Late March Planting = June and July Harvesting
I am not a sophisticated vegetable gardener. My growing expertise focuses on perennials, shrubs and trees. Vegetable and fruit gardening needs to be simple for me to enjoy. If you want to be successful in growing your own crops, I recommend starting off with radishes, swiss chard, and snap peas. The seeds are large, easy to handle and have a high success rate. I find it fun to get the family involved and a great way to encourage future generations to get bit by the gardening bug…
General Planting Tips for Cool Weather Veggies
• Look for seeds that are “open pollinated” or marked “organic”.
• Radishes, chard and peas are considered ‘cool’ weather crops. They can be grown through summer months in succession or you can rotate your crops after harvesting has occurred. I am now planting carrots in place of the radishes. The peas are still producing in mid-July. The chard can be harvested almost year-round.
• Make sure to add compost to give them a rich home to develop strong root systems.
• Build the soil up in rows and into little mounds with compost.
• Take a 6″ wide piece of wood with notches carved into it at every 12″ to use as a template for sowing seeds. Placing the wood sideways twice will calculate 1’ space you need between rows so you can walk through them easily for harvesting and weeding later.
• Water daily to establish seedlings and then whenever the temperature rises over 80 degrees. Check the water saturation level by driving a dry #2 pencil into the soil and see how far it comes out wet. This trick will let you know how far your watering has penetrated into the soil.
• Mark rows with recycled plastic forks to hold seed packets.
• It’s important to keep weeds down so veggie starts can grow as fast as possible. Hand weeding is recommended on all produce.
• Slugs seem particularly fond of young radishes and will nibble on the “fruit” exposed about the soil line. Putting a clean tuna fish can filled with cheap beer will keep the slugs occupied.
• I find it strange that I scrutinize produce at the local grocery store or farmer’s market, but have no problem accepting defects in my own produce. I do not spray for pests or diseases’, so keeping an eye on developing plants is critical. Using a floating row cover may be desirable if you notice heavy pest damage early on.
• Water early in the morning to keep fungal diseases to a minimum.
Radishes Raphanus sativus
|French Breakfast Radishes“Petit Dejeuner”French variety that can either grow long or round. They have distinctive white bands at the bottom followed by deep red to the leafy green tops.||Rainbow Radishes‘Easter Egg II’ These little beauties come in a variety of colors ranging from white, shades of pink, cherry red, deep burgundy, and violet. Exactly round they all have brilliant white centers no matter the outside coloring.|
|Planting||February – May (spring harvest), August – October (fall harvest)|
|Did You Know?||Radishes will be spicier in hot weather as opposed to being harvested in cooler temperatures.|
|Thinning||Thinning is really hard as I want everything to grow and succeed in my garden. But if you do not thin, your radishes will be thin and weak.After 3 weeks, take every 2-3 seedling out and leave on with 1” space between each.|
|Bolting||If radishes are not thinned properly, they will be weak, skinny and small.|
|Flowers||I let a few go to flower to see what the flowers looked like. The flower heads are simple 4 petal flowers either in pink or white. Seed pods grow along the length of the extended stem. While still fleshy, you can eat these as well. Pods have the typical radish bite flavor, but are similar to miniature pea pods.|
|Harvesting||Tops of the radishes should peek from the ground. This variety is the size of marbles when mature. Can harvest in succession.|
|Uses||Radishes are great eaten whole, used on sandwiches or sliced in salads. They can be used in bunches to create a wreath to hang on the door for a unique decoration.|
|Storage||Tips To keep fresh, store fruit in a cold bath of water in refrigerator for up to three weeks.|
Swiss Chard Beta vulgaris
|Rainbow Chard‘Bright Lights’Stalks come in a vivid range of yellow, pink, red, yellow and orange. Large, dark green ribbed leaves.||Container Chard‘Easter Egg II’ Brilliant gold stems hold deep green and ribbed leaves. This particular variety is great either in the ground or in containers for small, urban gardens.|
|Planting||February – September Chard does well in containers and in the ground. Hard seed kernels are easy for little fingers to handle.|
|Did You Know?||Chard heirloom varieties harkens from New Zealand.|
|Thinning||Thinning to 8” apart to allow for ample growth. Bolting One main stem will shoot up a flower spike. To keep chard leaves tender, remove any flowering stem. Flowers Will spring up from a flowering stem. Cut the flower stalk off and use it in an arrangement.|
|Harvesting||Chard can be a perennial in the right conditions. If the winter is mild, it may grow back again the next spring.Continually harvesting will produce shorter, sweeter leaves and stems.|
|Uses||Chard is great in salads or steamed like spinach. It can be used in soups or lasagna.|
|Storage Tips||To extend life, cut stems and store in a glass of water with stems submerged.|
Peas Pisum sativum
|Edible Pod Bush Peas ‘Sugar Sprint’
• A stringless pea variety that is great to grow on bamboo trellises, or iron teepees covered in netting to give the vines something to scramble up on.
• Make sure to train the vines when small to grow upward.
• Large seeds can be pushed directly in soil with a #2 pencil. Mark 1.5″ up the pencil to make sure they are consistently sown to the same depth.
|Planting||February – May (spring harvest), July – August (fall harvest) Soak seeds in water for at least one hour prior to planting. Grows to 24” – 30” tall.|
|Did You Know?||Peas are nitrogen fixing so not only do they provide food, they supply nutrients for the soil as well.|
|Thinning||Thinning to 2” apart to allow for ample growth.|
|Flowers||Simple, pure white pea flowers will cover the vines and be replaced with pea pods.|
|Harvesting||Grab a bowl and pluck plump pea pods off the vines.|
|Uses||Sugar snap peas can be eaten right off the vine and may not make it to the dinner table.They are great in stir fry, salads, dips or served steamed with butter.|
|Storage||Tips Place in Ziploc bag in refrigerator or freezer to use later.|
For Pacific Northwest seed choices; visit the following seed companies online:
• Renee’s Garden
• Territorial Seeds
• Ed Hume Seeds
• Seeds of Change
Great books to research include:
• The Edible Garden, Sunset Books
• Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, Steve Solomon
Help Your Neighbor
Are your beds overflowing with fruits and veggies? Do the neighbors close the blinds and won’t answer the door when you come knocking with zucchini in a basket? Don’t waste that produce!
Plant a Row for the Hungry is a non-profit cause led by Garden Writers of America. Since 1995, over 14 million pounds of produce providing over 50 million meals have been donated by American gardeners.
Please consider planting one extra row of food to donate to those who need it most. Check with your local food bank or better yet, independent garden center that move local produce to people in need.