Early Summer Harvest & Seasonal Additions

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Early summer is about the most delightful time for gardening, especially this year as the temperatures have stayed moderate for the most part, the evenings have been cool, and the vegetables have been thriving. We could stand to see a little more rain, but occasional watering and the brief storm on June 12 have kept the plants happy so far.

And the harvest has begun in earnest. Asparagus and strawberries are already done, the first batches of spinach and lettuce are eaten and the early peas (Little Marvel) enjoyed. The second planting of these vegetables is well on its way to maturity before the hotter weather sets in. The Red Norland potatoes are almost all gone (see video of harvesting potatoes), and lately I've been picking broccoli and cauliflower.

Continuing the succession planting method I employ, in the space where the potatoes were, now there are two rows of bush beans. In the space where the peas were, I planted two hills each of Patty Pan and Butternut squash, and in another so far unused corner of the garden, my pole lima beans and a cucumber plant. My preference is to plant only one cucumber - more than that and the yield can quickly overcome the need for something crunchy to put into a sandwich or a salad.

Another recent addition to the garden is my corn plot. In late May I started 20 bi-color (Sweet Ambrosia) corn plants, followed by 20 more two weeks later. I'll do this twice more, so eventually, hopefully, 80 stalks of corn will cover one whole plot. Each successive planting is four rows of five plants. Because corn requires pollination, by planting in this block-like fashion, the wind can easily spread the pollen from one plant to the next. And by spreading out the harvest, I'll have many weeks to enjoy what may be as many as 160 ears of corn.

Of course, not all is perfection in my garden. The cabbage moths began to flit around several weeks ago, busily laying their eggs on the undersides of the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower (pictures), and recently I discovered Colorado Potato Beetles on both varieties of potatoes, with their neat rows of yellow-orange eggs (pictures). Left undisturbed, these little pests can quickly consume the plants before they get a chance to grow. Normally I scrape off the eggs when I find them or pop the little caterpillars into a container of diluted kerosene. But when a heavy infestation gets underway, it is time for other measures. I use Rotenone powder, applied with a handy duster, (picture) to lightly coat the tops and bottoms of each leaf. That quickly stops the little munchers.

Another threat to my harvest is some kind of nocturnal visitor, perhaps drawn by the organic material I bury routinely in the garden beds, which likes to dig around some of the plantings, occasionally killing them in the process. Whether a feral cat, an opossum, or a raccoon - I've had each in the past - I get out the Havahart trap and transfer the critter out to the countryside, well away from my garden. My philosophy is to share the garden's bounty with nature's creatures but when they get destructive, it's time for them to go.

At this time of the summer season, when adequate rainfall is less predictable, it might be a good time to add mulch to your garden to conserve moisture in the soil and help suppress weeds as I have done on several of the plots (picture of sweet potato plants).

As for the bees, at the end of May I added a third honey box to the beehive because the first two were already full. With the current dry spell, the honey flow has now come to an end, but the bees were very busy up until then, and it looks like there will be a very satisfactory supply of honey to harvest in the next few weeks.