You know what vegetable is super-underated? Radishes. They’re super quick and easy to grow and extremely photogenic. They’ve someone how aquired a reputation as something you use for garnishes or pasta salad but don’t let that fool you. There’s tons of great recipes to use up a bountiful radish harvest especially since the entire plant is edible!
The tops though a bit prickly are perfect for pesto. The texture isn’t noticable once they’ve been proccessed and their kick adds a really nice flavor. Plus you’re using what for most people is garden waste! This recipe is also thrifty because it uses sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1/2 cup or more of olive oil (other veg. oil will work)
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
2 cups packed radish leaves (any variety)
2 cloves of garlic (scapes make an excellent spring stand-in)
1 tsp lemon juice
Start by washing and roughly chopping your radish leaves. You can use the entire stem. Toss them into a food proccessor with all of the other ingredients.
While proccessing you may need to add more oil if your pesto is too thick. Slowly add more oil to reach a desired consistency.
If you’re using unsalted sunflower seeds, add salt to taste.
Then you get magic. It’s excellent when paired with pasta, crackers, or my personal favorite baked on bread or pizza.
So far this summer is promising to be a hot one. With the temperatures climbing and much of the east coast worrying about droughts like the ones they faced last summer a productive garden may seem like a mere dream. However there’s several easy tricks that can keep your plants cool, productive, and even lessen your water usage.
Wind tearing through your garden can not only damage plants but also causes soil moisture to evaporate. The easy solution to this is to install or grow windbreaks in your garden. Windbreaks don’t need to be solid and stop all the wind. They can be quickly made from snow or pallet fencing. If you’d like living wind breaks consider tall annual crops, shorter perrenials that won’t shade your garden too much like berry bushes or dwarf fruit trees depending on your space, or hedge species. These should be placed perpendicular to the direction of the wind.
Invest in or diy some shade cloth.
Shade cloth can be super helpful for keeping those cools seaosn plants like peas and spinach producing longer. It can also be used over new new transplants that are adjusting to field conditions or seeds like lettuce that prefer cool soils to germinate.
Use a lot of mulch.
Mulch is one of the easiest ways to keep soil temperatures cooler and moisture levels up. Plus mulch cuts down on the weeding. Great mulch options include grass clippings, straw, hay, or old leaves all of which can be combined with cardboard or newspaper.
Water your garden consistently.
Your watering schedule will obviously be unique to your garden but you sould work hard to maintain moist soil conditions. Waiting for plants to start wilting before you realize it’s time to water harms your plants’ health and reduces your harvest.
Water at the right times.
Watering consistently is half the battle but you should also try to water at the best times of day. The early morning and evening are the best times to water. Less water is wasted waisted to evaporation because it has a chance to soak into the soil before it’s exposed to the mid-day sun and heat.
Growing vining plants like watermelons, cucumbers, gourds, squashes, sweet potatoes, and nasturiums under taller plants like corn, sorghum, and sunflowers can help you make the most of your space and keep the soil cool. The vining plants will shade the soil, block weeds, and hold moisture once they’re mature enough.
Create a trellis for climbling plants like cucumbers or runner beans and then plant a cool weather loving crop in the shade they create. These trellises are often set up so they’re slanted to provide maximum shade.
Intensive planting is a principle of biointensive gardening. Plants are grown in beds, not rows and are often planted hexagonally. This style of planting maximizes space. Mature plants may touch leaves but still have plenty of room for their roots. They shade the soil reducing moisture loss and blocking weeds.
Note: planting intensively will work best with healthy soils as you’ll be growing more plants on less space.
Transplant at the right times.
If you’re transplanting crops into your garden it’s best to avoid the heat and sun as much as possible, for your sake and the plant’s! Transplant in the early morning, late evening, or on a cloudy day for best results. The plants will suffer less transplant shock that way.
Catch rainwater around your plants.
For transplants dig your hole a little extra deep and create a basin around each plant that extends outwards a little beyond the edges of the plant’s crown to funnel rainwater towards the roots.
For planting seeds dig your trench slightly deeper than necessary so that rainwater stills runs down into it even after you’ve covered your seeds.
If you’re feeling really productive go ahead and install some rain barrels on your gutters too!
Choose crops wisely.
If you live in an area with hot summer temperatures it’s a good time to start direct seeding crops that can handle the heat. These include plants like watermelon, okra, roselle, lima beans, and southern peas.
Whenever gardening you should be thinking about keeping your soil and therefore your plants healthy. Doing maintanence work like crop rotation, cover cropping, and applying compost will keep your soil and plants healthy. Well nourished, disease free plants will tolerate the stress of hot weather much better than those already struggling.
Gardening is never easy but hot weather can be especially tough on you and your plants. Follow these tips for a healthy and productive garden even in hot, dry weather.
Now that the hot weather has really begun to set in it’s time to focus on heat loving crops. While many people will be setting out peppers and seeding melons there’s another summertime crop that deserves a place in your garden, roselle. The roselle plant is a member of the hibiscus family grown for its flavorful calyxes (part of the flower). It’s not as showy as ornamental hibiscus varieties but it is extremely useful.
It offers a citrus flavor earning it another common name, the Florida Cranberry. Roselle can be used for candies, syrups, or jam but it’s probably best known for its use in making delicious, bright red tea called Red Zinger. The tea has more going for it than just being tasty though. Roselle has long been used to safely lower blood pressure and is full of vitamin C.
The young leaves and stems of the roselle plant can also be used as salad or cooked greens or be made into jam as well. The leaves are naturally high in pectin, prefect for jam.
While Roselle is technically a perennial it is extremely frost sensitive so here in Virginia (zone 7a) it’s grown as an annual. Roselle can be started early and transplanted, much like tomatoes, or it can be direct seeded during hot weather. It requires temperatures between 75°- 85°F to germinate but germinates readily outdoors making it an ideal candidate for direct sowing.
Roselle will do best in well-drained, fertile soil. Compost amendments are fine but beware of over-fertilizing. Too much nitrogen can cause it to put energy into growing a very large plant instead of many calyxes. Be sure to keep your roselle plants well weeded until they’re established and can shade out weeds by themselves.
Tips for Direct Sowing
Plant extra seeds and thin later choosing the best looking plants to keep. This will ensure you get a good crop of healthy, hardy plants.
Water, water, water! Do not forget to water your roselle especially while the seeds are germinating.
Watch the weather and make sure your area has warmed up enough!
If you’re going to direct sow and thin your plants (or have plants ready to set out) it’s important to give Roselle a lot of space. Plants should be thinned to 3 ft apart in rows 5 ft apart. It sounds like a lot but plants with less space will produce less calyxes.
Pests aren’t typically a big problem with roselle though it can be susceptible to stem and root rot. Both are easily avoided by planting in well drained soil and carefully monitoring watering to avoid over doing it.
Thai Red Roselle, the variety grown at Southern Exposure, should begin flowering in the mid summer. Calyxes can be harvested after the blooms drop off and are most easily harvested when full grown but still tender. If they’re not tender enough to break off by hand you can use clippers.
For high quality tea calyxes should be removed from the seed and dried out of direct sunlight. A dehydrator can be helpful especially in very humid weather. Once completely dry they can be stored in airtight jars for making tea throughout the year.
If you’d like to try your hand at growing roselle there’s still time to direct sow! Find Southern Exposure’s Thai Red Roselle seed here.