Summer vegetable garden is for a moderate, wet climate, not for very hot and dry; to be more specific we're discussing the eastern part of South Africa, at an altitude of 4000 feet. The temperatures reach into the 30s Celsius, with frequent heavy mists and plenty of rain. Corn in flower is the order of the day.
Interestingly though we grow many of the same veggies that we enjoyed forty years ago in Chicago in summer whilst undergoing my chiropractic training.
That means none of the normal tomatoes but we do have a cherry variety that's resistant to the blight.
On the subject of chiropractic, I find it essential both for myself, and my patients, that we always do some lower back exercises before venturing into the summer vegetable garden; that's great exercise for the body, and a lot more interesting than the gym, but some stretching is really important.
Otherwise you'll be consulting your chiropractor more often than will please you.
It's a time of hard physical work; compost piles have to be turned and the raw humus trundled out in wheelbarrows to where it's going to be needed for the autumn garden.
There's also a lot of weeding to be done, either on hands and knees or with a hoe. Look upon it as an irritation, or perhaps as a time of quiet with the arms busy but the mind and spirit free to venture forth into other realms.
The introduction of chickens to our garden has meant a lot less weeding this summer; they scratch them all out. It's part of natural pest management.
This week we are enjoying the first of the summer maize; corn on the cob is one of my favourites.
In case you're anxious about it being fattening, the glycemic index is only 48, and that's low meaning it's only turned slowly into blood sugar, and provokes no insulin rush; and that's for sweet corn. The white maize that we mostly enjoy has an even lower GI.
The first crop of pole beans is nearly over and the second is well in flower; legumes are important in our home, both in summer and winter, to reduce our dependence on red meat for protein; there's no doubt now, it's associated, if you eat too much, with cancer.
And how much is too much? We enjoy red meat perhaps twice a week, and I believe that's reasonable.
Summer vegetable garden speaks to the choice of fresh produce for the table.
Getting sufficient lutein and zeaxanthin, the two carotenoids deeply involved in preventing age onset macular degeneration, is high on the agenda; that means zucchini summer squash, corn and plenty of dark green leafy vegetables like kale and Swiss chard.
Zucchini is notable in being able to supply both lutein and zeaxanthin. Five million Americans are needlessly blind because of a deficiency of these vital phytochemicals, and many times that partially sighted.
We would really like to avoid the white cane and a dog for the blind, so we're enjoying the fruit from the first planting of zucchini back in Spring, and the second is not far behind it; we hope to have them right through the summer vegetable garden, and into late autumn.
The first crop of pole beans are sadly nearly over; we've enjoyed the fruit for the last six weeks; they were planted by my grandchildren as a birthday present in mid August; yes, it's a long wait.
But the second crop is in flower right now, and the third about a foot high; we are really committed to more vegetable protein; it's either that or cancer says the World Health Organisation. If you don't believe me, google it.
We'll be enjoying these pole beans within a few weeks; that's rocket, also known as arugula, growing on the left.
Greens are important in every summer vegetable garden; they contain most of the phytochemicals that help prevent, or at least reduce inflammation in the body. This is the season of many different kinds of lettuce, spinach and kale.
I'll admit to the Preston family being fruit cakes; we have no desire to go though the pain and expense of cancer; so we eat our greens, very often three times a day.
Eggs Florentine for breakfast is my favourite, enjoyed almost every day, a green salad for lunch with lettuce, arugula, sweet basil and cilantro, smothered with either hummus or pesto and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. And then there's the kale for dinner, usually cooked with onion, tomato and jalapeno. Our food is unbelievably tasty and healthy.
Yes, we're health nuts yet desperately trying to avoid a serious psychosis called orthorexia that goes lurking not far distant; if you find yourself refusing a dinner date because the food might contain this or that, then beware.
This is Spring kale and a summer vegetable garden planting of seedlings will soon be ready to take us through the winter; this isn't Chicago.The health benefits of kale include scientifically proven protection against many cancers, including those of the breast and prostate.
Making a compost pile has only one significant cost; the considerable sweat from your brow! But it is an absolutely vital part of the organic summer vegetable garden; grass cuttings and weeds in abundance need a place to be recycled back into the ground; the hotter it gets the better.
The hens just love coming on a picnic with me when I'm opening the compost pile; it's simply loaded with both our indigenous earth worms and the excess produced from the worm farms; they seek out the cutworms too that used to do so much damage. Natural pest management is important in the garden.
The wonder of worm farms and free range cage free eggs may not be on the agenda in your summer vegetable garden, but keep them in mind for a possible in the future; they both greatly enrich your food with nutrients.
Just the increased choline and omega-3 are important to the chiropractor; they in different ways help keep generalised inflammation in the body to a minimum.
Rich choline food sources enhance the methylation of toxic homocysteine in the cells; a deficiency also causes birth defects like cleft palate; not unimportant, eh?
This easy butternut squash soup recipe is without a doubt our family favourite. By adding coconut cream the glycemic index is lowered even further, making it a non fattening and very healthy meal. The late summer vegetable garden is famous for this prolific vegetable.
Often when fruit or veg grows very large it becomes insipid; not so butternut squash; the monsters from the compost pile are every bit as good as any other; in fact better in my opinion.
These giant, delicious winter squash growing in the compost pile will soon be turned into the most excellent easy butternut squash soup.
But wait until they their skins turn to a deep nutty brown; when green they are indeed insipid and uninteresting.
I'll add more about the herb garden, radishes and a dozen other gems growing in our summer vegetable garden; you start planning yours. Swiss chard and spinach make a very simple, healthy beginning; and a small compost pile in one unoccupied corner of the garden; they don't smell at all if you keep them well aerated; don't try to compact them.
Large gardens mean fences for growing pole beans and limas for example, and making chicken runs. Erecting a vegetable garden fence yourself is not as difficult as you may think.
This garden fence is only just complete for a large chicken run and looks rather bare; by next summer it will have various vines hanging on it, probably passion fruit and gem squash, two more of our favourites.
If you don't have the space like we do, then consider these expert tips on how to grow vegetables in containers.
Dark green leafy vegetables are often not at their best in hot and humid summer weather. Arugula, also known as rocket, is one of the exceptions. It grows year round in a mild climate. The summer vegetable garden should always have a couple rows of this veggie; it's so versatile and easy to grow.
Consider the amazing nutrition of arugula. Plop an egg onto a bed of poached mixed spinach and rocket; for breakfast.
It's a very personal decision whether to plant seedlings, or your own seed; in fact we do both.
There are many different varieties of say a cauliflower; your nurseryman knows better than you, or at least he should, which grow best in the summer vegetable garden, and those that are choice for the colder weather.
Above you can see lettuce, spring onion and parsley seedlings from the nursery; the were only planted a month ago and already we are enjoying a few leaves in our salads. Water your seedlings regularly during hot, dry weather. Harvesting rainwater is a vital part of our summer vegetable garden.
But beans and peas are so easy to grow from seed; growing lettuce is the Helen's job and none better than the butter variety from her own seed; they must be kept damp.
If you want abundant soft water for your home and garden, then consider this rainwater harvesting model.
Easy Lunch Recipes
» Summer vegetable garden