Vegetable and Herb Gardens
While vegetables get all the press this time of year, many herbs are also ready for harvest. If you want to make pickled cucumbers next month, harvest and freeze any dill you still have in the garden - seeds and all. Parsley, oregano, sage, garlic and onion chives are beginning to fade or bolt so cut and freeze or dehydrate any you want to use later.
While new gardeners love to grow and show off the world’s largest squash, almost all vegetables taste better and have higher nutritive value if they are harvested before they reach their fully mature size. Harvest vegetables in the early morning or late afternoon and bring them inside as quickly as possible. If you are going to consume your harvest in a few days, they can be left out on kitchen counters, otherwise refrigerate as soon after harvest as possible.
Perennial and Annual Bloomers
May is not just about vegetables. Flowers are also blooming and begging to be cut and brought inside. To extend their vase life, cut flowers early in the a.m., strip their foliage and immediately place your stems in cool water.
Our climate is perfect for growing a wide range of annual flowers. If you want to have an ample supply of cut flowers, that last in a vase, always grow lots of zinnias, celosia and sunflowers. Zinnias should be deadheaded to encourage rebloom. You can also succession plant every couple of weeks. Celosia comes in both heading types and plume types. I love them both. Reseed every couple of months. Sunflowers are the most popular summer flower for good reason. They are big and bright and look like the sun. Plus, they come in a ton of shapes, sizes and colors and they are so easy to grow. Plant a different variety of sunflower every two weeks from early spring through late fall and enjoy an ever-changing bouquet.
Fruit and Nuts
Blackberries should be ready early and peaches and plums will come into season by the end of the month. Be prepared to preserve these ample harvests. While I do not know anyone that does not love homemade jams and jellies, these are not the only fruit preservation methods available to the home gardener.
Last year, a friend with an ample peach harvest made peach wine and then distilled it into peach brandy. When he gave us a bottle for Christmas I was touched by his generosity and impressed by the flavor of homemade hooch. It is easy to turn all fruit juices into wine and, with the help of a homemade or store bought distillery system, you can use your excess harvests to make your self one of the most popular people on your block!
A buddy from Florida recently called with a citrus problem I had never seen. My advice to him was to reach out to a local citrus specialist in Florida’s extension service. Every state has Extension agents. They are experts in their fields, and they are only a call away. Take good pictures, document when and where and give them a call.