Strategic Moves, Stuart Wood’s New York Times best-selling mystery, is one of my favorite books, full of plot twists and intrigue.
The title also describes moves I made in May in my edible garden to ensure a summer full of vegetables and fruit.
I was slated for knee surgery May 30 and then 60 days of intensive physical therapy; I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk up the steep hill to tend the vegetables, herbs and fruit until the end of July, at the earliest.
With the moves I made, my non-gardener husband has been able to harvest five kinds of lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas, broccoli, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
We have eaten well and shared with neighbors. And, there is plenty more to come, from heirloom tomatoes to Asian pears. In fact, he picked out first ripe tomato, Homeslice, July 15.
This is how I did it.
- The first week of May I spread a six-inch-thick layer of shredded leaves on each raised vegetable and berry bed and around the fruit trees. Last fall’s leaves had been shredded and piled near the garden to decay over the winter.
- Next, I spread compost over all beds and added a thin layer of composted cow manure to one bed.
- Grafted and heirloom tomato plants I ordered in February started arriving May 15. And, I planted them, heaping a generous amount of leaves around each plant for insulation from the still chilly nights.
- I erected pea trellis on the north and east sides of one four-by-four-foot bed and then pushed Super Sugar Snap pea seeds into the soil along the trellises. Next, I broadcast Red Oak Leaf, Garden Babies romaine, Freckles, Lollo Rosa and Salanova lettuces, plus Corvair spinach seeds over the remaining soil. I pressed the seeds into the soil with the palm of my hand so they made contact with the growing medium. Next, I spread toilet paper over the salad green seeds, and lastly, watered heavily. The paper dissolved about the time the seeds split and send down roots.
- I purchased two 4-paks of Packman broccoli transplants and set them out in the bed dressed with manure. The last two beds were planted with pepper transplants the day before my surgery, Diva cucumber seeds around a wire obelisk and yellow wax bean seeds finished the last bed. Unfortunately, the cuke and bean seeds rotted in the cold, sodden ground during our chilly and wet June.
- Lastly, I positioned an elevated sprinkler that could be programmed to cover all areas of my 20-by-30-foot, fenced vegetable garden. That gave me the option to tell my husband to turn on the hose that fed the sprinkler when the garden needed water. Most of June, none was needed, due to the record-breaking rain. But, July has been dry, and the dedicated sprinkler system has worked perfectly.
No-work garden for anyone
The lessons learned from my strategic moves prove that edible gardening doesn’t have to be time-consuming. With initial steps and tolerance for weeds in the paths around beds, large, delicious crops are simple to produce.
Tell us about how you’ve simplified your edible gardening. We all can learn new tricks and techniques to grow luscious edibles.
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.
In stores now!
Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.