Here are some great crops that thrive in Lancaster’s climate and soil:
- Spanish Onions – those delicate, sweet, round yellow onions are best planted from onion sets. They need well-drained and composted soil, full sun, and nitrogen fertilizer. The more water the onions retain, the sweeter they are, so a late summer harvest just as they start to shoot up flowers is perfect.
- Lettuce Seeds – a huge variety of seeds are available ranging from spinach to butterhead lettuce, red, and green leaf to peppery arugula. Plant a variety for great salads and consider planting seeds in waves, two to three weeks apart, for a continuous harvest. The seeds can be planted directly into the soil in the early spring. Cut the outside lettuce with shears and leave the young center leaves attached to the plant to keep growing. Row covers can also protect tender lettuce leaves from cold nights, dirt, weeds, wildlife, and insects while letting in light and moisture. Try growing lettuce in planters and hanging baskets, too.
- Organic Straightneck Squash is a staple for many summer delights…a gorgeous yellow fruit (yes, it is technically a fruit!) that is great in salads, sliced and grilled, or run through a veggie spiral cutter. Plant 1 or 2 seeds per spot or start some seedlings inside, but these yummy delights love full sun and well-drained soil. An interesting tip? When harvesting, it will last longer if you leave ½ to 1 inch of stem on the squash!
- Burpless Cucumbers are becoming more and more popular as they are being infused into drinks, eaten in salads and are sweeter, with thinner skin than regular cucumbers. Cucumbers are technically a fruit because of the seeds, a veggie because of how they are used, but they are actually a type of gourd. There are several varieties, but no matter what kind you choose, it is best to start them indoors in peat pots and use a soaker hose for watering to avoid leaf rot. Vines and trellises allow for more room and better airflow. Once the fruit appears, it ripens quickly so it needs to be watched!
- Rutgers Tomatoes – a tasty heirloom hybrid that loves full sun and warm, slightly acidic (with less Nitrogen) soil. Consider a 6 week indoor start time; the clay and loam of Lancaster soil makes this a perfect plant to try. Tomatoes are planted a little deeper than most of the fruits and veggies on this list…usually up to their first leaves. When daytime temperatures go below 60 degrees, it is best to harvest them all and use both ripened and green tomatoes for chutneys, salsas, and roasted deliciousness. Tomato cages, planting near carrots and onions, and helpful hints from the pros at Rohrer Seeds will help you get the most from your tomato harvest.
- Peppers, from sweet and mellow to fiery hot, are fun to grow, colorful, and add zing to any dish. With over 50,000 kinds of peppers to choose from, this fruit offers endless possibilities from a sweet crunch to a burning capsaicin heat. The hottest peppers are most often made into sauces. Check out the options for mild peppers, banana peppers, jalapeno and cayenne peppers, or even the hottest ghost or Carolina peppers – some are so intense that they have been used as animal and insect deterrents. Best if grown from seedlings with a gradual introduction to the outdoors, pinching off the first blossoms makes for a higher yield, and experienced gardeners suggest harvesting them with pruners…and gloves for the hot ones.
It is always fun to add some low maintenance color to your garden spaces, and two of Rohrer Seeds up and coming popular garden additions are Hyacinth beans, a fast-growing flowering vine, and the Teddy Bear sunflower . . .a short, bushy, bright yellow flower. These cheerful pops of color add some extra fun in the sun to your summer garden, right into the fall.
See you all at Rohrer Seeds!