Late Spring in the Garden

By Peter Heffelfinger

Posted June 1, 2020


First Brassicas

The early spring plantings of brassicas finally emerged this week from their protective cocoon of floating row cover, revealing small heads of broccoli that will be cutting size soon, as well as cabbages just starting to head up. It’s always a pleasure to free up the maturing plants straining against the white cloth, having successfully avoided any root maggot fly infestation, and only a few snails hiding out on the lower leaves. It is also a reminder that the late spring/early summer crop of brassica starts will need to go in soon. The cycle of year-round cole plants keeps turning.


I usually wait until June 1st to plant corn, allowing the soil to heat up to 60F degrees. Too often early sowings succumb to seed rot and poor germination. This year I jumped the gun a bit during the sunny week after Memorial Day and got my corn planted. Hopefully the day of rain that came soon after will be just enough to start the seed growing, but not too much to cause a problem.

Corn is always a favorite crop, if you have the space to grow it, as well as a reliable supply of water. Corn plants require consistent watering for their tall stalks, large leaves and the eventual ears. I enjoy the sound of the rustling leaves in the wind, and am always amazed at the process of the tassels shedding pollen down to fertilize the delicate hairs that lead to each individual kernel.
With the recent pattern of warmer summers, sweet corn has become more reliable to grow in the Northwest garden. I plant three varieties, a standard yellow such as Bodacious, a bi-color called Peach & Cream, and my favorite, a long-season white such as Silver King.
Corn is one of the easiest vegetables to process for freezing. I blanch the ears for several minutes in boiling water, quickly chill in cold water to stop the cooking, and then slice off the kernels with a sharp knife. To preserve the real sweetness of fresh corn, use the back of the knife blade to scrape down all the milky juice from the cob and mix it in with the cut kernels. When defrosted and cooked for just a few minutes you will have the taste of fresh corn, almost as good as ears of corn fresh picked from the garden.

Tomatoes, Peppers, and Cukes

In the hoop house, tomato plants are leafing out vigorously and climbing up the rungs of the cages and a few flowers are appearing. The important thing is to trim off any lower leaf stems touching the soil, to avoid fungus infections. Consistent watering is required to promote steady growth as well as to avoid leaf curling, which can be a sign of either too much or too little water. To complicate matters, individual varieties may show different levels of water tolerance. Out of my 20 tomato plants, only one variety, a Sweet Million cherry tomato, has signs of leaf curl but still looks healthy, so I eased up on the water a bit. Gardening is always a mix of monitoring and adjusting.

Some of my peppers, bought early on from one source, were lagging behind others purchased later, so I dosed the smaller plants one time with liquid fish fertilizer, 2 tbsp. per gallon of water, to green them up a bit. I also pinched back all the peppers after they were planted, removing the first solo top buds in order to encourage branching and a greater number of secondary buds.

The cucumbers are finding their way onto their wire trellis, from the early Marketmore slicers, to the later planted Persians just starting appear, as well as a few pickling cuke starts just added to round out the collection. At some point in the summer there will be a first salad featuring homegrown cukes, tomatoes, and peppers to go with all the fresh lettuce that has been growing outside the hoop house.

6 thoughts on “Late Spring in the Garden

  1. Keith

    The magic of hoop houses and Remay tunnels gives us so much of a boost and protection for our early plantings and all summer protection from carrot root fly . They make gardening more successful and pleasant…… Glad you appreciate them too, Peter !!

    : )

  2. Jan Hersey

    I pinched back the peppers while they were in a greenhouse awaiting their move to the hoop house. Now that they’ve been moved about 10 days ago, should I pinch once more? Most are still quite small.

    1. Peter Heffelfinger

      Since the peppers are quite small I would say that one pinch is enough. You just want to clip the lead bud once in order to encourage the side branches to grow out and develop more secondary buds.

  3. Heidi Rooks

    I am probably a bit of an optimist in regards to my gardening, but I was wondering if there is a place in town where I could donate an overabundance of produce (should I have any). I was envisioning a farm stand where the produce is free or something like that…
    Thank you for the Blog.

    1. Peter Heffelfinger

      The Anacortes Food Bank accepts produce donations. There is a sign on R Avenue next to the Salvation Army office with contact information. Thanks for your generosity.

      1. Kristi Hein

        Anacortes 100 is on 4th Street on the way up to Cap Sante. And the family shelter on 27th accepts fresh produce donations. These, and SA, are the places we take donations from the community garden’s food bank plots.

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