In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Spring Into Summer Veggies
Our extraordinarily cool Spring and now Early Summer has been a boon to working in the garden and getting seeds and seedlings going. In past years, we%d already have had a week or two of 100+ degree weather that%s unpleasant for people and plants alike. This year, we%ve even had some drizzles to keep air and soil temperatures mild. With the wonderful ground-soaking winter rains, trees and more shallow plantings have come bursting forth with great gusto.
My tomatoes have reached or surpassed their critical two-foot mark, when I allow them to keep their blossoms. Before that height, I pinch off any blooms that appear because I want all of the plant%s energy to go into continued development of roots, stems, and foliage to make strong plants. With this great establishment, I then let them %divert% their energy into producing the fruits that is my payoff for all the garden space, water, compost, and labor that I devote to them. I also plant additional tiny seedlings of determinant varieties, as a second crop in mid-August and September. Yum to come!
Transition time on our dinner plates! We%ve enjoyed the last artichokes and asparagus, along with the first yellow crookneck squash and boysenberries. Sweet and edible peas on trellises have been replaced with cucumbers and beans. Some now-shady spots under deciduous trees now protect the late-planted Russian Kale and chard, and I%m still foraging individual bok choy leaves and tender stems from bolting plants.
An unexpected fun discovery has been which foliage plants still taste fine once they%ve started to bolt % bok choy, parsley, cilantro, and beets (both foliage and bulbs) % unlike lettuce (bitter) and mustard (too firey).
My favorite salvaging of a bolting plant, however, is with leeks. Once they put up their seedstalks and nubs of blossoms-to-come, you can still utilize most of the flesh. Years ago, I%d chopped the whole leek % internal seedstalk as well, since it sliced just like the regular flesh % and put it into a stew. However, eating the finished dish was difficult because we had to fish out the now-cardboard-textured bits of cooked cellulose. Since then, as soon as I see that emerging seedstalk, I pull up the plant, remove the central stalk, and slice the remaining outer layers into my recipe.
And no, you can%t just snap off the seedstalk and hope that the plant will continue growing its edible parts % once the hormones shift to bolting, there%s no turning back.
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