Sally Mullins

Crazy weather aside, this has been a good growing year. We have had many gorgeous flowers so far and more are on the way.

I have seen some extraordinary daylilies in yards this year that I never noticed before. Our deck geraniums are more proliferate than they have ever been. So if you have nothing edible growing in the garden, sit back and enjoy your porch or deck.

However, if you do, this is the time of year for harvesting and reaping the benefits of all that hard work growing those veggies in your garden. Picking at the right time is crucial and it’s going to happen throughout the season. Even seeds planted at the same time are not going to ripen all at once. That being said, you’re sure to have a glut of one vegetable that you’ll need to recruit help picking, but for now, it’s pretty much going out every day to see what’s ready. Gathering produce as soon as it is ripe encourages the plant to produce more and remember, this may not be the time when bigger is better.

No one needs to tell you tomatoes are a work in progress all summer long. Hopefully you planted the right varieties and enough of them for canning if that is your goal. If you run short, Spring Valley Farm market always has canning tomatoes. Personally, I prefer freezing to canning, but tomatoes are the big exception and this is my year for it.

If you are new to this gardening business, keep the seed packet so you have some idea when to expect results. Gone are the days when every bean or squash grew the same. These days there is so much hybridization for specific characteristics, such as size and harvest time, you can’t take anything for granted. Mark your garden calendar with the date you planted and the expected harvest date. However, with the variable weather, these dates are always an approximation.

Some veggies should be harvested when they’re small. For instance, Zucchini should be picked when they’re 6 to 7 inches long. When they get large, as they will till the end of the season, grate and freeze them to be used later in bread or cookie recipes. Bag them in freezer bags of different sizes, depending on how much you use for each recipe. We have a friend who always makes tasty relish with shredded zucchini. I sauté grated zucchini with diced onions and serve it with some shaved Parmesan cheese. This recipe works equally well with frozen zucchini. Use a food processor to thin slice zucchini and summer squash and freeze it in small sandwich bags for use in soup. Neither has a strong flavor so they blend easily into any soup, adding only more nutrition.

You can also slice zucchini into thin rounds and dip them in milk and bread crumbs (or flour or panko) and sauté as you do summer squash. Slicing lengthwise also works well. For the most part, I peel veggies and all fruit. But the skin of zucchini holds a lot of vitamins, so if you don’t have to for digestive reasons, it’s better not to peel zucchini.

Marigolds are a summer garden staple and if you need some color you can still find them for sale in many places. Place them in and around your garden for some sunny color all through fall. Let some seeds fall around the yard and when everything dies in October, collect some seeds for next year’s flowers. Marigolds have many wonderful qualities, but attracting slugs is not one of them. Try a couple cucumber slices in a small aluminum pan placed under the plant to control them. I know I told you this earlier, but sometimes you forget when the problem actually shows up.

Impatiens are a beautiful bedding plant, but with all the rain, she may become leggy and need cut back. Leave a couple inches on the stems to encourage new sprouts at the base and give her a bit of fertilizer to hasten new growth. She will reward you with many more flowers.

Just remember, we are at the beginning of the harvest season, so plan accordingly for your bounty. And don’t forget your neighbor or that family having a difficult time. Even a couple tomatoes or zucchini would be welcome. You could even offer to share if someone will help you with canning. Yes, I know this is a frequent topic with me, but trust me, it will make you feel good to help someone. It’s also something valuable to teach your children.

 

Questions can be left at the Hampshire Review office or emailed to me at thegardenpath@hotmail.com. Please put “gardening” in the subject box and leave a phone number so I can get back to you if necessary.

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