It’s early June and most of the garden should be planted. There are still a few days remaining to plant, but for those who are planting winter squash or pumpkins, which need about 100 days to mature, now is definitely the time.

For those who are now enjoying the first fresh, tender lettuce or spinach leaves in a lovely green salad, the next crop of both should also be planted.

As I made our first truly fresh garden salad last week, I was using our very own lettuce, but still had to rely on store-bought tomatoes and onions. In another couple of months, the whole salad we enjoy as part of our summer suppers will be made completely from our own vegetables.

The onions, planted in their own bed, are growing well. Each has sprouted straight up and appears quite vigorous.

I try to plant lettuce and/or spinach every couple of weeks throughout the summer to assure fresh greens right through October. For green salads, as well as to play a role in potato and pasta salads, radishes are also a necessity. These, too, should be planted every couple of weeks.

Radish growing is great for the first-time gardener — they grow so quickly and almost always produce zingy fruit.

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Our beans — yellow, green and French — are all well on their way, and the potato buds are beginning to show through the mounds of hay I piled atop them. If you’re growing potatoes under hay rather than in dirt mounds, be sure to add more hay as the plant grows. If that’s not done, some of the potatoes will be exposed to the air and result in green potatoes.

If you are fortunate enough to have a rhubarb patch, chances are a seed head is now spiking through the patch. Now’s the time to cut it off by using a sharp knife or scissors near the base of the plant. Continue to harvest bright red rhubarb stalks for use in pies or jam.

Don’t forget to continue adding any household vegetable scraps to the compost heap, and keep a close watch out for slugs. These slimy creatures seem to enjoy virtually any vegetable and can devastate a crop.

To reduce their devastation, use iron phosphate, or a salt shaker. Since they are virtually all water, they will shrivel right up. Also, to prevent clusters of them from eating the plants, be sure to remove any grass or weeds that have been pulled from the garden. Slugs just love those moist piles.

According to eartheasy.com, another approach is to avoid watering your garden in the evening. Slugs are most active at night and are most efficient in damp conditions. If you water in the morning, the surface soil will be dry by evening. “Studies show this can reduce slug damage by 80 percent,” according to the site.

But keep in mind that if watering is done in the morning, the earth around the plants can dry out before nighttime. I have always watered in late afternoon or early evening, then tackled the slugs separately.

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Here are a few other things to consider as the garden gets going:

* Place row covers over some of the crops. These will help prevent insects from dining on your fledgling vegetables, and also provide a little extra heat that can promote growth.

* Deadhead all the flowers that have now passed by for the year. Plant some pansy or geranium seedlings right next to the daffodil and tulip leaves. Remove those leaves once they have turned brown.

* Look for egg clusters under the leaves of vegetables and remove them; this is particularly important for reducing the number of potato beetles.

* Although the potatoes may already be planted, there’s still time to experiment with a new variety.

* Mulch the tomato seedlings with newspapers and hay. This helps keep down weeds and prevents the tomato leaves from touching the ground, which can sometimes encourage diseases and blight. The practice also maintains moisture.

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* Pick the last of the asparagus. I like to saute the cut-up spears with garlic and olive oil, or roast them in the oven.

* Make a daily tour around and in the garden, removing weeds and grass, and watching out for insect pests.

* Water tomatoes deeply, and water them at the base rather than with a hose from the top. This will help prevent the spread of diseases and better provide water to the roots.

Most of all, enjoy what your own two hands have planted. Fresh vegetables don’t get any more local than from your backyard garden.

Eileen M. Adams has been gardening for decades. Every year presents new challenges and rewards. She may be reached at [email protected]


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