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Use radishes, onions for fast food

Onions can be grown from seed, but you won't get them as fast as from sets or starts. Bunching onions, center, are green onions or scallions and will grow faster. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

These easy-to-grow favorites offer something edible in a hurry

Want quick gratification from your vegetable garden? Plant radishes and onions.

If you can find the seeds, Cherry Belle radishes
are a good choice for a quick crop. (Photo courtesy
Burpee Seeds)
The first is renowned as a fast-growing crop; Cherry Belles can be ready to pull in just 22 days.

Notoriously slow, onions are just the opposite; to reach full size, onions take months.

But onion sets – those little mini-bulbs – sprout almost immediately and grow edible-size greens within two weeks. A little later, they can be used as green onions (bulb and all).

Add a few lettuce transplants and you have salad makings in under a month.

Not all radishes are super-fast. Daikon and heirloom watermelon, for example, can take 60 days to reach maturity. Read the package or online description when planning your garden.

But their fast-sprouting quality makes radishes useful as living row markers.

From seed, plant one row of radishes parallel to a row of something slower to sprout, such as heirloom carrots, beets or bush beans. Space the radish row about 4 to 6 inches from the other row. The radishes will sprout quickly to remind you of the position of the other row. Harvest the radishes as they mature, usually weeks before their companions. That also allows more space for the developing veggies in that second row.

Or use the radishes to outline an area planted with squash or melons; again, the radishes will be long gone before the vines or bushes need their space.

This radish trick works best in spring and fall. Planted in summer, radishes often go directly to flower without forming an edible root.

Onions work well as a perimeter planting. Their fragrance wards off several kinds of bad bugs. If allowed to flower, their blooms attract abundant bees.


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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