And Other Pleasures of Raised Bed Gardening!
One of the wonderful things about gardening in the loose, well amended soil of a raised bed is seeing how fast the veggies grow. The demonstration raised beds at Hyannis Country Garden were planted at the end of May. At that time a variety of plants and seeds were put into the soil, and by the middle of June there are already veggies that need to be picked. Sometimes people hesitate to harvest their vegetable crops because they don’t know when or how to pick. Others hesitate because they don’t want to lose what they so recently planted. Never fear…first of all, there are ways to pick some crops so that they continue to produce. Secondly, when raised beds are planted in a concentrated way, as we did in ours, the other plants will fill in and appreciate the growing room. And finally, in any open areas created by harvest you can plant seeds for such crops as kale, bok choy (aka pak choi), carrots and salad greens. Here is what needs picking in our veggie bed and two mid-June garden reminders.
Some plants grow quickly. We put these chard and mixed Kale in the ground in late May and it’s now time to start picking! Harvest these by just cutting the largest leaves, not pulling the entire plant. Both kale and chard will continue to produce more leaves all summer and often into the fall. Use each of them in a salad (cut into ribbons is best) or in place of spinach in any recipe.
Leaf lettuce can also be harvested by picking only the largest leaves. Many lettuces get bitter in hot weather, however, so it’s often best to harvest and eat most of your lettuce crops quickly and then replant in the open spaces for fresh crops.
Nan picked a large handful of the red lettuce leaves, and you’d never know that they are gone from this garden. Don’t be afraid to pick from your raised beds on a daily basis!
This is a baby bok choy (aka pak choi) plant. If they start to flower as this one is, it’s time to pick the entire plant. Note that the plant above the bok choy, a broccoli, will soon fill this space so it’s not necessary to replant once the bok choy is gone.
Bok choy doesn’t have to be used in Asian style dishes, although it does make a yummy stir fry. You can cut off the roots and dirt from this plant, brush it with olive oil that has a bit of garlic in it, and throw the entire thing on the barbecue grill for about five minutes. Bok choy can be fixed in any flavor direction.
Nasturtiums are not only lovely in a veggie garden but they are tasty too. The leaves and flowers are a bit peppery in flavor, and are wonderful in salads.
Thinning young plants is very important at this time of year. Most veggies won’t grow large if they are crowded. This is especially true of root crops such as beets and carrots. So don’t be afraid to thin them out to provide more growing space between the plants. Young Tuscan kale can be eaten as you thin. You can use these leaves in salad or chopped in any dish such as pasta, on pizza, or in a soup.
And finally, in mid-June the weeds start to EXPLODE! Even in a raised bed. Here is a common weed, Persicaria maculosa. One name for it is “smart weed” (since it’s smart enough to look like something you might want to keep) and another name is “lady’s thumb” since the dark blotch looks like a thumb print.
Be sure to stop into the store to look at our two raised beds and see for yourself what you could be growing for the table and for visual pleasure. Our raised beds were planted with a variety of veggies and flowers. And note that it’s not too late to plant a veggie garden, be it in a raised bed or in the ground. Most plants will grow quickly now that the soil is warm. (On a personal note, my husband and I have planted our veggies as late as the Fourth of July and had wonderful crops.) Bon Appétit!