In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2009
Regional Report

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Even bolting, leeks provide mostly edible flesh

Beginning July: Still Spring

July is usually a month of opposites in the garden. Summer's heat is upon us, and we're harvesting crops; but Fall's cool weather is around the corner, and we should begin planning the cool-weather garden.
But, this year is different. It may officially be summer, but our summer heat has yet to be consistently with us.
Our very long Spring has been wonderfully comfortable for us gardeners. Plants have developed nicely. But, my boysenberries, although lushly plump, weren%t very sweet. This followed my early Flordaprince peaches, also not very sweet, although I didn%t really expect it since they bear so early. I hope this isn%t also the case for my first ripening tomatoes % Cherokee Purples % that are showing good color.
I just pulled the dried sweet peas and last cabbages, and transplanted the tomatoes I%d started from seed in February that I%ll count on for late harvest. I also seeded more cucumbers and squash and beans. About half of the edamame seeds came up and are growing nicely. The peppers and first batch of beans are blossoming.
The reseeded lettuce provided several salads before bolting. The few bolted-lettuce stalks are maturing to the stage when I%ll cover their seedheads with a paper bag to corral the seed. When the stalk is crispy, I%ll break it off and store the bag in the garage until I%m ready to sow it in the fall.
Beets continue to provide one-and-a-half-inch-diameter globes for steaming and greens for raw salads and stir-fries whenever I feel like harvesting % they certainly are a blessing that don%t have an absolute pick-me-now! deadline.
Leeks are slowly but surely bolting. When I see the elongated center shoot with the bulblet barely peaking through the foliage, I pull the plant, trim off the roots and green top, rinse, and refrigerate in a ziplock plastic bag. When I need one or more for a recipe, I slice each lengthwise and remove the single stalk. Although this slices ok when raw, its cellulose firms up into inedibility when cooked. The remaining sheaths are fine to use in any recipe.
Following the last Flordaprince peach harvest, I trimmed off all the branching foliage taller than I could reach. This summer pruning technique following harvest for all deciduous fruit trees accomplishes several benefits. First, the branches to be removed are this year%s growth so very thin, pliable, easily reached and easily cut. Second, this pruning removes growth that I%d never be able to reach either for dormant-season pruning or for harvesting next year % since I%m not about to get onto a ladder for either activity! Third, the pruning forces all the growth over the coming summer and fall to go sideways rather than straight up, filling out the easily-reachable-for-harvesting range. All this turns the tree%s exuberance to my advantage, gaining an extra season or two of growth right where I want it. As an extra bonus, during the winter dormant pruning time, I need to make only slight additional trimmings. No big winter pruning job for me or the tree, and no wasted pruned branches to cut up and haul % to say nothing of wasted tree energy having produced all that wood I%d have just pruned!


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