Thursday, June 11, 2015

June Harvests: Greens, Berries, & Cherries

May is a busy month for the serious gardener.  There is so much to plant, endless weeding, flower beds to revitalize along with harvesting.  Depending on the weather these chores can extend into June. One of my goals is to eat year round out of my gardens.  With careful planning this can be done.  The purpose of this post is to show you what you should be harvesting, how to harvest, varieties to try, and early summer chores. 

June is the month of the super greens.  I start most of my greens from seed indoors in February and put them out in late March or April depending on the weather.  They don't seem to mind the chill and unpredictable spring weather and now are giving us nutritious and delicious harvests.

Loose leaf lettuces give you an extended harvest.  You  only pick the outer leaves as you need them.  When I harvest, I lightly rinse them and put them in a large Tupperware container.  All greens including mache, spinach, sorrel, and lettuces store well this way. The picture above includes Bronze Arrowhead, Black Seeded Simpson, Merlot and Rosa di Trento.

  This is Mascara is a loose leaf lettuce with unique shape and beautiful color.  The color is not only stunning in a salad but means that it is packed with antioxidants.

Bronze Arrowhead is a beautiful loose leaf lettuce.  The leaves are oakleaf shaped and the color is green bordered with maroon.  A good crisp lettuce.

Merlot is probably the deepest red lettuce.  It's gorgeous!  I interplant onions with lettuce to ward off aphids.

Sorrel adds a lemony zing to salads.  It is a perennial.  I plant it in partial shade since I have hot summers.  It is harvested the same as spinach by individual leaf.  It is great in an omelet with Swiss cheese.  Yum!

Kale is the all star of the super greens (at least for now)  I grow a variety of kales.  I harvest individual leaves until the heat sets in then leave them alone until the cooler fall weather comes.  I always add a variety of greens to every salad, but I do enjoy a kale salad.  Massaging the leaves with oil is a great way to tenderize them for the salad.  Pictured are  Blue Curled Kale, Redbor (which is milder in taste),  Red Russian, and Nero di Toscana. My goats and chickens love kale so I harvest through the summer for them.

Spinach is a spring favorite.  I love Strawberry or Raspberry Spinach Salads.  I also add spinach to our fruit smoothies in the morning. Harvest individual leaves.  As the weather warms spinach tends to bolt.  So enjoy it while you can.  Seeds do not germinate as summer weather sets in.  This is one green that I always sow directly in the garden. Bloomsdale Longstanding is a deeply savoyed leaf and a reliable variety.  Other good varieties to try are Space, Giant Noble, and Scarlet.  These are a smooth flat leaves that are very tender.

Storing greens ensures you always have something on hand for a salad.  I lightly wash them, put them in a large Tupperware, and refrigerate them.  This works great with fresh greens but not store bought greens. We eat a lot of spring salads.  I include a little of all the greens I grow.

With head lettuce the entire head is harvested.  I grow Cos or Romaine lettuce and Butterhead.  Most people are familiar with Romaine lettuce.  It does come in some beautiful crimson colors.  The entire head of both these lettuces are harvested.  Butterhead lettuce is a gourmet lettuce and so tender and delicious.  It is a little harder to grow but worth it.
 A cos and Jericho head lettuce.
 Silvia Red and Paris Island Cos
Merveille Des Quairte Saisen as Romaine lettuce

Swiss Chard is great sauteed in oil and garlic and added to pasta dishes.  It is very healthy juiced but a little goes a long way.  You harvest the outside stalks both the stalks and leaves can be eaten. The stalks come in a variety of colors including shades of red and pink, orange, yellow, and white.  This is also best direct seeded in early spring.

Cilantro, parsley, lemon balm, winter savory and oregano are the spring herbs that we harvest.  Oregano I cut down leaving a couple of inches.  I put some in the dehydrator, infuse some with oil, and freeze some in olive oil in ice cube trays.  Cilantro, which is pictured above,  is one of my favorite herbs.  I love the smell.  It's great in salads, rice, and of course salsa.  I harvest the outside leaves.  With the heat it likes to bolt.  The seeds of Cilantro are coriander.  To have a continual harvest succession plant cilantro.  


I love fresh peas.  I grow both edible pods and shelling peas.  Snow peas have flat edible pods that are great as snacks, in salads, and stir fries.  I planted Oregon Sugar Pod this year.  Snap peas have edible pods but are not flat and sweeten up as they fatten up.  Shelling peas are removed from the pod.  They can be eaten fresh, canned, or frozen.  The heirloom varieties I plant are Canoe, Dakota, Telephone (which is 4-5' tall), Avalanche, and Iona Petit Pois.  Planting a variety extends the harvest because they mature at different times.  Peas need a trellis and can be planted in early spring when soil temperatures are 45-50 degrees.  I planted in early March. The tail end of the harvest will be allowed to dry on the vines and saved for seed.

These are Telephone peas.  They grow 4-5' and need a sturdy trellis.

Radishes are a quick crop that can fill in holes in the garden.  I actually plant them as a companion crop around squash and cucumbers.  I allow them to flower.  The above picture includes Watermelon, Purple Plum, and White Icicle. 
This little ruby is a Nanking Cherry.  These can be pruned as small trees or shrubs.  They are great in landscape, hedgerows, or windbreaks.  The small cherries can be eaten.  I make Nanking Cherry Jelly and syrup with them.  They produce an abundant crop and are easy to pick. They give you an early June harvest.

I have the day neutral Tristar and Ever bearing Ozark Beauties.  Both start producing in June.  The berries become larger as the season progresses.  For info on planting a berry patch here's a link:

Nothing goes better together than strawberries and rhubarb.  The outside stalks of rhubarb can be harvested in early spring.  Give the the plant the summer off and then in fall you can harvest again.  As flower stalks develop remove them.  If you plants are spindly then next spring while dormant you need to divide your plant.

While not ready to harvest, there are other cool season crops in the garden including broccoli, cauliflower and a variety of cabbages.  Chewed leaves are a result of caterpillars.  Leaves that droop in the afternoon are probably suffering from thrip damage.  These are very small insects that suck juices from plants they rarely kill a plant but stress the plant.  To deal with these pests mix Neem oil and Spinosad in a sprayer and spray in evening or early morning.  Be sure to get the under side of the leaves.  You can also hand pick off the caterpillars but they are good at hiding.

 This is Chinese cabbage interplanted with broccoli and onions.

This is celery interplanted with cauliflower and onions. 

 Artichokes interplanted with marigolds and cauliflower.

Kale and cabbage with onions.

Early Summer Chores:
  • Mulch around all plants
  • Reseed beets and carrots where they did not germinate.  You can also seed a second crop.
  • Be sure to provide even moisture
  • If a plant is struggling, give it fish emulsion and kelp
  • Finish planting all warm season crops
  • Share your extra harvests with your neighbors 
  • Enjoy the sunshine and beauty of your garden

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Native Pollinators

One of the goals in the organic garden is to attract native pollinators.  Bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, moths, and beetles play a crucial role in pollinating our garden plants, fruit trees, and berries.  Recognizing and attracting these pollinators into the garden ensures you have complete fertilization and a good crop. While busily drinking nectar and gathering nesting materials pollen clings to their bodies and they transfer this from flower to flower.  

Meet the Native Pollinators


Flies (diptera), thought mostly of as a pest which invades your house and makes life in the barn miserable for your livestock and yourself, are important and crucial pollinators..  The flower or Syrphid flies (Syrphidae) represent a large family of flies with two important roles in your garden. Just referring to them as flower flies seems to elevate and improve their status. They have hairy bodies and visit nectar producing flowers.  The pollen clings to their hairs and is transferred from flower to flower.  They are important pollinators of many garden plants.

Plants flower flies pollinate
Umbelliferae (carrots, celery/celeriac, parsnip, and parsley)
Brassicaceae (cole crops, Asian greens, and mustard)
Rosacea  (strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
Alliaceae  (onions, chives, and leeks)

They are also important pollinators in fruit trees and herbs such as fennel, coriander, and caraway.

The Syrphid fly's second important role in your garden is in pest control.  The larvae of these plants feed on aphid populations.  

The flower fly Chrysotoxum “intermedium (aggregate) pollinating the flowers of the tree spurge (Euphorbia dendroides) on the Maltese islands. © Axel Ssymank
Flower flies sometimes mimic bees but are harmless.

Syphrid Flies

Native Bees

There are 400 species of native bees in Utah.   There are 4000+ species of native bees in North America.  Most of these bees are solitary emerging during bloom time of their favorite floral hosts. Mother bees individually make their own nest. Some nest in the ground others in existing cavities or reeds.   Native bees seek out nectar to get the energy they need to power flight. Pollen which is high in protein and minerals is feed to the grub like larvae of bees.  Unlike social bees, many native bees have less venom and less of an inclination to sting.  While honeybees tend to focus on one flower species at a time, native bees visit a variety of species.

Blue Mason bees are important pollinators of fruit and nut crops.

Squash Bee

Most of your vegetables in the curcurbita family are pollinated by the native squash bee not honeybees.  These solitary bees are dependent on the pollen from curcurbites including summer and winter squash, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins.  They nest in the ground near these crops and emerge in the summer when these crops flower.  They are well equipped to carry the heavy pollen grains in the curcurbite family.  A behavior you may recognize, is the squash bee spends a lot of time in each flower and cawls deep into the flower doing a thorough job of gathering and distributing pollen. Another benefit is that they begin foraging earlier in the morning than honeybees.

Squash bees look similar to honeybees.  The hind legs of a squash bees are hairy and dry pollen clings to the legs.  Honeybees have flat hind legs and carry pollen in sacs on the hind legs.

Other Pollinators

Wasps, butterflies, moths, and beetles are also pollinators, but less effective than flies and bees.

Because butterflies and moths are covered in scales not hairs, pollen only clings to the body and legs.  Wasps and beetles are even less efficient pollinators but do play an important role.

Solitary wasps are predators of insects, rarely sting, and need pollen and nectar as adults.  They are beneficial insects you want in your garden.  Social wasps, on the other hand, may not be welcomed and cause some grief.
A predatory wasp attacking aphids.

How To Attract Native Pollinators

The solution to attracting beneficial insects and pollinators is simple and beautiful.  Incorporate in the garden and in your yard lots perennials, annuals, and native plants.  Always have something blooming in the garden to provide the sought after nectar.  I have one 4x4 bed in the garden with cat mint, lemon thyme, and saliva which are perennials.  I plant herbs such as basil, lemon basil and other flowers around these and let them flower and go to seed.  I also inter-plant herbs such as borage, dill, and basil in other garden beds.  Having an established perennial herb garden is also helpful.  The landscape around your garden and house can be carefully planned to include plants that attract these pollinators. Not only are you attracting native pollinators but establishing beautiful flower beds and landscape.  Below is a small list of plants that are in my yard that these pollinators are very attracted to.:

Ornamental Plants

Cat mint, lambs ear, salvia, cosmos, monardas or Bee Balm, lavender, sweet asylum, blanket flower, candy tuft, coreopis, cone flowers, anise hyssop (Agastache), and native perennials.  Plants with double flowers are not attractive to pollinators.

Purple salvia


Allow some of your herbs to flower including oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, cilantro, and of course lavender.




Native Plants

Here's a link to Utah's Native Plant Society.  Others states will have similar resources.

Utah Native Plant Society

Some things to consider when planting for pollinators:
  • Plant a variety of species
  • Provide blooming flowers throughout the season Foraging bees need nectar early, mid, and late season
  • Choose a variety of flower shapes to accommodate different tongue lengths.  Aster and composites are good for short tongues pollinators
  • Native pollinators depend on native plants for a reliable food source so include them in your plans
  • Be observant.  Watch and record what blooms when and what pollinators you see on the plant.
High Country Gardens is a good on-line resource to find native and water wise plants

Provide shelter and nesting areas

Another idea is to create structures for shelter and breeding grounds for pollinators.  Pollinators need shade, sun, shelter, and a source and place for nesting.

Native bees fall into one of two categories:  those that nest in the ground and those that seek a cavity to nest in.  Ground nesters seek open ground that is loosely packed.  Those that seek cavities will use naturally existing ones such as the pithy canes of raspberries, sumac, elderberry or iris flower stems.  You can also make shelters for native bees.  Drilling holes in a fence post or stump.  Bundles of hollow tubes placed inside a shelter about 5-6 off the ground also works.  Below is a link on various ideas

Stick Nests for Pollinators

Building Nesting Boxes for Pollinators


Avoid the  Use of Pesticides

Chemical broad spectrum pesticides will kill all beneficial insects.  There are organic pesticides you can use that are not harmful to beneficials such and neem and spinosad. It is important to spray when pollinators are not out and about doing their job.  Late evenings or early morning are a good time to spray if it is necessary.  There are other garden defenses.  Traps such as sticky traps are also a great alternative. There are deterrents such as kaolin clays and floating row covers. If you do need to spray always use organic soft sprays.  As you attract more predatory insects and pollinators you will see a decrease in pest problems.

Clean Water

Pollinators need a water source.  Bees in particular drink a lot of water.  Bird baths in the garden with rocks poking above the water level which allow pollinators to get to the water safely.  I find bees drinking out of my water lines when they are shut off. Be sure to provide clean water daily in the bird bath.

Butterflies, wasps, moths, and bees all appreciate a drippy faucet and a mud hole.  The mud is used to make nests and provide needed water.

Incorporating a diversity of flowering plants gives you the added enjoyment of a beautiful yard and garden and a haven for native pollinators and hummingbirds. This is one more step in creating and organic garden and landscape that provides beauty, food, pleasure, and enjoyment.