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After one of the most bizarre spring weather patterns I’ve ever seen, we now find ourselves in June; one of the most important planting months of the year.
The “summer” heat we experienced in early May has certainly thrown many folks off their sense of timing in the garden, but let me assure you, there is a good stretch ahead for virtually everything we want to grow at home.
As a matter of fact, with our generally warmer day and night June temperatures and longer hours of daylight, it’s perhaps the best time of year to grow any type of garden, whether it’s for food or flower.
There is a sense of panic out there, of being too late for many crops, but it’s a needless concern. We still have more than 120 days of good growing season until the end of September, giving us plenty of time to grow and harvest everything on our wish list.
Basil is a prime example; it’s the No. 1 herb of choice. It is very much in demand but to be grown successfully it needs a lot of heat. The good news is, now it’s time to set basil out in both garden beds and containers.
There are many new basil varieties today and all are well worth a try, especially the new Pan-American Seed Everleaf series. Plants perform far longer in the garden, under all conditions, with a much fuller and taller habit than most other varieties.
Their Tower series grows even taller and produces continuous masses of fragrant leaves.
June is also cucumber and squash month since they love, and need, the heat.
Transplants can produce fresh fruit in as few as four to five weeks and they will keep producing until late September. Cucumbers, particularly some of the newer varieties, are pushing tomatoes and peppers as the most popular vegetable simply because of their diverse fresh use and for the ease in preserving them in so many recipes.
Burpless Japanese cucumbers, which grow so successfully in any garden, are certainly the top choice with varieties like Tasty Green and Burpless Supreme leading the way.
No-peel varieties have become incredibly popular. New gourmet introductions like the smooth-skinned, six inch (15cm) burpless “Perseus,” are smaller and bitter-free; just perfect to pick and eat on the spot.
For containers, Patio Snacker and Salad Bush are surprisingly productive, and no patio garden should be without these sweet little cukes. By using larger containers and a trellis for support, the number of fruits you’ll harvest from a very small space is both gratifying and delicious.
More folks are also discovering the difference between summer and winter squash.
Summer squash like zucchini and scaloppine can be ready in as little as 45-50 days. Winter squash, like the very popular Acorn, Butternut and Buttercup, planted now, can provide food until next spring if they are harvested and stored properly.
Kabocha, Spaghetti and Hubbard squash are also becoming far more in demand, offering us many unique flavours and culinary opportunities.
Pumpkins are no longer just for pies, kids and Halloween, they have become the heart and soul of fall decor.
Designer pumpkins and squash are the latest must-have garden adornments both indoors and out. Not only are they unique, because no two are exactly alike, but all of them can be used as delicious baking delights as well.
From miniature tabletop varieties, in all colours from white to almost black, to the novelty bicolours and warted varieties, there is an incredible selection of pumpkins available today, and they are all fun to grow and harvest.
The new designer pastel colours of pink, blue, yellow, and even taupe allow you to complement any home or porch decor.
French heirloom specialty squash, like the wart-covered salmon-peach Galeux D’Eysines and the vivid red Rouge Vif D’Etampes are now a couple of new hotties, planted for their unique shapes and colours.
One of my new favourite squashes is Autumn Frost. It has a silvery-tan skin, great flavour and super storage capabilities. All these edible and designer varieties are now taking up more garden real estate with great results.
For those gardeners who are determined to grow their own melons like honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon — now is the ideal time to set them out. They need lots of heat, so raised beds in the warmest location in your garden are essential.
Smaller varieties of watermelon, like Sugar Baby and Yellow Doll, can produce in 75 days from transplanting and both honeydews and cantaloupes will produce delicious fruit in about the same time.
There is sometimes a bit of hesitation when it comes to Brussels sprouts in the home garden. They are a long-crop brassica, often taking from 120-130 days to mature. They also need a cooling period with some light frost to bump up their sugar ⁰BRIX values, a scale which measures the soluble solids (eg. sugar) content in fruit and vegetable juices.
Mid-June is the ideal planting time to ensure plants become large enough to produce an abundance of flavourful sprouts.
To enjoy late maturing varieties of all brassicas, from cauliflower and cabbage to broccoli, mid to late June is the ideal time to plant for harvesting well into the fall.
Root crops like carrots, turnips, and parsnips can also be planted in mid-June to ensure a late fall and winter food source right out of your own garden. Most of the above benefit from a light frost as well, for that little flavour boost.
Now that we have consistent heat, all our warm-loving veggies like tomatoes, peppers, and sweet potatoes can safely be planted out for you to enjoy a full season of harvest.
Even though some garden outlets may be out of a number of these plants, most are still available from grower-retailers, and in many cases seed racks are still on display.
So, there is still lots of time left to plant and enjoy growing your own garden food.
It’s also probably worth bearing in mind the cost of many of those fall and winter veggies at the grocery stores and markets as an incentive to grow-your-own!
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