Friday, July 9, 2010

Ready, set, plant!


By LYNEA NEWCOMER

With lilac in hand this past Fourth of July, I gave limited thanks for the three-week (minimum) delay to the start of summer. Inhaling its typically spring-sweet scent on such a calendar date brought forth thoughts on the wisdom of patience, the practice of which I recognize will be a lifelong effort. But truly, who could wait any longer to plant this year?

No, you needn't delay, nor complain away another glorious garden morning over latte before it's warm enough to take off your fleece. Get outside, and after wiping away those first beads of sweat from your brow, straighten up your untanned back and think on this: You still have time to plant vegetables and herbs. That's right, you can expect fresh basil on that pasta, grilled summer squash and all the salad you can imagine—if you plant now.

Let me further qualify such a delicious claim, as many a doubt floats along on delayed cottonwood fluff with regard to growing food during even a normal 60-day growing season.

Backyard grubbers of Ketchum and farther north: You'll probably only get one planting for longer-maturing plants like carrots and beets, so plant now and plant a lot. Unless you are set on heirloom varieties, try some hybrids with faster maturity dates. Plant your desired salad greens every week until early September; try chard, kale, spinach and mixed greens. Don't go after head lettuces unless they are speedy growers, and chances are you'll still have difficulties due to the several weeks of higher heat we should receive.

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With regard to that intoxicating summer basil aroma, you'll need to mooch on friendly south-valley growers. Or experiment with your sunniest areas; try digging a ditch to nestle the basil plants in protection from the wind (which they hate) and contrive to cover them whenever night temperatures approach 40 degrees. Uh, huh—well, you can always buy it at the farmers markets.

Forget about growing peppers unless you have large starts and a very sunny south-facing bed, but do try to do some summer squash, and throw in a broccoli start or 10. Be radical and plant radishes at the start of August to enjoy with the first touches of fall.

Yard-eating folk living mid-valley to Hailey: Succession-plant carrots and beets starting now, and additionally in mid-August; mulch these areas in September. Try an August planting of garden peas, and if your spinach decides it doesn't like sprouting in July heat, try this again when temps cool a bit in August as well. Kale, chard, arugula and mixed greens should all do fine through September if planted several times between now and late August.

Also, give summer squash a chance, as well as edible flowers like nasturtium and broccoli starts, but plant all of these now. Throw some potatoes in a barrel of dirt for the joy of it, too.

Don't forget to swing by the Hunger Coalition's Hope Garden, next to the courthouse in Hailey. Hoe and harvest several volunteer hours alongside another community member, and who knows what garden tidbits you'll glean?

Vegetable lovers living from Hailey down through Bellevue: Follow the above guidelines because you'll probably have similar conditions, but your plants might not be quite as stressed by fluctuations between night and daytime temperatures. Cilantro should grow like a weed for you, and pepper-plant starts could do decently as well (should we ever receive several quality weeks of at least 85-degree heat).

If you'd like raspberries for next year, plant bare-root stalks this August. Remember with any perennial, edible or not, to give it at least a month of root-growing time before colder temperatures settle in; this goes for fruit trees and all those shrubs you will drool over at the nurseries this month in the hopes of a fall sale.

Happy planting to all and don't forget a sun dance to further coax our summer weather gods over the ridge tops.

Lynea Newcomer is a gardening enthusiast and writer. You can find out more about her at www.seedsimple.com.




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