Tuesday, 29 April 2008 19:42

Spring Garden One Month Along

Written by Jason

Our spring garden vegetables have been planted about 1 month now and we are starting to see some flowering and fruiting.  We planted tomatoes, zucchini, crookneck squash, straight neck squash,   pattypan squash, cucumbers, okra, habanero peppers,  and watermelons.  Almost everything we planted in the garden has done well, and the plants that didn't make it have something else planted in their plots.  Our plan to control weeds by adding a 6-8 inch thick layer of mulch is paying off.  We have not had to pull many weeds and the ground stays very moist underneath the mulch longer, which has reduced the amount of watering the garden has needed.  We have been pretty lucky getting some rain just about every week since we planted.  I have only watered the garden about once a week.  The tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers are all starting to flower.  The flowers turn into fruits and we can already see small tomatoes and zucchinis forming. 
It looks like the zucchini is going to be the first veggies harvested.  We already have a couple that are about 3 inches long and growing fast.  We usually harvest ......

them at about 8 to 10 inches long, but sometimes they get bigger before we get to them.   They will grow over 2 feet long if you let them go, but I prefer the more tender ones less than 10 inches long.  Zucchini plants are very productive and we usually put dozens of quart bags in the freezer every spring.  We staged the planting and started some of our plants a couple of weeks later than the rest so we will continue to get zucchini late into the spring.  One of my favorite dishes is stiYoung zucchini on plant.r fried zucchini with an onion from the garden added for some sweet flavor.  I can hardly wait for some to get ripe. 
We have several other types of squash planted as well.  Crookneck squash and straitneck squash are both yellow squashes popular here in the south.  I'm not really sure what the difference is in the fruit, other than the neck shape.  They both produce bright yellow meaty fruits with excellent flavor.  We also put up a great deal of  yellow squash in quart freezer bags.  Pattypan squash, another of my favorites  are kind of rounded and flattened with scalloped edges, sometimes called scallop squash.  We usually bake these in the oven.  Sometimes we scoop out the tender meat and mix it with garlic and butter then put it all back in the shell and bake.  It will be a couple  more weeks before any squash is ready to harvest. 
We have several different varieties of tomato planted, but I can't remember what they are.  Some are heirloom varities started by a friend of ours.  Maybe I will find the labels and come back and edit in the names.  Anyway they are all coming along nicely, with a couple of plants having small fruit already.  We have had warm days and cool nights lately, which are supposed to be ideal conditions for excellent tasting tomatoes.  We staged the planting over a few weeks, so we should have fresh tomatoes throughout the spring.  Young tomatoes on plant.
The cucumbers are starting to flower also.  The plants have started sending out tendrils and I've started training them up the string trellis by wrapping the tendrils around the string.  It is working well and the cucumbers are grabbing on tight to the string.  By growing them up and along the string trellis, we maximize the amount of cucumbers we can grow in a single row.   The last couple of years we have made pickels with our cucumbers, and we plan to do the same this year.  Of course many of them will be eaten fresh on salads.  
We have a few habanero peppers mixed in, mostly filling spots where plants died or didn't come up.  This is no slight against the peppers, we're just making use of all of the available space.  Habanero are extremely hot and it only takes a single chile to spice up a recipe.  These plants will probably continue to produce fruit through the spring and summer.  We usually just rinse the peppers and freeze them whole in quart bags.  We also make pepper jelly which is excellent on crackers with cream cheese.
Our okra plants are not growing very well and will probably have to be replanted.  Im not sure what happened to them, but I think they were stunted by a light frost we had a few weeks ago.  We have more okra seeds, so I will probably plant more soon, if these don't recover.  We have a row of onions in the garden as well, that were planted last fall.  We have harvested a few early and they have a great sweet flavor.  We will probaly harvest the rest when the tops turn brown in the summer.  Right now we just check the tops for bolts or flower pods and snap them off.  If we let them go to seed, the onions will not be as good.  We have a couple more rows to plant of other vegetables (pumpkin, winter squash, etc...) which will probably get done over the next month or so.  In our area of Florida we can often plant a second crop of what is considered spring vegetables in a fall garden.  We also have many choices of vegetables for a winter garden here too.  Check the Gallery for more garden pictures and as always feel free to comment about this article or anything else in the forum.   I will post another article and more pics as we start harvesting our spring veggies. 

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