MAY IS YOUR LAST CHANCE
In May, if your garden looks barren now, you’re in for a rough summer! You have to get out there while there are still some days that aren’t as hot as it will surely get and get some plants in the ground and established, now! You missed taking advantage of those wonderfully late rains we had this year, but if you act with alacrity, you can still get a garden in that will serve you over the summer months.
Set out small starter plants of cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and okra. If you can find the red okra, even if you don’t eat the stuff, the flower and fruit are so beautiful, it will be the stunner in your summer garden! And someone will eat it, I’m sure. Buy packets of seeds and plant rows of beans (I plant some green, some yellow, and some for drying) and, if you have the room, or you just jones to grow your own, sweet corn. (It’s not common among folks not raised in the country, but I know the feeling and I empathize.)
Set out squash – both ‘summer’ and ‘winter.’ Squash is the only food I know that we call ‘summer’ or ‘winter’ in relation to when we eat them. Both are planted in the summer, but the winter squash has a hard rind (think ‘pumpkin,’ which is a winter squash) while the summer squash, think ‘zucchini,’ doesn’t. You can find lots of different summer squashes in the nurseries – I find most of them watery and not very palatable. I do like the really light green zucchinis – my current favorite is called “Lolita” a sweet flavored zucchini without the watery texture.
Winter squashes are not all that popular these days – you’ll need to find seeds for them – but be careful: some of the winter squash plants are really large – they are vines and some of them will ramble all over the place and not even apologize. If you do have the room, I think you will come to love these wonderful winter mainstays of times past. Despite their size, many of them are delicious and can be cooked in a myriad of ways from grilled to soup purees.
In fact, I’m working hard to grow a lot of winter squash and drying beans. These foods coupled with fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) and potatoes, once fed entire cultures through the winter months when there was no fresh food to harvest. I’m interested in that kind of self-preservation these days – foods that can be grown in one season and saved to eat later – without freezing or any other preservation techniques or energy expenditures.
Heads up for the near future: I am starting a bee hive this year as a part of learning how to be more responsible for a larger amount of the calories in my own diet and I’m sure the bee hive adventures will show up in these pages. Unlike most beekeepers, I have chosen to use a ‘top bar hive’ which will produce less honey, but will be kinder to the bees and the beekeeper. I’m very excited and I hope you will look forward to learning about these amazing pollinators of so much of our food plants.
Grandson of a Great Plains farmer, David King is the Garden Master at the Learning Garden, on the campus of Venice High School. He shares his love of the land and music through teaching, writing and playing in a folk/country band. Contact: email@example.com