Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
June, 2010
Regional Report

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First boysenberries!

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 its 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 are 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 for 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 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) are tasty, unlike lettuce (bitter) and mustard (too fiery).

My favorite salvaging of a bolting plant, however, is with leeks. Once they put up their seed stalks and nubs of blossoms-to-come, you can still utilize most of the flesh. Years ago, I'd chopped the whole leek, internal seed stalk and all, 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 seed stalk, 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 seed stalk and hope that the plant will continue growing its edible parts. Once the leek's hormones shift to bolting, there's no turning back.

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