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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter



Vegetable School

 Greens to replace lettuce when it gets hot during the summer time

When the heat of summer prevents your lettuce from growing properly and the plants begin to make flowers and seeds your lettuce crop is finished until you replant for a fall crop in mid-August. This process is called "Bolting" and once it begins your lettuce foliage begins to taste bitter. If you crave fresh greens then look to Kale, Collards, Flower Sprouts, Mustard, and Cabbage.

Lainie Kertesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds tells us that summer time greens are just as tasty as lettuce but has unique flavors so we can better utilize our vegetable gardens when the heat prevents us from growing lettuce.

 Let's begin with Collards as they are early to pick when the heat begins during Late July and are a true favorite green of the south. Several crops can be planted during the year for early harvest and right up until the weather gets cold and even snowy. Eaten fresh in salads or cooked like spinach you will enjoy it unique flavor no matter how it is eaten. Find yourself a recipe on how it is eaten down south with pieces of pork in it, it is wonderful. Last year I was in Florida visiting my oldest son Matthew and his wife and my wife and I cooked Easter dinner. Matthew told me to cook twice as much collard greens as spinach and he was right because when the meal was over only my wife and I had eaten the spinach and the collard greens were long gone. Give them a try you will not be sorry, as I now grow them in my garden and eat them whenever I can find them.

Cabbage is also a very taste summer green and most of us wait until the fall to harvest the large heads it will produce. This year harvest your cabbage in July when it is 8 inches in diameter. Great for cold slaw or with other mixed greens in a summer salad. When you plant them in your garden this spring plant them every foot and when they reach 8 inches cut and eat every other cabbage head. The remaining heads can continue to grow and mature to 12 inch plus heads that will have a more unique flavor when they grow with the cold weather. Once they reach 12 inches or larger this unique vegetable can be used in all sorts of dished from stuffed cabbage, in a New England boiled dinner, or soups and stews. Same vegetable but with two different tastes depending on the season. Plant your first crop of cabbage when you plant your Pansies to give you color this spring and a second crop should be started by seed in mid-July for a fall crop of small heads and unique flavor given to the plant by the cold weather. How many 12 inch heads or larger can your family eat this fall without you tossing out half of the head into your compost pile, pick when small and enjoy without much left overs.

Kale is another green that has grown in popularity in the past few years and can be eaten during the summer or fall with two unique and different taste depending on the season. Kale is great for the summer salads, baked in the oven with a bit of salt to replace potato chips, and in soups and stews. Kale is one of those vegetables that are just beginning to gain interest for the home gardener. Kale is filled with vitamins and minerals and once you start eating this green you will wonder why it took so long for you to grow them fresh in your garden. This year there is a shortage of Kale seed so order your seed right now from Johnny's Selected Seeds so you can grow this plant for its unique tasting foliage. Order enough seed for several planting spaced about 3 weeks apart so you can enjoy the taste right up until it snows or you get tired of gardening. Kale chips are good for you and have a lot less oil and fat than potato chips do, and the vitamins and minerals they provide are great if you're hungry and looking to lose weight. Give this green a try you will not be sorry.

Now for something new that Lainie suggested we should all grow in our garden called "Flower Sprouts" and this is new to me, so I will be growing it in my garden this spring. Flower Sprouts is a cross between Kale and Brussels sprouts and the plant grows tall with small open heads of greens that grow on the stem. Unlike the tight head that grows on the Brussels sprouts it resembles a miniature head of loose leaf lettuce about 2 inches in diameter. These heads are tender, mild flavored when steamed, sautéed, stir fried, or even roasted. When lightly cooked they will have the best flavor Lainie said. Your best selection is called Kaleidoscope Mix with different colors and flavors in the mixture of seeds. Start seeds now and again in late July for a fall crop. Like the other greens we talked about the cold weather will change the taste of the greens. Enjoy!!! 




Time to plant Peas


My dad always planted Peas on St. Patrick's Day if the ground was ready--though it was sometimes not. We have been waiting to get out into the garden all winter long and now is the time! Go down to your local Garden Center to purchase your Ferry Morse seeds and be sure to pick up some Spring Peas, such as the peas for shelling, Snow Peas and Sugar Snap Peas. I like the Snow and Sugar Snap Peas because you can eat the pod and pea, no waste and a lot less labor to clean. The taste of fresh picked peas is as different as frozen peas are to canned peas. If you have never grown peas in your garden, this year try it and taste the difference. Peas do not like the heat, so you should plant them now while the temperatures are cool. Purchase double the amount of peas you need and keep the balance for a fall crop that you will plant in August and harvest in October.

My father told this story to everyone he knew who loves peas--and it is true. On June 16, 1949 my mother was in her garden weeding and picking fresh peas for their dinner. A few neighbors came by that morning to see her and say hello. To their surprise when they returned home that evening a sign was attached to the front of the house: "IT"S A BOY." While my mother was picking peas, she went into labor with me and I think that is why I love peas so much. That night, my Dad cooked the peas that my mother had picked and brought them to the hospital for her to eat because peas were her favorite vegetable also. Now you know the rest of the story!

It is best to plant peas in a location that is sunny all day. Before planting, work two inches of compost or manure into the soil as these plants love a rich soil and will give you more peas per plant for your extra work. If you have a loose, well drained soil, the plants will grow better than a soil with a lot of clay. If you have a wet spring, heavy, wet soil will rot the seeds before they have a chance to germinate. Use Liquid Gypsum before planting to break up the clay and open up the soil. Go to for more information on clay soil care. A soil PH of 5.5 to 6.5 is best and for most of us, lime should be added to the garden every other year to lower the acidity.

Peas are unique because they can produce a small bump on the roots called a nodule. This nodule, with the help of bacteria that live in the soil, has the capability of pulling nitrogen from the air and soil, storing it in these nodules for future crops in the garden. Peas and beans can do this, so plant them in a different location every year and the plants will make free fertilizer for you, rather than taking it out. If you are new to peas, purchase a package of nitrogen-fixing bacteria from the nursery when you buy the seeds as it will increase the yield of pods by as much as 75%. The new Dr. Earth Vegetable Food with Pro-Biotic or Vegetable Thrive with mycorrhizae will give you better results than the traditional 10.10.10 fertilizer and actually help build up the soil at the same time.

Plant the peas on both sides of a string-type trellis or chicken wire fence to help keep the pea plant off the ground. Peas have tendrils that will attach to the support and hold the plant upright, keeping the peas clean, showing off the flowers so the bees can find them more easily, and produce more peas per pod. Space the seeds three inches apart and plant them 2 inches deep. If you like to eat peas, plant different types that ripen at different times so you can pick them for a longer time. Look on the back of the package for the maturing time and plant at the same time. Pick the peas when the pods are full but not bulging for the best tasting peas. All that remains is a little butter, salt, and pepper, so enjoy!






 Home Grown Lettuce


When my Aunt Ruth was alive, she loved to work in the vegetable garden--and my garden became hers. That was OK, because I never had to weed or water that garden and, most of the time, I could just stand there and enjoy watching her enjoy what she was doing. She loved to grow leaf lettuce because it grew so fast, tasted so good and because you could cut it down to a couple of inches of the ground and it came back without replanting. She loved the different shapes, colors, textures and tastes of the foliage; most nights she would pick lettuce for us and make a wonderful salad. Her favorite was a salad of just mixed lettuce greens with basic oil and vinegar dressing. She would say to us, "I have made a honeymoon salad--lettuce alone." I do miss her a lot, and when I am in the vegetable garden working, I know she is right there next to me, working alongside me.

Did you know that there are 4 main groups of lettuce that you can grow in your garden? The crispheads, loose heads, Cos or Romaine types, and leaf lettuce. The crispheads will form a solid and more rounded head of foliage--the 'Iceberg' is the most popular type found at the supermarket. This family is great for the spring and fall only, as it does not do well in the heat of summer. Cool weather is the key for this family of lettuce. It takes about 85 days to grow in the spring and 95 days in the fall for this family to mature, so plan ahead.

The loose head types--commonly known as the Bibb lettuce family--do not produce a firm central head. The foliage is loosely packed, more tender, much darker in color, and forms many outer leaves around the head. Some of these types of lettuce will tolerate the summer heat, but all will grow in the spring and fall.

Cos or Romaine types of lettuce will form upright growing heads with longer leaves and a thicker central midribs for support. This family will take longer to grow and mature, so plan ahead. The flavor is best when planted as a spring or fall crop in your garden. Summer heat will spoil the flavor and the plants will bolt easily in the hot weather, making them bitter tasting.

Aunt Ruth's favorite was the loose leaf; this family does not make a head at all. It resembles an arrangement of beautifully arranged leaves growing from a central point with foliage of different sizes and colors. This family will mature very quickly--in just 40 days in the spring or fall. During the summer, it's even faster because all you have to do is cut it back to within 2 inches of the ground and in just a couple of weeks the plant will replace all the foliage you ate earlier in the season. This plant has the ability to re-grow new foliage 2 to 3 times a season, if you fertilize with a water solvable fertilizer every 2 weeks. Use Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting for the best response.

All lettuce plants do best with cooler temperatures and you might think of planting some of your favorite varieties in the shade during the summer. To me lettuce can also be used in the landscape as a foliage plant grown for color. Much like what dusty miller, vinca vines, coleus, and sweet potato vines are grown for. Best of all, when lettuce is grown in containers you can eat the foliage as it matures as a bonus. Lettuce will also make a wonderful container plant for those of you with limited growing space--so consider growing mixed colored and foliage types of loose leaf lettuce instead of flowers in your container this summer.

If you would like early lettuce for your garden, now is the time to start the seeds indoor to transplant seedlings into the garden during mid to late April. Use a seed-starting soil like Jiffy mix or the new Espoma Organic Soil with mycorrhizae bacteria added to it. When the plants are 1 to 2 inches tall, transplant them into the garden and space them according to the type recommendations. You can direct seed into the garden in late April, as soon as the ground has warmed up. If you're planting loose leaf lettuce types and want fresh lettuce all year long, plant 2 to 3 feet of new seed row every 2 weeks. This will give you fresh succulent plants developing all season long.

When you plan your garden, just remember to rotate your crops, as lettuce should be rotated every year to a new location, so as not to deplete the soil of nutrients that the crop needs to grow. I plant lettuce at the base of tall-growing plants like tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts (just for example) in the summer and use the shade they produce to cool the lettuce plants. The main thing to remember is that lettuce MUST have a lot of water during the hot days of summer or the plant will "bolt," which means it stops making leaves, and makes seed instead--and the foliage will get very bitter tasting.

Lettuce will grow in most soils and the better you prepare it, the faster the plant will mature--especially during the heat of summer. If you direct seed in the garden and seedlings come in thick in areas and spare in others thin thick area--just dig out a few seedling and transplant them. If plants are grown too close together, they will be less productive for you. Plant seed just about 1/4 inch deep and keep wet until they germinate; they will take about 10 to 14 days to germinate.

If you like variety in lettuce you can also purchase mixed blends of seed like Mesclun spicy mix, Mesclun Salad Mix, mixed color leaf types, and mixed texture leaf types. I plant several of these mixes for variety, color, texture, and flavor. This spring, be sure to plant lettuce in your garden, your containers or as an accent plant in your landscaping. As my Aunt Ruth would say: "How about a honeymoon salad tonight--lettuce alone." Enjoy!








Zinnias a great cut flower


If you're a first time flower gardener and are looking for something easy to grow that will give you arms full of fresh cut flowers all summer long, look no further than the Zinnia family of annual flowers. If you're just looking to add color to your flower gardens or you want to attract butterflies to them, zinnias are unbeatable! Zinnias are so easy to grow; you can even start growing them from seed on your windowsill without much care. Zinnias are such a wonderful flower that they were chosen as the flower of the year in 2011 because of their wide selection of glorious colors, the unusual wide selection of heights that they grow and their ability to form new flower buds once you have picked their long flower stems.

The zinnia originated in Mexico--growing as a wild flower--and is still found there in sunny fields. It was not always the beautiful flower we grow in our gardens today. In fact, it was known to the Spanish as the flower of "sickness of the eye." Not a real compliment of a name, is it!? In the 18th century, collected seeds were brought to Europe, where well-known German Horticulturist Dr. Johann Gottfried Zinn worked on the new plant to improve its appearance but it took until the mid-19 th century to become a popular garden flower.

In the 1920, seed companies began to work very hard on this plant and soon their efforts paid off with introductions of new plants that grew from 6 inches to 4 feet tall. The color selection also grew to match the rainbow along with the size, shape and petal count of the flowers. In 1939, the zinnia became a household name with the development of a new variety called the dahlia-flowering zinnia developed by Ferry Morse Seed co. It was called "State Fair" and it had more resistance to disease problems, much more vigorous growing and the stems were stronger and better able to hold large flowers on the plant without falling over like past hybrids.

With all this work being done to the zinnia plant, it quickly grew to be as popular a flower to gardeners as the dahlia and the chrysanthemums were, because of the many flower forms. This flower once known as "sickness of the eye" was now one of the most popular flower in the world. The flower that had only a single row of petals in Mexico many years ago now has flowers with forms that are single, semi-double or double. But the shapes of the flowers are what gave them character from the button-types, beehive-types, the cactus-types with twisted petals, and dahlia-types with large flat flowers.

The zinnia plant has rich medium to dark green foliage that has a nice shine to it all season long. The leaf is oval with a point on its tip and, depending on the variety, will grow from 2 to 6 inches long. The leaves grow opposite each other on long stems making it perfect for cutting except for the dwarf varieties. The leaves also curl under at the edges giving them a rounded look--almost like basil foliage. The flower buds look like buttons and each bud is covered with green looking scales that are edged with black. The flower bud swells and opens slowly, exposing the flower petals in a tightly rolled ball on its top, and one by one the petals begin to emerge and create a wonderful daisy-like flower.

Plant zinnias in a garden that receives full sun all day long if possible, but they must get at least 6 hours of mid-day sunshine to bloom non-stop. Your soil should be rich and fertile so be sure to mix compost, animal manure or seaweed kelp before planting every year, the better the soil, the more flowers your plant will make for you. Your soil should also be well-drained especially when you're planting seedlings or they will develop root rot during wet and rainy periods. If your soil has clay in it, use garden gypsum when you condition the soil before planting, I recommend using Soil Logic liquid gypsum because it will break down clay in just a couple of weeks and open up the soil to improve drainage. Plants do best in a soil near neutral so lime every other spring to control acidity in the soil. You can also use your wood ash from your wood stoves or fireplace or Magic Cal from Jonathan Green to sweeten up your garden soil.

Set out your seedlings when the weather has warmed up and the threat of frost is over. They will grow best when the soil is warm, so don't rush to set out seedlings, wait! The one word of advice I have for you is not to crowd the seedlings together when planting, as they will fill in quickly, and they need good air circulation to prevent disease problems like powdery mildew. Zinnias love the heat of summer and when the warm evening temperatures arrive, you can almost see them grow. I add Plant Thrive to all my seedlings to help stimulate root development; mycorrhizal fungi makes a big difference when planting.

Water the plants regularly to keep the soil moist, especially during the heat of summer. Always water early in the morning and never at night to prevent disease problems--like all garden plants. If your garden is flat, remove the nozzle from the hose and flood the soil with the hose rather than using a sprinkler. Fertilize with Osmocote timed-release pellet fertilizer when planting and repeat in early August or use a water-soluble plant food like Miracle-Gro or Blooming and Rooting every two weeks from June to September.

Insect problems are minimal but if you have a bad year with a lot of Japanese beetles, they will cause some damage to the foliage, so spray foliage regularly with garden Eight from Bonide Lawn and Garden. When your zinnia plant start flowering you should be picking the flowers regularly as the more you cut the plant for flowers, the more they will develop new growth and make new branches filled with flowers. Their long stems make this plant the perfect plant for cutting. Cut the flowers when the flowers bud is half way opened and watch them mature in your vase of water. Buds still tight with no flower petals open will not open when cut so give them time to mature before cutting.

Cut zinnias will last 10 days or more in a vase of water as long as you keep them out of the direct sun. I worked at a farm stand during junior high school. Every morning early, the owner and I went out into the field to cut flowers for bouquets she made. We always brought a bucket filled with about 6 inches of water to put the flowers in when we cut them--and even in the heat of summer, they never wilted. She also let the flowers sit in the buckets for an hour or two to acclimate the flowers to the cutting--and they did much better when arranged.

The seed of the zinnia is large and easy to germinate, making it easy for children to grow for your garden. As the flowers fade on your plant, remove them along with 2 sets of foliage below them to encourage new shoots to develop on the plant faster. The taller growing varieties made large flowers and the plant got heavy so by July we placed a green pencil stake near the plant base and attached the plant to it with twist ties just in case we has strong summer thunder storms to prevent damage to the plant.

Here are my favorite varieties: 'Priulla' or 'Timberlines' for your front rows; they will grow 6 to 15 inches tall. Next my favorite--and sometimes hard to find--called "Cut and Come Again" (the name fits them well, the more you cut, the more they flower). They will grow 18 to 30 inches tall with 2-inch flowers. For tall growing varieties that will grow 3 to 5 feet tall, plant the 'State Fair' or 'California Giants' for 3 to 5 inch flowers. Zinnias come in all colors, except blue and white is hard to find when buying mixed colors. Common colors are yellow, orange, red, chartreuse, purple, lavender, lilac and white. With the new hybrids today, look for the many new two-tone varieties now available.

One last thing, zinnias will attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, so plant them for additional excitement in your summer cut flower garden. You can also plant smaller growing varieties in your rock garden and be sure to plant some taller growing varieties in your perennial garden to replace the early flowering perennials and keep these gardens bright and colorful all summer long. Zinnias will also do very well in mixed plant planters of all types--as long as you water and feed regularly. Enjoy!





Recipe of the Week 



                  The Perfect Pot Roast Dinner

This recipe will transform your average chuck roast into a meal your family will ask for over and over again. It's tender, juicy, and tasty with all the fixings for a wonderful family meal and there will be no leftovers. Be sure to get a nice crusty bread to soak up all the juices.



3 medium to large yellow onions quartered

6 carrots cut in half

6 celery sticks cut in half

6 medium white potatoes quartered - if you're from the south use sweet potatoes

Beef Chuck Roast 2 ½ to 3 pounds

Salt and pepper

All-purpose flour, ¼ cup

3 tablespoons of truffle oil or olive oil

4 cloves of Garlic chopped

Sweet paprika 1 teaspoon

1 ½ to 2 cups of Beef broth

1 can of Hunts diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano or green pepper,celery and onion, drained of liquid.

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley chopped and a bit more for garnish


Season the Chuck roast with ¾ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Spread the flour on a plate and coat both sides of the roast with flour, shaking off the excess.

In a Dutch oven or covered casserole pot add 2 tablespoons of truffle oil or olive oil and heat to medium- high heat. Add the roast and cook for about 5 minutes on each side to brown it well on both sides. Remove from pot and place on a plate.

Add the remaining oil on that medium- high heat. Add the onions and celery, cover, and cook stirring occasionally until soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and paprika and cook until the garlic is fragrant, a couple minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, beef broth, parsley and stir well. Return the roast back to the pot nestling in the onions and celery. Now surround the roast with the potatoes, and carrots and push into beef broth and tomato liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until beef is fork tender, cook about 2 hours. Serve with crusty bread and butter so you don't waste a drop of the juices. Enjoy!




Join The Paul Parent Garden Club for The Grand Tour Of France July 31 through August 12, 2014. With special 70th Anniversary tours of the Beaches of Normandy and Monet's Garden.




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