Good to be Green: Mid summer kinks and tastes from the garden
Well when you’re stuck with lemons, they say to make lemonade. When my radishes bolted, I did a quick Google search and found that the resulting seed pods are a tasty addition to a salad.
Radishes, like many quicker growing vegetables such as lettuce, will bolt if left to their own devices. When a plant bolts, it shoots up long stems and flowers. It is trying to perpetuate itself by creating seeds. When a vegetable like a pepper or tomato flowers, we know soon enough there will be a fleshy pepper or juicy tomato waiting to be picked. Not so for root vegetables, leafy lettuces and spinach. While experienced gardeners know how to prevent a plant from bolting, a new gardener may not know a plant has taken off until it is too late. Such is my story; this is the first time growing radishes and I didn’t realize the radishes had bolted until they had almost overtaken my raised bed, some radish plants extending to four feet in length. Bolting is usually a bad thing, since the plant is now using its energy to make seeds, rather than tasty root vegetables or tender leaves.
It’s times like this when Google can be a gardener’s friend. I found a variety of web sites that catered to radishes (honestly!) and learned what I had done wrong, but also learned that radish seed pods are edible, even quite good. Some people purposely let their radishes bolt for the seed pods. My point here is that gardening is a very forgiving activity. If your plants don’t quite turn out the way you imagine, you have options.
If you are tending a garden in your yard, be it quite large or a square foot garden, there are a few tasks you should be attentive to during this summer phase. Watering is very important. Mid-summers in this area are notoriously dry, so consistent watering in the mornings will make your vegetables very happy. If you’ve been maintaining a rain barrel, this is the time to use that healthy rain water for your gardens. If you find your root vegetables getting lanky, they may be trying to bolt. If they are flowering, they bolted and you will need to harvest your crops quickly. You can prevent bolting by thinning out seedings to allow the root vegetable to form and grow. Pinch off stems if you see them forming. Ensure the plants are watered regularly. If the soil quality is poor or you planted high demand vegetables, you may want to side-dress your plants with a mid-summer fertilizer, organic compost ‘tea’ preferable over stronger synthetic chemicals.
If you started your garden in mid May or so, you should be in the enviable position of being able to enjoy the fruits (or rather vegetables) of your labor. You can clip herbs at any time. Lettuces should be ready for harvest, as will beans and perhaps even the earliest tomatoes. Root vegetables may not be ready yet.
In the meantime, have fun experimenting, research what you don’t know and see what flourishes in your garden!