening. The Native American sworn-by method of companion planting corn, beans, and squash. Well, any amount of research on my part would’ve told me that I did NOT do it correctly. Number 1) I didn’t do any squash, so technically it was just a two sister deal. Number 2) Instead of interplanting the corn and the beans I did corn on the right and beans on the left. I somehow assumed all of the beans would just naturally float all the way over to the corn stalks to grow. They didn’t. But, it actually would’ve been a fail anyways because the corn took FOREVER to germinate and take off. I actually wound up planting a second batch of seedlings before it got going. And by this point, my beans were beastly and would’ve totally crowded out my baby corn plants. So, overall, I am going with semi-fail on that one because it kind of worked out in the end. And look at these adorable itty bitty baby beans!!!
My advice for this: if you are going to do the three sisters … definitely give your corn a head start of about 2 weeks. Beans germinate and take off much quicker and you want to make sure your corn has time to establish before the beans get going. Otherwise, your corn will not make it. Also, make sure you intermix the corn and the beans that way the beans will grow up the corn stalks.
Aside from the two sister deal I’ve got going in this bed, I’ve also got all of my pepper plants! Which, I think because of the weather, are bigger than I’ve ever had at this point in the summer. I mean, they are SO happy and healthy looking this year I am so excited. Last year, the rainy and cold start to the summer made my pepper plants tiny, yellowed, and just straggly looking. This year, much improved! My only issue with the peppers is that some of them are being smothered by over zealous bean plants. I also planted my peppers closer together this year than in years past. Instead of one per square, I did 3 plants per 2 squares in a zig zag pattern. So far, so good. I will let you know at the end of the summer how the spacing plays out, but as of now, they have plenty of room and are actually seeming happier closer together.
Lastly in this bed, I planted a square of basil and a square of cilantro. I am always amazed at how much better herbs do in my raised beds than in containers. While herbs work just fine in containers, they really go crazy in the raised bed. I discovered this last year by accident when I somehow mistook my basil seeds for my spinach seeds. Well, picking a spinach salad, I quickly realized that it was most certainly basil and NOT spinach. Then I was pretty excited that I had so much beautiful basil. So this year, I did basil AND cilantro in my raised beds and the cilantro did just as awesome!! I got one HUGE harvest off of it, but now, as cilantro always does, it has bolted. I am going to rip it out and reseed it again and I’ll hopefully get another big harvest in August!
My advice for this: If you have a raised bed or a garden in the ground and have the space, give herbs a try in them. Intermix them with your veggie plants. Aside from possibly growing a lot better (like mine have) herbs also are great pest and critter deterrents. With their strong scents, they are supposed to keep a myriad of animals and bugs away! Worth a shot, if you ask me!
BED 2: TRELLIS
So, my second garden bed is taking off a little slower than my first one. It is definitely a lot less exciting to look at. So, sorry for that! My transplanted tomatoes kind of sucked this year. Let’s just be honest with it. They were straggly from the get-go and that snow storm we got in May (yes, you read that right … snow in MAY!!!) kind of stunted their growth. They are FINALLY out of their funk and actually starting to bush out nicely, but it has taken longer than I would’ve liked. But, oh well, what can you do! I’ve actually got some baby tomatoes taking hold, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. My cucumbers are the same story. They took a long time to actually start doing anything, but now they are starting to climb up the trellis, flower, and grow baby cukes! Yay!! I am expecting these two to really start taking off this month, so we shall see. My huge trellis looks pretty stupid right now with these little plants barely on the first rung, lol.
I’ve also got my carrots and celery in this bed, which are both doing awesome!!! My carrots won’t be pulled until Sept/Oct but they are looking nice and leafy green. My celery is just starting to get big enough to where I can start taking stalks off when I need one or two for a recipe. I planted my celery at the base of my tomato plants in hopes that when the tomatoes get larger, my celery will appreciate the shade. Celery is actually more of a cool weather/shade crop, so I am trying to create than environment for them in my raised beds. I have had trouble with my tomatoes getting so large and shading out whatever was in front of them. Then, the plants in front would kind of just slowly die off because they weren’t getting any light. By putting a shade tolerant plant in front, I should be able to better utilize all the space in my raised beds all summer long!
My advice for this: Try planting shade tolerant veggies (celery, lettuce, spinach, etc.) in front of your tomatoes. That way, when the tomatoes get big and shade more of the raised bed, you will still be getting a great harvest! Also, if you are growing celery, just pick off what you need as you need it. There is no need to take the whole bunch of celery at once. If you take a stalk at a time, it will keep producing more stalks!
I have been fertilizing both beds with Garden Tone by Espoma. It is a great overall fertilizer to use for all of the veggies in my beds. I have also been using crushed up egg shells for my tomato plants, which adds calcium to the soil. Tomatoes love added calcium and grow much better with it. Plus, egg shells are free! Rather than throwing them in the trash or compost bin, throw them straight into the garden.
OVER TO YOU: What are you growing? What are you excited about harvesting this year? Have you gotten any harvest yet? Share with me in the comments or share pictures with me on social media using the hashtag #simplefreshnatural. I’d love to see!