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The Midsummer Garden

07/28/08 5:55PM By Henry Homeyer
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(HOST) Commentator Henry Homeyer is a gardening coach and writer who says that planting a few more seeds now can extend the garden's bounty into the fall.  

(HOMEYER) It's midsummer and, if I do say so myself, my gardens look pretty darn good. Everything is planted, weeded and mulched. This is a time when I could goof off a little if I wanted to - though I rarely do.

Midsummer is a great time to plant vegetable seeds for a fall harvest. For starters, seeds that would take a week or more to germinate in the spring pop up out of the ground in no time.

I recently planted some broccoli seeds on a Saturday afternoon and little green leaves were up and smiling at me by Wednesday morning.
    
Last year I planted broccoli seeds on July 27th. We ate broccoli heads in October, and side shoots even after Thanksgiving.  

The length of time from germination to harvest varies considerably from variety to variety, and should be written on the seed packet or in the catalog.  It's important to pay attention to those numbers when planting in mid-summer, because some varieties take much longer than others.

I recently bought some carrot seeds marked "54 day to harvest". That means that I could start harvesting those carrots in mid-September. I avoided another carrot variety, one that I really like, because it's labeled  "72 days to harvest" - almost 3 weeks longer. Yes, even a 72-day carrot planted now would produce carrots, but they wouldn't
be as big when I harvested them.

Lettuce is a fast and easy crop. Most lettuces are ready to eat in only 3 weeks to a month. We try to plant a few seeds every 3 weeks from May to September. That way we always have tasty lettuce to eat, and don't have to eat lettuce that is starting to bolt - which makes it bitter.

Lettuce seeds are tiny. I sprinkle some on a prepared bed, and then add a very thin layer of soil over the seeds. I do this by grabbing a handful of soil, taking out any rocks or lumps, and then rubbing my hands together. This allows a fine powder of soil to fall on the seeds. Next, I gently pat the seed bed to get good contact between the seeds and the soil. Finally I gently water my newly planted seeds using a water can - not a hose that might dislodge them.

Hot mid-summer temperatures make watering much more important now than in the spring. Seedlings can easily be killed if they dry out and bake.  I water once, even twice a day to make sure my little lettuce babies don't cook in the heat. If there's a crust on the soil, water will run off and never make it to the roots. To avoid that, I water once, go away, and come back a few moments later to give a second dose of water. Sometimes I poke my finger into the soil to see how well I've done.

So it's no hammock for me. I'd rather be puttering around in the garden.
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