Your garden will survive the cold summer | Mike Stanley

For most of us gardeners, this has been a challenging spring to grow our veggies. The cool rainy weather has “spelled death” for some of our favorite summer crops. Almost every day, I will hear of tomato plants that are not growing and that have reddish or yellowish leaves. I hear of pepper plants that have died, or are close to it. I hear about beans that either never germinated, or have been decimated by the slugs. Unfortunately, that is gardening in the Northwest!

Although this is a bit on the extreme side for cool Northwest spring weather, it actually is not that unusual. The problem is, we all remember last spring that was unusually warm and dry.

Actually, at the Federal Way Senior Center Community Garden, we have had a very successful spring harvest. This past Wednesday, our normal harvest day, we delivered 15 good sized boxes of veggies (lettuce, spinach, onions, napa cabbage, turnips, cabbages, snap peas, broccoli) to our senior citizens.

It is not too late to replant some crops like beans and corn. Hang in there with the tomatoes and peppers. They may perk up as the warm weather comes. And beets and carrots can be planted any time up until about mid-August for a fall crop. I am trying out a red leaf iceberg head lettuce that is supposed to grow well in the summer. I will let you know if I am successful. Most lettuces do not like the hot weather and will go to seed and taste bitter if they are grown in hot weather. And just to prove that I am optimistic that we are going to get some warm weather, I planted a second crop of sweet corn this week. The corn I planted four weeks ago will be more than “knee high by the Fourth of July.”

My slug control program has only been marginally successful this year. The cool wet weather is to blame. I keep after them with the Sluggo and minimize the damage.

The bed that we are experimenting with the lasagna gardening technique has dramatically out performed our regular raised beds. Lasagna gardening is layering compostable material on top of the bed and allowing it to do its magic. Come to the community garden and take a look.

Schools and gardens

I recently met with some parents and teachers from four elementary schools. Each group wants to build a garden for their students. As executive director of the Federal Way Community Gardens Foundation, it is one of my responsibilities to help groups like these develop plans for their gardens. I had a great meeting with the garden team at Enterprise Elementary. I am also meeting with the Nautilus and Green Gables teams. One of the exciting aspects of helping these teams is their enthusiasm for building their gardens for all of their students with garden design features included that will make it possible for the special needs students to participate. In fact, I am working with Chris Willis (director of programs for special needs students for Federal Way schools) to make sure that every garden we build will incorporate design features for these special students.

Check it out

The Federal Way Community Gardens Foundation will have a major fund raising event on Thursday, Aug. 26, at the garden. Save the date. It is going to be an evening of fine food, wine and other surprises.

Watch a video from the 2010 Buds and Blooms Festival:

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