Finally, spring is here! To celebrate, here is a collection of spring/summer photographs from our veganic garden along with simple tips to help you plan out your spring, summer or fall veggie patch (if you haven’t already started).
Don’t have the space to grow a garden? Here are small-space gardening tips.
The beginning of one of my favorite vegetables: Cabbage
Tip: Cabbage likes “sweet” soil (more alkaline than acidic). If you have acidic soil, perhaps from pine trees nearby, you can use wood ash or lime to raise the pH.
After a couple of weeks the cabbage head begins to mature.
“Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.” ~ Ambrose Bierce
Tip: The head is ready to harvest when firm to the touch. If you chop off the head at the base of the leaves, the stump will develop a number of smaller cabbage sprouts. These small sprouts may be harvested later in the season, but are unlikely to reach the size of the original head.
An eggplant blossom complete with small spikes to protect it until maturity.
Tip: Eggplants like it hot, hot, hot, so don’t plan on planting your starts outside until the threat of frost has passed and the soil is warm. I also recommend mulching around the base of the eggplant to feed the roots and capture heat in the soil.
Bright waves of cornhusk.
Delicious string beans waiting to be picked.
Tip: Creating flowers, fruits and seeds is a big job for any plant and requires a good deal of energy. Thankfully many of these flowers, fruits and seeds are the perfect dinner for hungry herbivores. So pick your string beans regularly! Harvesting your beans on a regular basis will keep them from getting tough and give your plants more energy with which to continue growing. The quicker you pick mature beans, the more beans you’ll get in return!
Broad leaves hiding a cucumber flower.
Tip: Cucumbers require a good deal of space to grow. But if you do not have a large amount of space available for growing, cucumbers may be trained to climb on a fence or trellis. Along with reducing the amount of space required for growing, this method also lifts the fruit (cucumbers) off the ground reducing the risk of rotting.
A spiral of Swiss Chard beginning.
Tip: Swiss Chard is as nutritious as spinach, and easier to grow. It can also be continually harvested. Simply pick the outer leaves and stalks first and let the inner ones mature. Be careful to snap or cut the stalks off near the soil line so that the plant won’t waste energy keeping an empty stalk alive (eventually the stalk will rot and expose the plant to disease, but not before the plant wastes energy attempting to save the dying limb.)
After a couple of weeks, broad, beautiful Swiss Chard leaves have formed.
Tips: It is particularly important that Swiss Chard leaves have good air circulation available. Make sure to give each plant proper space to grow (1′-1.5′).† This is because the leaves are vulnerable to Cercospora leaf spot (a fungal disease that causes light brown patches surrounded by purple halos.) It is most commonly found on chard, beets and sometimes spinach. Warm, rainy weather favors outbreaks so be careful to promptly remove any affected leaves as soon as they appear.
From the ground up, beets are delicious.
Tips: Beets are a cool weather crop and prefer early spring, fall and mild winter temperatures. They require little room and the leaves can be harvested (wonderful steamed) up until the root is ready to pull (softball sized or larger).
Bok Choy has to be one of my favorite greens.
Tips: Be sure to start harvesting your first crop of bok choy before the hot weather sets in. Hot weather tends to make the bok choy go to seed quickly. You donít have to pull the entire plant though (although this is fine as well), you can simply harvest the outer leaves and let the inner leaves mature.
A bouquet of beautiful lacinato kale!
Tips: Kale prefers cool temperatures. The flavor will also be sweetened by a touch of frost, but it can be grown in spring, summer or fall. It’s an easy crop to grow and oh so very, very good for you. Just remember to keep your kale plants well watered. Along with cool temperatures, keeping the soil moist helps kale leaves remain sweet and crisp, rather than tough and bitter.
Lacinato kale is also often called dinosaur kale and I think this picture depicts why.
Tips: If you grow nothing else, plant a pot of kale. It is one of the most nutritious, delicious and simple greens to grow. Young leaves make a wonderful addition to fresh salads; more mature leaves are great in a stir-fry or as a dressed (marinated) salad.
Related: The Wonder of Worms