Mid-June in the Garden

by Peter Heffelfinger

Posted June 15, 2020

Early Herbs

In late April and early May, when I transplanted tomatoes into the hoop house, I also put in three pots of basil plants in a warm corner to guarantee an early supply of the herb to go with the first ripe tomatoes. I am already pinching off the lead buds to prevent the plants from forming flowers. Keep them bushy and green. Otherwise one has to wait until the warmth of June to plant basil outdoors.

I also have a perennial bed of white-flowering Greek oregano that is just starting to form buds. It escaped from the garden soil where I originally planted it years ago and took up permanent residence in the dry, rocky fill of a old driveway. Some herbs thrive under stress. I harvest it just as the flowers start to bloom and hang the long stems in bunches to dry in the cool pantry. Note: the common purple-flowered oregano is very bland in comparison to the more spicy Greek strain.

Oregano

This past week I put in starts of coriander that will flavor the fresh salsa made from the tomatoes. Coriander goes to seed extremely quickly, so keep the flowers picked off and do multiple plantings for a steady supply all summer. The same technique applies to arugula, which will form flowers as soon as possible given our long hours of summer daylight. Last fall I planted some perennial, olive-leaved arugula, which overwintered successfully in large planters by the house, and is only showing a few flowers so far this spring. Hopefully the plants will continue on for another season. Note: it is a very strong-tasting variety of arugula that gets more pungent with age.

The cucumber vines are climbing the trellis in the hoop house, both the slicers for salad and the pickling types. This year I am trying a small Persian variety used for Mediterranean-style quick pickles, obtained from the local Uprising Seeds company, as well as a standard pickle type from Joe’s Garden Nursery in Bellingham. So, for fresh seed heads of dill for pickles, dill transplants should go in now, if you haven’t already planted seed earlier. I use the dill fronds in salads and for mixing with a soft cheese for an appetizer spread.

Continuing the same anise-flavor pattern, I put in a half dozen bulb fennel plants, for both the bulb slices dipped in anchovy-flavored olive oil and the feathery leaves that can be roasted with summer salmon. Note: there is also frond fennel, grown solely for the leaves and the seed. And if you walk around Old Town Anacortes in mid-summer, you’ll find a coarse wild fennel growing in the alleys.

Pea Heaven

Peas are coming on strong, both the snap variety and my personal favorite the Oriental snow peas. Being of a certain height, I like to grow the tall varieties of both types for ease of picking and for an extended growing season, but they do need some kind of trellis or fencing. This year I’m trying 8-foot tall panels of cattle guard fencing, along with twine strung horizontally to hold in the wandering pea vines. I am also trying a standard bush snap pea, which is listed as self-supporting, but really needs lots of short fence posts and some encircling twine to stay upright. The neighbor kids like the shorter bushes since the peas are at their height. Peas for all.

Garlic Scape Season

The first sign of the coming garlic harvest is the appearance of the scapes (curved seed stalks) on the hard-neck garlic. (Soft-neck garlic for braiding does not produce scapes.) Remove the scapes in order to promote the development of the bulbs below ground. Make sure you get them all, as they can hide in between the leaves. Scapes can be stir-fried, cut into rounds for soup, made into pesto, or seared on the grill. To freeze: cut the stems into short lengths, blanch quickly, chill in cold water, and freeze in a thin layer on a rimmed baking pan. Pack loosely in bags for winter soups. Scapes are mostly mild in garlic flavor, but I do find the Korean Red scapes a bit more zingy.

Garlic bulb harvest comes 2-3 weeks after the scape removal, usually in early July, depending on the weather. With all the heavy rain recently, I hope the bulbs dry out enough to avoid fungus and mold. Some of my shallots are showing mold already. Shallots are a luxury item; garlic is a necessity, so I hope our summer dry season begins soon.

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Mid-June in the Garden

  1. Peter Haase

    I have a nice bed of garlic – 2 types – both soft-neck to braid. All looks to be healthy but I was not aware, until your mention, that the excessive damp we have had could be fateful. July 15 is my harvest day so now I watch and wonder and worry!

    I refuse to poke around in there …

    Peas – I got a pack of Burpee super sugar snap. First planting in early April had just 2 or 3 three sprout and a follow on planting had none … can a pack all be bad or can some underground critter get the peas or maybe soil? I never plant many but they have worked Ok in the past.

    Reply
    1. Peter Heffelfinger

      After many rotted pea seed plantings, I switched to transplants for more reliability. Cold wet soil is our spring challenge. You might try a local seed source for a variety of Sugar Snap that might be more adapted to our climate. Our rainfall seems much heavier these days as well. You can also plant snap peas in late summer for a fall crop, not quite as productive, but nice to have. They will last longer with floating row cover against the oncoming cold.

      Reply
  2. Jan Hersey

    Another good use of herbs is green goddess dressing. Great as a dip, on salads, roast veggies … Lots of recipes online, plus Bon Appetit has an “Anything Goes” Green Goddess” that is more freewheeling. BA, however, leaves out anchovies, which, when the paste is used, has no fishy flavor and adds what I think is a necessary umami. And this from someone who used to be “afraid” of anchovies!

    Reply
    1. Peter Heffelfinger

      Hi Carol,
      My overwintering arugula has leaves like those of olive trees: long, narrow and with smooth edges, unlike the more serrated leaves of annual variety. Nice to know I can add it to my perennial salad supply.
      I just finished taking the scapes off the plot of garlic I do out on the Flats. Looking good so far, but not quite ready to harvest, which we do usually the first part of July. It’s all hard neck. I was worried about all the recent heavy rains causing mold on the outer sheaths, but the ground out there is much drier than my Campbell Lake site. So far so good.
      I wish I liked fava beans, since they are such a good winter crop, but they taste ‘off’ to me, even though I like strong tasting bitter greens.
      As for basil, it’s not too late to put in plants. There were some nice nursery pots of basil at the Market still available last week, with healthy multiple plants, which had been kept in the shade so they weren’t flowering yet.
      Nice to hear from you.
      Peter H.

      Reply
  3. Carol Havens

    Hi Peter, Thanks for the news from the garden. If the new arugula you have planted is the one with yellow flowers, I consider that wild arugula, because it spreads itself all over like a weed. I don’t mind. I just weed out the ones in the wrong place, and leave plenty for eating. It produces all year, unlike the traditional tender variety.
    I was concerned about my garlic, too, so I pulled one to check on it. It was, surprisingly, completely ready for harvest. The bulb was fully developed, and the cloves were separated with dividing ‘paper’. This is early, even for me. I usually harvest the last week in June. So, I will get out there to process the crop the next dry day.
    I just finished my fava bean harvest and processing. I think I remember that you don’t grow them. But I plant them in November, so they are ready to eat in early June, before all of the more popular veggies are ready. They are so fresh and tender that they do not need to be peeled. I just parboil, then cook or freeze.
    I’ve been drying herbs for future blends. But this year I did not plant basil, for the first time in probably 30 years. I wonder if it’s too late to get some baby plants and give it a try.
    Thank you for all you do for us, Peter.
    Carol Havens

    Reply
    1. Peter Heffelfinger

      Hi Carol,
      My overwintering arugula has leaves like those of olive trees: long, narrow and with smooth edges, unlike the more serrated leaves of annual variety. Nice to know I can add it to my perennial salad supply.
      I just finished taking the scapes off the plot of garlic I do out on the Flats. Looking good so far, but not quite ready to harvest, which we do usually the first part of July. It’s all hard neck. I was worried about all the recent heavy rains causing mold on the outer sheaths, but the ground out there is much drier than my Campbell Lake site. So far so good.
      I wish I liked fava beans, since they are such a good winter crop, but they taste ‘off’ to me, even though I like strong tasting bitter greens.
      As for basil, it’s not too late to put in plants. There were some nice nursery pots of basil at the Market still available last week, with healthy multiple plants, which had been kept in the shade so they weren’t flowering yet.
      Nice to hear from you.
      Peter H.

      Reply

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