Gardening Tips for Seedy Characters: Week 27

What to do this week

Zucchini flower. (Photo by Madeline Yakimchuk)

Zucchini flower. (Photo by Madeline Yakimchuk)

It’s time to pick those garlic scapes, so let’s talk about that, and other timely harvesting tips this week.

Garlic puts up a flower stalk, something that is very expensive for a plant. If you pick that stalk before it develops, the plant will put more energy into a nice big bulb instead of growing that flower. Meanwhile you can discard the scape, or you can eat it. The scape tastes like garlic, and is great in stir-fries.

Let’s look around the garden and see what else you can harvest. Although you may not be interested in chowing down on carrot tops, there are other things you will be thinning that are edible. All those tiny kale, Swiss chard, parsley and beet plants are delicious to eat. Turn your thinning into a mini harvest. The rule for thinning is to imagine how big the adult plant will be, leave that amount of space for it, and take out all the rest.

It may be a little early yet for zucchini, but keep your eye on it. The younger the vegetable, the more tender and delicious it is. You don’t really want zucchini to be gigantic and, the more you pick, the more flowering and future zucchini you will have. This is also true of peas and beans: the time to pick them is when they are just big enough to enjoy. Don’t let your crops get old and tough, thinking that bigger is better. These plants will keep producing if you keep picking.

One exception to this rule is beans. You will have to decide if you want green beans or dry beans. If you keep picking, you will have green beans for a while, but toward the end of the season they may not have enough time to finish developing into beans you can shell and dry. You may have to leave them, if winter beans are what you want.

There are also some plants that are best picked at a certain time of day. Many plants cope with the heat of the day by letting their leaves wilt, but they perk up again in the evening. Lettuces do this. If you want nice plump lettuce for lunch, you have to pick it early in the day, before the leaves go limp.

Other plants don’t like to be disturbed when it is damp or rainy. Beans are a good example. You don’t want to be weeding or picking beans when there is still dew on them, or if it has been raining. Pick beans when the plants are dry to avoid damaging or bruising them. Beans are also susceptible to foliar fungal disease, and you can really spread that around if you are working with the plants when they are wet. So, if you want to keep your beans nice and disease free, only work on them when they are dry.

These are guidelines to keep in mind. If you are a home gardener with a day job you may not always be able to manage your time in the garden with such precision. The idea is to do the best you can, and enjoy.

Featured photo: Zucchini flower by Madeline Yakimchuk.

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Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses  la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.




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