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May Planting, the Wright Scoop

Add herbs and edible flowers to a veggie garden
Add herbs and edible flowers to a veggie garden
Sylvia Hoehns Wright

For a number of years, I've test and planted seeds provided by a friend and colleague Renee. As a result, these are shared tips and strategies which - WE - find to work-well. So, happy 'digging in the dirt during the month of May'.

Presently, in my central Virginia garden, I've fully installed both cool and warm season veggies but its not to late to 'dig in the dirt'. Why? As Renee says, "The soil has drained and warmed and trees are stretching and quickly greening up. Many of us really get the gardening bug at this time of year but think that May is somehow already too late or behind schedule for the best planting possibilities. Not to worry! Now that temperatures are consistently in the 50s at night and daytime weather is warm and settled, it's the perfect time for sowing seeds right into the garden."

A few choices working together that have been identified are staples such as squash, beans, cucumbers and melons. Seeds sown directly into well-prepared warm soil and/or left from the prior year will grow effortlessly at this time of year, outperforming six-pack nursery transplants with ease.

Cucumbers for example work-well in warm, comfortable conditions. Start with rich soil for best production. Similar to many gardeners, I like to sow seeds in a raised mound, planting five or six seeds in each raised one-foot circle, then thinning to the two best seedlings. Cucumbers do require consistent moisture and with central Virginia's spring rains are prospering. Fresh cucumbers are sweet, crunchy and refreshing. I also install Renee's dill, mint, fennel and parsley and use these herbs to complement and enhance flavor. A southern tradition is to lightly sprinkle sliced cucumbers with sugar. Another option is a dressing of very fresh, plain yogurt, combined with a little olive oil, crushed garlic and freshly chopped herbs recommended by Renee.

Over the years, to test Renee's selections, I've grown ingredients required for her recipes. And, this year, I've opt to installed one of her recommended 'three sister' combinations. Last year was the year of zucchini. So, I bake, can and froze all forms of zucchini recipes. As Renee says, "Whether you choose zucchini, scallop squash or crooknecks, warm daytime weather means it's time to plant summer squash seeds. Squash plants are easy to grow and produce abundantly over a long season. Plan to start seeds in a slightly raised mound, like cucumbers. It's especially important to thin young seedlings. Squash plants need ample room to grow and you'll have better results with a few happily spreading healthy plants than a half dozen spindle-thin, puny and unhappy, unthinned specimens." And, in fact, as a result of following her suggestions and installing her seeds, through sharing the abundance, I've already had hints and orders for the result of a 2014 planting.

Last year, I also experimented with winter squashes, whose hard shells protect their richly nutritious sweet flesh for months after harvest. I remain truly clueless as to why my parents did not install these prolific squashes.Renee's Garden offers a packet with both Delicata and Butternut for a medley of colors.

Another option is both bush and pole beans. Consider Renee's Garden 3 color bush bean mixes, crunchy flat Musica pole beans, or tender Rolande French filet snap beans. But be aware, these beans do not retain color when steam; so, I've found it best to harvest young beans and use them in salads for a colorful fun difference. Melons on the other hand are by far an easy and wonderful addition to a kitchen garden. As Renee says, "Ripe melons are a real centerpiece of high summer. I love to serve two or three different kinds of melon cut in chunks and put on skewers, alternating with juicy red strawberries. For an elegant dessert, serve perfumed Galia or Earlidew honeydew quarters with a tablespoon of port wine in the center."

It is not too late; so, won't you join Renee and I in the garden. For additional tips and strategies, visit my friend and colleague Renee's web site 'Dig in the dirt' during the month of May!

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