Veggie gardening a summer celebration

Wendy Crist, garden column

The moon was new last Wednesday evening, putting us well into another waxing or active moon phase for gardeners.

In this peak summer gardening period, active garden activities might include starting another crop of lettuce, radishes, cilantro or broccoli raab (rapini). These are all rapid growing annuals in the veggie garden.

Yes, I know it’s hot and they are wont to bolt, but there are ways to mitigate this tendency — planting in the shade of a tree or taller crop like corn, beans or sunflowers; covering the bed these crops are in with row cover and/or increasing the amount of water to these beds.

Of all these solutions I believe creating a haven with row cover has been the most satisfactory for me.

It could also be time to start broccoli, brussels sprouts or cauliflower seedlings for a fall crop.

In former years I’ve talked about starting these crops in August, but in my experience this hasn’t provided enough time for these crops to reach maturity.

Last year my brussels sprouts only got to about eight inches tall before the first frost. Ideally these crops, once they’ve produced a harvestable product benefit, in increased flavor, from a late fall or early winter frost.

Grower’s Market opener

The first of the summer’s Dunsmuir’s Grower’s Markets last Saturday was a great kick off to the season. There was live harp music, fresh produce from local gardens, Sylvia Flores’ tamales, artwork and a wonderful ambiance of community.

Getting back to the benefits of row cover, I ran into Al and Sharon Lowry at the market who shared with me their own favorable experience with row cover the last couple of years.

Al had pictures of their little mini garden — his old darkroom sink. “When I retired in 1999 and closed my darkroom I stored the sink ‘just in case.’ When we moved to Mount Shasta in 2000 the sink came too. (It is a plywood box with a center drain.)

“The first summer we decided to make a planter box out of it. For several years we watched the critters feast on our salad bar. Then, last year it dawned on us to make a cover.  (Did we get the idea from you Wendy?) We found some row cover on the Internet and made a frame from PVC pipe. Our crops have thrived.”

I’m wondering what took us so long to start using row cover? I’m so impressed with the marked results that I’m extending its use in the garden.

Not only has it kept the critters and bugs at bay, it has provided a little sheltered oasis for lush plant growth. I think this is why my peas did so well this year, along with being grown along side several other companionable plants.

This may be a solution worth trying for those of you out in the hinterland having problems with foraging rodents — voles, squirrels and chipmunks. It’s worth a try don’t you think?

Along with using row covers I would suggest planting a small area outside of the garden for the critters as a further deterrent. Has anyone out there had any experience with these methods? Please let me know how it’s working.

The Community Compost group is back in full swing. We’re still throwing around ideas about how to structure our venture, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for pushing ahead.

Our next meeting will be Sunday, July 27 at 10 a.m. at the Brown Trout Cafe.

I will be at the Grower’s Market in Dunsmuir every Saturday, selling my veggies, listening to stories about gardening and always willing to field questions. Hope to see you there.

In the meantime remember, time spent with nature in the garden or by a creek, makes the world look brighter and helps you feel lighter.

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