Enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of your labours

Early June is a critical time in the garden, Brian Minter says, both for replanting and beginning some late summer and even winter crops.

June is an important month for vegetable gardeners

It’s been a curious year for food gardening, especially with vegetables.  The unseasonably warm April weather gave everyone an early start, and many cool-loving crops like lettuce, chard, spinach, peas and brassicas are already being harvested.  Some of the heat lovers, like cucumbers, beans and tomatoes, that were planted early, have had varying degrees of success and some replanting has been necessary.  The two weeks of cool, damp weather in May were both good and challenging for many veggies, but overall it’s been a great year so far.

Early June, however, is a critical time in the garden, both for replanting and beginning some of the late summer and even winter crops.  It is a great time now to seed turnips, parsnips and carrots for a fall harvest.  The timing of when to plant brussel sprouts can often seem confusing, but now is the ideal time for seeding and transplanting for a Thanksgiving and Christmas harvest.  Try to use hybrid varieties for the greatest success rather than the old open-pollinated varieties – it makes a big difference in the quantity of the sprouts.

June is also an ideal time to plant winter squash as well as summer squash.  Today there is such an amazing selection of both, and they are one of the best investments for mid-summer and winter produce.  They are now available in container and small space varieties of both types, making them far easier to maintain.  Transplants are great, but honestly, there is still time to seed them.

Pumpkins have also exploded in popularity over the past few years but not only for fall and Halloween décor but also as food.  Pumpkin desserts or soup anyone?  The selection of varieties is over the moon, from the tiniest baseball size up to the ‘Atlantic Giants’ now reaching world record levels of 2000 lbs. plus.  They are fun to grow and what an engagement for children.   Gourds too are experiencing increasing popularity with many new cool varieties that add funky fun and humour to our gardens.

For mid-season and even late summer brassicas, keep planting – as one crop finishes another should be started.  For mid-season crops, it is important to get varieties that grow and finish well in the summer heat.  The many varieties of cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli have kept these veggies at the forefront of popularity.

There’s lots of time yet for cucumbers of all types.  I still feel the Japanese burpless varieties are the easiest and best to grow for sweetness, flavour and productivity.  Pickling cucumbers too are growing in popularity, as well as the extra sweet European novelty forms like ‘Perseus’.  They love the heat and transplants can produce in 30-40 days.

Tomatoes too love summer’s warm temperatures and with longer days and extra heat, they will surprise you how quickly they can produce.  Trailing bush types, like the ‘Tumblers’ and ‘Tumbling Toms’, are the first to fruit, and larger plants with blossoms can be ready to enjoy in just a few weeks.  There is a trend towards yellow cherry tomatoes which folks are finding far sweeter and more flavourful than the red ones.

Peppers, too, love the heat and from the nice bell types to the spicy hots and super hots, there is still time to plant for great results.

Finally, it’s basil time!  Basil loves the heat and drought and performs best in summer conditions whether in a container or in the ground.  It is a ‘must have’ garden staple.

Summer gardening is here and the most precious part is being able to enjoy our own fresh produce all summer and fall.  So let’s keep planting!

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