Buy organic. Buy local. Think global. Impact the world.

8NHBORBRVR 3What eat organic?

 

Many people think, I should buy organic food because organic food is better for me. Well it is better for you because a bunch of nasty chemicals weren’t used to grow it, and weren’t subsequently absorbed by it to later get ingested by you, but that’s just part of the story.

 

When you buy organic food, you support organic farming. The more people buy organic, the more organic farmers we will have. That doesn’t just mean healthier people. If more food is grown organically, less chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are used globally, which means less runoff of these products into streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Our entire planet is healthier.

 

That’s why at Zukeeni, we’re keen on people growing their own, because that gives people the greatest control about what they’re consuming.

 

You might think all our food is safe, because we have governmental organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food & Drug Administration. Unfortunately, today’s farmers are legally allowed to use all sorts of known toxic chemicals in the growing process to boost yield, prevent insect infestations, etc. Any and all chemicals applied to a crop are absorbed by more than just the plants for which they were intended. Chemicals applied by aerial spraying, are affected by wind and can affect the ozone. Any chemical applied to plants also goes into the ground and makes its way into our streams, rivers and lakes. That applies to chemicals we use in our yard or garden, not just the thousands of acres of farmland managed by large, faceless corporations.

 

For example, the herbicide Atrazine, while banned in the European Union for nearly a decade, is still widely used in U.S. agriculture, primarily on cornfields. It’s estimated 80 million pounds are applied to U.S. soil annually. Studies show atrazine chemically castrates frogs (a key marker species to ecosystem health) and it’s associated with breast and prostrate cancer in humans. LINK And studies have linked the pesticide chlorpyrifos to childhood developmental delays. Chlorpyrifos has been banned from use in households in the U.S. but is still commonly used as an agricultural pesticide on fruits and vegetables. LINK

 

We all make budget, availability and risk/reward choices every time we shop, so if you can’t afford or choose not to buy organic all the time, try to buy organic where it matters most. Most healthcare professionals and healthy eating advocates agree that the meat and meat by-products you eat (such as milk, butter, and cheese) should be organic. As for fruits and vegetables, get familiar with the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” — the 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticides. According to the EWG’s review of 7,000 tests conducted in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the following 12 fruits and vegetables make up the current “Dirty Dozen”:

 

1. Strawberries

2. Apples

3. Nectarines

4. Peaches

5. Celery

6. Grapes

7. Cherries

8. Spinach

9. Tomatoes

10. Sweet bell peppers

11. Cherry tomatoes

12. Cucumbers

 

But let’s be clear—this isn’t a call to avoid fruits and vegetables for fear of ingesting pesticides. In fact, the EWG always makes a point of reinforcing its belief that the health benefits from consuming at least three recommended servings of vegetables and two of fruit per day far outweigh the risk associated with eating pesticide-laced produce.

 

And this doesn’t mean you need to buy organic all the time. Some plants have built-in insecticides, such as quinoa, so typically the plants are treated with very little if anything during their growing cycle. And let’s be honest, sometimes the price for organic is significantly higher, and particularly thick skinned fruits, such as bananas and avocados are naturally protected from pesticides getting absorbed into the part you eat. We like the motto, “Buy organic. Buy local. Think global. Impact the world.”

 

Zukeeni can help you grow your own vegetables without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. It also connects you to the food others in your community are growing.

 

 

Ask a Gardener: summer squash

Ask a Gardener: summer squash

This is the first post in a series we’re calling Ask a Gardener,
where you get to ask our resident experts your gardening questions.
Feel free to send questions to gardener@smartgardener.com.

 

Renee B. asks, “This is my first year growing summer squash. Any tips?”

Sue L. asks, “My zucchini plant isn’t making fruit. It has lots of flowers, but they just drop off. Help!”

The basics
Summer squash is justly famous as one of the easiest and most productive vegetables to grow and is ideal for the new gardener. Just put the large seeds in the ground and in a few weeks you will have plants that are a foot wide and producing big, beautiful yellow flowers. Most people know the Summer Early Crookneck and Summer Dark Green zucchini varieties, but there are also quite a few unique varieties, like the beautifully striped Cocozelle, the squat Yellow Scallop, the ball-shaped Ronde de Nice, and the stunning Climbing Trombetta.

Did you know summer squash and winter squash (including pumpkins) are all in the same family, and can easily cross-pollinate each other? And more interestingly, all squash plants are monoecious, which means there are separate male and female flowers on the same plant. It is easy to tell which is which. The first flowers are usually male and won’t produce any fruit. These have pollen producing stamens clustered together in a column (these shrivel without producing fruit). They will soon be followed by the productive female flowers, which have what looks like a tiny fruit behind the petals (this is the ovary). It quickly becomes obvious when a female flower has been pollinated because it starts to swell into the familiar looking fruit (if it isn’t pollinated it simply shrivels up).

Hand pollinating
If your plants aren’t producing fruit, it may not be attracting enough pollinators, and you may need to hand pollinate your flowers. Don’t worry, it’s quite easy. Find a male flower and a female flower (ideally, from different plants). Remove the petals from the male and brush the pollen-laden anthers on to the pistil lobes of the female. This procedure should work about 50 to 75% of the time, especially if you use two males flowers to pollinate each female.

Saving seeds
If you are only interested in obtaining fruit it doesn’t matter where the pollen comes from, but if you wish to save seed it is significant. Plants cross-pollinate readily and to keep a variety pure you have to ensure it is pollinated by another plant of the same variety. The easiest way to do this is to grow only one variety at a time, and have no others within a half mile. If you grow more than one variety you should hand pollinate the flowers. Since you want to control the pollination, you will need to go out in the evening and find some male and female flowers that are about to open the following day and tape them shut with ¾” masking tape. The next morning, use the steps above to hand pollinate the female flowers, and then tape it closed again (to prevent further pollination). This will ensure they aren’t accidentally pollinated by a different plant. It’s a good idea to mark the pollinated fruit so it isn’t accidentally harvested. And then you wait. The fruit must be left to mature fully on the vine. The fully ripe fruit will be big and woody like a Winter Squash. It can take at least 60 days for the fruit to ripen properly, so you need to allow plenty of time before frost.

Enjoy the flowers
To ensure there is always plenty of pollen available, the plants produce many more male flowers than females. These excess males don’t have to go to waste though, as they are edible and can be used to provide a variety of exotic dishes (just make sure there are no insects inside them). They can be eaten raw, fried, baked, made into soup, filled with cheese (they have been called natures ravioli) or placed inside a quesadilla. The pollen producing stamens are usually removed because they can be somewhat bitter. While they are becoming increasingly common at farmers markets, these flowers only last for a day or two, and are mostly a special treat for the gardener.

If you have made the common mistake of planting too many squash plants, you can reduce the volume of fruit you are harvesting by eating some of the female flowers too. These can be used in the same ways as the male flowers but are slightly more substantial.

 

Grilled Green Beans

Grilled Green Beans

Green beans are one of the many vegetable I prefer to eat fresh rather than canned or otherwise preserved. Which isn’t to say there aren’t great ways to put up any extra beans you have coming from your garden. Just that given a choice, I’d rather eat them today than in December.

Keeping with our tendency to do as much outside cooking as possible while enjoying the cool evenings here in Sonoma County, CA, the latest batch of Spanish Musica beans to come from our CSA were grilled up alongside some very sweet corn on the cob and delicious locally-produced sausage.

Wrapped in foil, you can grill pretty much anything. Just add seasoning, a little butter or oil, and fold it up.

Grilled Green Beans with Bacon and Garlic
1/2 pound green beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
2 tbsp oil

1. Rinse and trim the beans. Cook the bacon, drain and chop, reserving 2 tbsp on the grease.

2. In foil packet, mix beans with the garlic and chopped bacon. Drizzle with the oil. You can use olive oil or even butter, if you wish.

3. Seal foil packet, making sure all sides are double rolled so none of the oil drips out. Place on the grill over medium heat and cook for about 20 minutes, turning once.

4. Open packet and serve!

Blueberry Lavender Scones

Blueberry Lavender Scones

July is National Blueberry Month, and we’re celebrating with lots of information and recipes.

Blueberries and lavender are almost perfect partners. The sweet, juicy blueberries pair nicely with the pine-y, spicy flavor of lavender. And they both are in season at the same time, which makes it easy to come up with lots of delicious recipes.

Taking a look at our Pinterest wall, one of the most popular pins going around is a recipe for a refreshing blueberry lavender spritzer cocktail, which looks like a refreshing drink for a hot day. Another popular recipe making the rounds is for blueberry lavender ice cream, which looks sweet and rich.

While I have enjoyed the lavender cocktails and ice cream I’ve tried, I thought a blueberry lavender combination would be perfect for a cream scone. Mother Nature has cooperated, as the weather here in Northern California has been a bit cool and gray — perfect baking weather. I took my favorite scone recipe (loosely based on the Smitten Kitchen scone recipe) and added fresh blueberries and fresh lavender. You can substitute frozen berries and dried lavender quite easily. Just reduce the amount of lavender to about 2 teaspoons or so. Keep in mind that lavender, like rosemary, has quite a strong flavor, and less is often better. These scones are so light and flakey, with big, sweet berries, and just the right hint of lavender. They’re perfect with a cup of Ceylon tea.

Blueberry Lavender Cream Scones
2 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lavender buds
4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup cream
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
sugar

1. Mix dry ingredients, including lavender. If you’re using a food processor, this should be a quick 8 or 10 pulses. I like to get the lavender buds a bit broken up, to keep from eating a whole bud while eating. If you are using unsalted butter, add the full 1/2 teaspoon. If you are using salted butter, reduce the amount to 1/4 teaspoon.

2. Add the chilled butter in small cubes so that they’re evenly distributed in the dry mixture. If you’re using a food processor, remove the lid and place them evenly around the blade. Pulse the mixture 10 or 15 times, until the mixture resembles course meal. Don’t over mix, or you run the risk of melting the butter. Transfer to a large bowl. If you’re mixing by hand, use two knives or a pastry knife to blend the butter in evenly.

3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the cream, gently stirring it in, making sure to scrape the sides often. Once the mixture starts to come together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and very gently knead it only until the liquid is evenly distributed. Don’t over-knead, or you risk melting the butter and activating the wheat gluten. Both are disastrous to flakey scones.

4. Flatten the dough and pour the blueberries into a small mound in the center. Turn the sides of the dough up around the blueberries, trying to cover as many blueberries as possible. Gently work the dough around the berries, picking it up and turning it as necessary. Three or four turns should be enough to have worked the berries in evenly.

5. Place the dough in a greased round cake pan and evenly spread it to fill the whole pan. Chill the pan in the freezer for up to 1 hour. This will help keep the butter cool.

6. Cut the dough into 6 or 8 portions, and remove each from the pan using a knife or cake server to keep it from sticking. Place scones on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Mix together the egg and milk and brush on the tops. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a 425° F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tops start to color.

7. Allow the scones to cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm for a delicious treat. Store remaining scones in an airtight container for up to three days, or freeze immediately.

Grilled Zucchini with garlic-infused olive oil

Grilled Zucchini with garlic-infused olive oil

Zucchini is probably the most common, and most often maligned, of the summer squashes. In some parts of the country it’s said that in late summer, neighbor turns on neighbor when the zucchini ripens. Garrison Keillor once joked that in August, the normally trusting citizens of Lake Wobegone would lock their car doors when they went to church on Sunday, to prevent some dastardly gardener from loading up their car with bags of zucchini. And we all laugh, because we know there’s some truth to that. After all, there’s a reason there’s a National Sneak Some Zucchini on your Neighbor’s Porch day, right? (In case you’re wondering, it’s August 8.)

But zucchini isn’t really as bad as all that. Sure, they’ll grow to an almost ridiculous size if you leave them on the vine long enough. But harvested when they’re still quite small, they’re very easy to deal with. And they cook up very quickly at this size. Since we usually grill our way through the summer so we can enjoy as much outside time as possible, my favorite method for cooking these small zucchinis is to coat them with a little garlic-infused olive oil and grill them.

Grilled Zucchini with Garlic-Infused Olive Oil
2-4 small to medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced

1. Mix the olive oil and garlic in a small sauce pan and heat over medium for about 20 minutes.

2. Place zucchini slices in a shallow dish and brush each slice with the  oil mixture. Allow the coated slices to sit for about 20 minutes, while the grill heats.

3. Once the grill is hot, place the slices on the hot grill and brush with the remaining oil mixture, making sure they’re covered evenly. Cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat, or until they are the desired texture. We like ours a bit toothy, so we take them up just as soon as they have good grill marks.

Keep your berries healthy all summer

Keep your berries healthy all summer

Berry plants tend to be fairly low maintenance plants, put them in the right place, keep them watered and they will grow stronger, bigger and more productive every year (until they threaten to fill your whole garden and you have to start restricting them). Even so, there are a couple of things you can do to help your plants and increase the harvest for years to come.

In most places the most important thing you need to do for your berry plants is protect them from birds. Birds love berries just as much as you do (after all, berries were created to be eaten by birds as a way of transporting the seed). If given the opportunity they will strip the bushes of every edible fruit. You could try various ways to scare them away — shiny tape, inflatable predators, scarecrows — but birds will soon figure out that these aren’t a problem, so they don’t usually work for long. The only foolproof way to foil the birds is by carefully covering the plants with netting (this has to be done thoroughly because they will look for any openings). Applying and removing netting is a real pain because it snags on everything it touches (be careful it doesn’t tear) and is one of the few garden jobs I really dislike. If you have to do this every year, you might think about putting your berries inside a permanent fruit cage (the simplest of these is made from PVC pipe).

The other important maintenance activity is removing old stems to encourage vigorous new fruiting growth. Blackberry and raspberry canes usually die after their second year and can create a dense thicket if not removed (these can be removed after they have finished fruiting). Blueberries and currants fruit more vigorously on younger wood, so every year some older ones are removed to encourage new growth.

To keep the plants growing as vigorously as possible, you also need to keep them well watered. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. If the plants are bearing heavily then some fertilization may also be needed to keep them producing well. The best way to do this is to apply some mulch, which will also keep down weeds and conserve moisture. Just be sure to use an acidic mulch such as pine needles for blueberries, since they need a bit more acid.

Gardening in extreme heat

Gardening in extreme heat

This year has brought record high temperatures to much of the country (again, but don’t worry, Exxon says this has nothing to do with global warming), so I wanted to say something about keeping your vegetables garden happy when the mercury soars.

Pick the right plants
High temperatures don’t just make plants uncomfortable, they can actually stop them growing and seriously affect productivity. When it gets too hot we can simply stay in the shade, or go into the house, but plants are stuck in the full sun and have to deal with it. Your choice of variety is also significant as some are more heat tolerant than others. Look for those that were developed for the tropics, desert or southern states, as many of these plants have developed several mechanisms for coping with heat stress and these are the most reliable plants to grow in hot weather. They include cowpea, okra, melon, pepper, tomato, sweet potato, lima bean, watermelon, and amaranth.

But even heat-tolerant fruiting crops (beans, tomato, eggplant, pepper, okra) can have problems when it gets much above 90 degrees Fahrenheit because flowers may not pollinate and will drop instead of setting fruit (plant breeders are working on heat resistant varieties that don’t do this).

Water them well
Just as it is essential for humans to drink plenty of water during hot weather, so it is with plants. Your first priority should be ensuring they get enough water, as this will help them to keep growing and producing (without it they are toast). The best way to water in hot weather is with a drip system, such as in-line drip irrigation tubing or soaker hose, which allows the water to quickly soak in to the ground. Overhead sprinklers aren’t as good because a lot of the water will often simply evaporate in the heat. If you must use sprinklers then avoid watering in the middle of the day, do it in the cool of early morning or early evening (early enough that plants don’t stay wet all night). Water is especially critical when plants are sizing up fruit and blossom end rot is often a problem if watering is irregular.

Mulch to keep them cool
Bare soil dries out quickly when exposed to the fierce heat of the sun, so it is also important to keep it covered as much as possible (there is no point in supplying water and then watching much of it evaporate). The most convenient mulch is a 2 to 4” layer of straw, which is readily available at feed stores. Mulch also keeps the soil cooler by shading it from the heat of the sun (plants can cope much better if their roots are cool). It also prevents the growth of competing annual weeds.

Give them some shade
In extremely hot conditions strong sunlight can be a problem because it raises temperatures even further. In such situations plants may benefit from some kind of shade during the hottest part of the day. This could be provided by shade cloth over hoops, or some kind of wooden framework covered with trellis, or even sticks (to create dappled shade). You can also create shade by planting tall plants such as sunflower or corn, but of course these require water too.

Help them recover quickly
Many plants (especially those with big leaves) wilt naturally in the heat of the day to reduce moisture loss, but they recover quickly when it cools down. If plants don’t recover quickly when the temperature drops, they are severely stressed and need water. Prolonged water stress is easily identifiable because leaves (and sometimes fruit) become bleached or scorched and growth is slower.

Take care of the gardener
It is also important to think about yourself in hot weather. Drink plenty of water and keep out of the garden during the hottest part of the day (also wear a hat). If you are an early riser the best time to be in the garden is when the sun first comes up, it is so beautiful and peaceful. I tend to come to life in the evening and get most of my work done in the couple of hours before the sun sets.

Essentials of watering

Essentials of watering

While the rest of the country has been under severe heat warnings and drought conditions, summer has finally arrived for us in California, and in my garden we have already passed the point where the vegetables can get enough moisture from the soil. Until the rains start again in late October it is up to me to supply enough water to keep them alive. This is the most important summer gardening activity and if it isn’t done properly there won’t be much of a vegetable garden.

There are four important steps to keep in mind when watering to get the most benefit:

Watch your plants
If you know what to look for it is easy to tell when plants are suffering from lack of water. The first sign is that they lose the sheen on their leaves and start to sag slightly instead of standing rigidly upright. It is important to water immediately when you see this happening, as further stress will slow their growth. More extreme signs of water stress include curling leaves, floppy growing tips and dying leaves, all of which means the plant is severely distressed and has stopped growing.

Simple wilting of leaves isn’t always a sign of stress however. Many plants (especially those with large leaves such as squash and cucumber) do it intentionally in hot sunny weather as a means of reducing water loss. They recover quickly when the temperature drops though, whereas water stressed plants recover more slowly. This is why you should check plants for water stress in the cool of early morning or evening and not in the midday heat.

Sunflowers are particularly prone to water stress (they wilt before almost anything else) and can be used as a living indicator of when the soil is starting to get dry. Simply plant a few sunflowers in your garden bed and when they show signs of wilting, it is time to water the entire bed.

How much water to apply
The usual rule of thumb says you should give your plants 1″ of water per week in summer and about ½” in spring and fall. An inch of water means ⅔ gallon per square foot, or 66 gallons per 100 square feet and should be enough to penetrate 6″ to 12″ into the ground.

Though 1″ per week is a reasonable average to start with, it is only a guideline and will be altered by temperature, humidity, soil type, crop and more. You have to look at the plants and the soil to determine if you are watering enough and adjust accordingly. After watering the soil should be evenly moist all the way down. Probably the commonest mistake of beginner gardeners is to water only until the soil surface looks nice and wet and then move on. Appearances can be deceiving though and only an inch or so down the soil may still be completely dry. If your plants are wilting again within 24 hours you didn’t give them enough water.

Time of day to water
In hot weather you should avoid watering in the middle of the day, because any water that lands on the leaves, or the soil surface, will quickly evaporate and be wasted. Water either in the morning, or early enough in the  evening so that wet leaves can dry out before nightfall.

How to apply water
Water should only be applied to the soil as fast as it can soak in. If you apply water faster than this it will puddle and the surface structure may break down. Water may also run off of the bed and be wasted (it may also take soil with it).

Corn: Knee High by the 4th of July!

Corn: Knee High by the 4th of July!

When asked to think of summertime veggies, most may think of plump, ripe, red tomatoes, but I, on the other hand, think of corn. I remember driving with my grandma as a child and stopping along a long, windy backroad in western Maryland to nibble on corn straight off the stalk.

As I got older and learned to cook, fresh corn from my mom’s garden became my favorite ingredient to use. I love it in the kitchen because you can serve it fresh or cooked, and it’s great for grilling. Anyway you slice it, corn is a great crop to grow in your backyard!

Corn (Z. mays), also known as Maize, is a unique crop originating from Mesoamerica where it was so prized it had its own deity among the Aztecs — Centeotl. In North America, the Native Americans used corn as one of the Three Sisters — a planting method that incorporates tall, hungry Corn; climbing, nutrient-providing, Beans; and short, sprawling Squash — which is still used by organic gardeners and permaculturalists today! Unlike other vegetables from the garden, corn can be used to make a variety of things from biofuels to animal fodder. Due to its ability to be transformed, corn has become a highly controversial crop regarding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and industrial agriculture. Don’t worry, SmartGardener.com offers numerous varieties of Heirloom and Organic corn varieties that are GMO-free.

Hopefully your corn has already been planted! A sure way to know you’ll have a great crop this year: Knee high by the Fourth of July!

Corn Chowder
Serves 4

2 ears of corn — kernals removed (2 cups), cobs cut in half and reserved
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
2 tbsp butter
4 cup milk
1 bay leaf, dried
1 cup red potatoes, diced
1/4 cup red pepper, diced
1/2 tsp thyme, dried
salt and pepper to taste

Melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add onions and let cook about 5 minutes until translucent. Add carrots and celery and sauté for about 5 more minutes.

Stir milk into the mixture, and add cobs, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a bare simmer–on the lowest possible temperature while still simmering. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, checking on it regularly.

Discard cobs and bay and slightly raise the heat. Add potatoes, red peppers, 1/2 tsp of salt, and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Raise heat a little more and add corn and dried thyme and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve immediately.

It’s not too late

It’s not too late

Summer is in full swing and for most gardeners, the harvest is already starting. I’ve seen summer squashes, tomatoes, carrots, and loads of lettuce pictures in posts by friends and fellow gardeners. I’ve even been gifted some of the produce by friends who have more than they can handle.

Sadly, there isn’t much of a harvest going on at my house. I have no real garden this year for a number of reasons. My beds are empty, having never been replanted after the spring harvest of kale, chard, and radishes. All the seedlings I started back in March and April are long since dead and composted.

But I’m not completely giving up on the whole summer. It’s warm and sunny here, and we’re blessed a long growing season. I spent some time this weekend planting some extra tomato starts a friend brought me a couple of weeks ago, and I even planted a small patch of early corn. I figure that with a little extra TLC, and the cooperation of the sun and temperature, they will recover quickly and start to catch up to where they ought to be, had I started them a month or so ago. I also have some time to start some second crop plants, like beans and carrots. I don’t expect to get as much of a harvest as I might have, but something is better than nothing!

I know that out here in California, the summer growing season is long, and often extends well into September, and that most of you live in areas where summer is done closer to the end of August. In that case, you are running out of time to start summer vegetables, but it’s not too late quite yet. If you are careful to select plants that won’t take more than about 60 to 70 days to harvest, you should be able to get a couple of veggies from your garden this year.

Vegetables you can still plant

  • Beans: Your best bet are fast-growing snap beans, like Blue Lake or Rolande.
  • Carrots: Depending on how early your first frost is, you can pretty much plant most varieties and still get a good harvest. If you’re concerned about a very early frost, you can choose a smaller carrot, which matures more quickly, such as Little Finger or the delightful Tonda di Parigi.
  • Lettuce: If it’s not too hot, you can easily start some lettuce seeds now and get several good harvests before your first frost. Even if it is hot, you can start some in a container in the shade. Garden Babies and Sweetie Baby Romaine are great for quick harvests.
  • Radishes: Radishes are always a great idea for a fast harvest! If it’s hot where you are, you can just grow them in the shade of your other plants. My favorites are Easter Egg and French Breakfast, but you really can’t go wrong.
  • Summer Squash: Believe it or not, you can still start squash for this summer. They grow quickly in the warm sunshine. Little squashes like Ronde de Nice and Summer Dark Green will grow quickly and give you some nice squashes for your Labor Day weekend BBQ!

And even if you think it is too late for your summer garden, this doesn’t mean you should give up. It just means it is time to start thinking about your first fall crops, like kale, broccoli, swiss chard, or Brussels sprouts.

Whatever you are planting Smartgardener.com can help you plan your garden layout, select and purchase your seeds, and help you remember when to plant them!