Sunday, September 23, 2012

Amazon Launch and a Great Deal from GardenLife!

Wow - this is huge!  As if getting your 2013 Tomato Growing Guide ~ Calendar isn't enough, my good friends at GardenLife  are sweetening the deal!  Purchase your calendar on Amazon between October 1 and October 15 and we'll send you a special coupon code for $10.00 off one order of GardenLife's Mighty 'Matos! 

Amazing Grafted Tomatoes!

It's been hot here...really hot.  Temperatures soared into the high 90s and sometimes up to105 degrees for four weeks straight.  The tomatoes really took a beating.  In spite of the shade cloth I put over the plants, some tomatoes were sunburned. In some areas, the shadecloth was too close to the plants and with diminished air circulation, the plants became very susceptible to spider mites.  Sadly, most of my tomato growing for this season came to a screeching halt much earlier than anticipated.

It's not all sad news, though.  Because, this year I decided to see what all the chatter about grafted tomatoes was about.  I had heard great things but wanted to see for myself.  And boy, am I glad I did!  The plants have performed better than I could have imagined. 

I took this photo yesterday.  In two of my garden beds I planted only grafted tomatoes. Those plants are still incredibly lush and full of  fruit and flowers.  I harvested eight tomatoes from Big Zac and three from Pineapple!  If  I wasn't convinced before that grafted plants are absolutely fabulous (I was) then I certainly am now!

Grafted tomatoes allow us to grow heirloom varieties that have been carefully grafted onto incredibly strong rootstock without having to worry about soil born disease.  The huge root systems allow the plants to take up more water and nutrition resulting in larger, more productive plants.  The grafts are more tolerant of  cooler and warmer temperatures, so they can have longer growing seasons.

Planting grafted tomatoes is not quite the same as conventionally grown tomatoes. It's important to understand the differences between these plants to grow them properly and enjoy the benefits of the graft.  In Spring, I will definitely hold classes spefically addressing how to successfully grow grafted tomatoes.

I purchased all of my grafted tomatoes for this season from GardenLife.  They ship the Mighty 'Matos in three packs in the Spring, but the time to order will soon be here! They will offer about 37  varieties of tomatoes and  I cannot wait to order mine! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Oh No...Blossom End Rot!

Blossom end rot is an unsightly disorder common to tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.  It can occur at any stage in the development of the fruit, but most often is seen early in the season when fruit are one third to one half full size. Blossom End Rot appears at the blossom end of the fruit. It begins with a small, water-soaked area at the bottom of the fruit that enlarges and darkens rapidly as the fruit develops. Ultimately, the spot can get so large that it covers half of the fruit. These rotten areas eventually dry out and become black and leathery.

Blossom End Rot (BER) does not spread from plant to plant or from fruit to fruit.  It is of a physiological nature so fungicides and insecticides cannot prevent or control it. Blossom End Rot often occurs under certain environmental conditions when there are cool nights and warm days.  The range in temperature affects the uptake of water and calcium by the developing fruit, and it’s the deficiency in calcium that results in the rotting.

Some varieties of tomatoes are more susceptible to Blossom End Rot than others. When purchasing tomato seedlings be sure to read the labels that accompany the plants. They may tell you if that particular variety is resistant to BER.  To help prevent Blossom End Rot from occurring in your plants add crumbled chicken eggshells to the planting hole along with your other amendments.  Once planted, try to be sure to keep watering even and consistent. In addition, using organic soil amendments and fertilizer will be helpful.  They don’t contain as much salt, which decreases the availability of calcium to the plants.
Blossom End Rot, while not being very pretty, is not dangerous to consume. You can certainly cut off the affected part of the tomato and eat the rest. There’s no need to waste an otherwise delicious tomato. So, enjoy your tomatoes – even the rotten ones!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Meet Black Mammoth

I have about 100 different varieties of tomatoes growing in my garden this year.  Most have beautiful, green fruit growing on them and are still a week or two away from being ripe and delicious. But there's one that's producing early that I just have to tell you about. It's called Black Mammoth.

As the name implies, it's a rather large tomato - they're coming in anywhere from 10 - 14 ounces and are slightly flattened in shape.  These tomatoes are called "black", and they do have that slightly smoky flavor, but they're really more of a mahogany color when ripe.  They're quite beautiful.  They're also quite tasty, and luckily, the plant yields a lot of fruit.  Black Mammoth is the perfect balance of sugar to acid and made an ideal addition to this season's first of many BLT dinners.  This delicious tomato will definitely be back in the garden next year. It's a keeper!

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Magic of Marigolds!

If you think Marigolds are just another pretty face in the flower bed, think again! These easy to grow bursts of color can be quite helpful as they lure beneficial insects to the garden, including pollinators like bees and butterflies. As if that’s not enough, they also discourage harmful insects from visiting your gardens and can keep bad nematodes away. 

There are two basic types of marigolds.  Both are easy to find in garden centers or as seed. French marigolds are the ones with pom-pom type heads that grow to about 18 inches tall and come in a variety of colors ranging from yellow to rust. Their roots give off a substance which kills nematodes – the bad ones that can destroy tomatoes and other crops.  Marigolds need to be planted densely to control nematodes.  Scented French marigolds also give off an unpleasant scent that repels whiteflies.

 African Marigolds, which really come from Mexico, grow much taller than the French variety.  Their scent is quite unappealing to many insects so they act as a natural repellant. They are said to repel bean beetles, deer and wild rabbits as well as the dreaded tomato hornworm. Due to their natural ability to repel insects and kill nematodes, marigolds make an ideal companion plant for tomatoes.

Marigolds do well in mass plantings and they need to be the scented variety in order to work.  One or two planted here and there won’t repel insects or kill nematodes. They’re perfect in borders and containers. They can tolerate poor soil and don’t need to be watered too often, but they do need plenty of sun. They do like a feeding once a month…amazingly, so do tomatoes. Caring for the marigolds will become part of the tomato routine.   Keep in mind, however, that marigolds should not be planted with cabbage or beans as they can act as an herbicide.  Slugs can be a problem with marigolds so be sure to stay on top of them.

Marigolds are a bright and bold addition to any garden. Add to that they repel the bad insects and attract the good ones and you have more than enough reason to plant them everywhere in your garden. If you’re still not convinced, though, think about the recipes that would be deliciously finished with a hint of spice from marigold petals.  Yes, they’re edible! Cut some to put in a vase of water and the rest go on your plate…truly a farm to table experience. Ahhh…the Magic of Marigolds!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Heirloom Tomatoes...Hybrid Tomatoes...What's the Difference?

When I give tomato classes I like to ask people what kind of tomato is their favorite. I ask what they want to grow.  The response is often “I want to grow those big heirlooms” which tells me they don’t have a clue about tomato varieties or what heirlooms really are. It’s part of my job to explain just what heirloom means and what it means to tomatoes.  So, here it is. The descriptions and distinctions between heirloom and hybrid tomatoes. 

In a broad sense, heirloom plant species are vegetables, flowers, 
and fruits grown from seeds that are passed down from generation to generation.  The seeds are at least 50 years old. Heirloom tomato seeds have not been genetically altered. They’re exactly as Mother Nature made them.

Hybrids, on the other hand, are bred to produce crops that are uniform in taste and appearance. They’re more disease resistant than Heirlooms. Hybrids produce high yields of crops at low cost. Seeds from hybrids are sterile and cannot be passed down. If you saved seed from a hybrid and planted it the next season, it would not result in the same tomato from which you saved it. Instead, the result would be one of the parent plants. Hybrid tomatoes are mass produced, often picked when green and often shipped great distances to warehouses awaiting purchase. 

So, what does all of this talk about heirlooms and hybrids mean to you?  After all, you just want to eat a tasty tomato…

Most tomatoes that you buy in the local grocery store are hybrids. They’re the same shape (round or oval), same color (red) and when you gently cup one in your hand they are, more often than not, hard. That’s not the worst of it.  This is the tomato that so many people will buy. They’ll go home, slice it and notice that it’s white inside. Take a bite and it’s almost flavorless. What’s up with that?  That, my friends, is the hybrid tomato.
The biggest difference between heirlooms and hybrid tomatoes is flavor.  Heirlooms are unquestionably more flavorful and have a complexity of taste that isn’t found in hybrids. The heirlooms tend to have thinner skins and are overall more fragile than hybrids.  You won’t see them piled high in truck beds to be shipped someplace.
Grocery store produce buyers are catching on and in some of the markets you’ll now see small displays of heirloom tomatoes.  You’ll recognize their irregular shapes; many are ribbed or have multiple lobes and they grow in many colors including orange, yellow, dark purple or green.  Sure, there are red heirloom tomatoes, too.  My personal favorites happen to be bi-colored. Every bite is like tasting a rainbow.   When you look at the price tag for the heirlooms in the market, though, you’ll wonder if they’re really worth spending your entire pot of gold.  That, my friends, is something only you can decide.  But for me it’s a no-brainer.  I’ll go home and grow my own.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Don't worry - no details or secrets about the bestselling romantic novel will be disclosed in this post! Rather, let's use it as a jumping off point for a discussion about gardening.

Christian Grey, the main character in the trilogy, is a man with multiple layers to his personality. He may be young, but he has issues. Sounds like a few of my tomato plants.   He's moody to extremes and often described as mercurial.  Did I mention that Christian Grey is really good looking...drop dead gorgeous?   

At first glance, that's what I'd say about the garden, too. Young and fresh and absolutely beautiful.  Upon closer inspection, though, the frailties and imperfections become apparent. Some are quite obvious while others are quite subtle. Some seem to appear out of the blue without warning and others are more predictable.  

This morning, as I surveyed the garden, the temperature was mild and comfortable – for about a minute! The sun came out from behind the clouds and in a matter of moments, it was hot and bright. Then, just as quickly, the clouds shifted, the sun was again completely hidden, and a cool breeze began to blow.  Conditions in the garden change, sometimes very quickly. It can be cool and moist at one moment and in the blink of an eye, sunny and hot or dark and gloomy.  Weather can play havoc with young plants, causing curled or burnt leaves, allowing the ideal conditions for powdery mildew to set in or creating the perfect conditions for a hostile takeover by damaging insects.  These are things that we just cannot control. Plants react in a variety of ways, often in ways that we cannot predict.   I shudder to think of Christian Grey as a gardener!

The key is not to panic and over-react to every little thing as it occurs but rather to embrace them as part of the greater gardening experience. Sometimes, those little things that happen aren’t so bad after all.  If you can look at the big picture, you’ll find gardening to be much more pleasant and satisfying.  And, in the end, those Fifty Shades create something quite wonderful.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Healthy Soil for Healthy Plants

I can't emphasize enough the importance of building and repairing your soil - replenishing what's been depleted over the years.  In my classes and in my videos I always explain how I use products from John and Bob's GrowGreen Smart Soil Solutions. Read on to learn how I became such a believer in these four products. They've changed my garden!

There are few things in gardening that you can count on every year. Weather patterns are erratic. Some years are mild and warm, others are cold and wet. Whatever used to be the norm in Southern California no longer applies. By this time last year, I had 150 tomatoes in the ground. This year, I’m still waiting for nighttime temperatures to rise into the 50s so my plants can stay outdoors.  Tomato varieties that did great in my over-sized kitchen garden last year might have a mediocre season this year. 

While I’ve learned to embrace the uncertainties of each growing season as an adventure, I do like knowing that I can count on John and Bob's to help me have the best results possible. Even if it’s too cold to plant, I know that my soil is alive, healthy, thriving and, most important, ready to nourish and support my tomato plants.

I began growing vegetables 17 years ago with no knowledge and nothing more than a desire to do something fun in the backyard with my sons. I enjoyed gardening enough that I attended seminars and spoke with other growers. As my education continued, along with it came my introduction to John and Bob’s.  I began slowly…adding two tablespoons of  John and Bob’s Optimize along with organic fertilizer to each hole when planting tomatoes.  I can’t say that at the time I really understood about microbes, beneficial bacteria and humus, but the basic theory did make sense to me – healthy soil feeds plants so they can be healthy, too.

Flash forward a few years…Every season my tomato yield was getting better and better. Even in those years that people said they had a “bad season” – I had plenty of tomatoes.  I was still only using John and Bob’s Soil Optimizer, not their whole line, and fertilizer when I planted my tomatoes.

Every day during tomato growing season, my morning ritual begins with a walk out to the garden to check on each plant. I remember one morning in particular, a few years ago. While most of the plants were perky and bright, I found a few that were limp and sickly looking.

I began to panic. Whatever was going on looked bad. I didn’t know what it was but I knew that I didn’t want it to spread to any more plants.  It did.  I cut open leaves and stems, looking for clues to try to diagnose the problem. It appeared that my plants, now eight of them, suffered from fusarium wilt. I had visions of losing every one of my plants.  Frantically, I called my mentor, Steve Goto. His advice was clear and concise and not to be ignored. What I did that day and in the weeks to follow convinced me that I will never grow anything without the full array of all four of  John and Bob’s products again.

I immediately sprayed the leaves with Penetrate as a means of inoculating them. Then, I gave each plant a good dose of Maximize, full of beneficial bacteria and advanced micro-organisms.  Next, I applied Nourish/BioSol, which is like an antibiotic for the soil, feeding the microbes and fighting pests and disease.  I followed by pouring  Penetrate, a liquid bio-tiller directly to the soil at the base of each affected plant.

I had acted swiftly and done everything possible I could to save my tomatoes. The only thing left to do was the hardest thing of all…wait.  The plants looked worse.  I removed two that were most affected.  I remembered being told that the plants would probably look worse before they looked better so I didn’t give up hope, and ultimately, my persistence and patience paid off.  New growth began to appear and the plants finished out the season, providing lots of tasty tomatoes with little memory of what could have been a disaster.

Years later, I now use those four John and Bob’s products together to build my garden soil as a matter of routine. It’s really quite easy. Twice a year, once in early Spring and then again before Fall planting, I sprinkle a light layering of Optimize, Maximize and Bio-Sol onto my empty garden beds. I don’t till the beds or turn the soil.  I usually add some compost and worm castings, too, and finish it off with a spray of Penetrate to moisten the layers.

My plants are healthy and strong with minimal issues of concern.  In fact, along with thriving, productive plants, I’ve noticed a significant reduction in undesirables in the garden.  Yes, I mean tomato hornworms! Last year, I found only two on my 150 tomato plants!  

 I can’t really say what my tomatoes would grow like without John and Bob’s, but with the kind of success I’ve had since using their products, I don’t want to find out!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seen one container, seen 'em all?

Not so!! When it comes to growing tomatoes, container size and the material it's made of are extremely important!  Tomatoes need plenty of room for their large root systems to grow and plenty of soil volume.  The foliage and fruit need heat and sun, but the roots, not so much.

Tomatoes will do well in containers that can hold a lot of soil. That means at least 15-gallon containers, which hold one 2 cubic foot bag of potting soil. The nutrients in the soil in pots leach out quickly so I like to use fresh soil each year. Alternatively, you can replenish the soil with amendments just like we do in the ground. That's  light layers of fertilizer, inoculent, soil conditioner, and compost right on top of the existing soil.

Let's take a look at some container options:

Terra Cotta - well, I'm not really going to dwell on this. Clay pots soak up the water that you put down for your plants. They're heavy and hard to move, if you need to.  I never plant tomatoes in them. Some are quite lovely, but save them for your annual color.

Composite/Faux Terra Cotta - pretty much the same issue with water. They're lightweight and some are very pretty.  I use them, but not for tomatoes.

Heavy weight plastic - I have about 30 black, 15-gallon containers that I  have grown tomatoes in for years.  There are three or four nice holes in the bottom so they drain well. I do like to put them up on pot feet. That way, when they drain, the water runs off rather than pooling around the pot. The problem with these pots, though, is they're black.

It gets really hot here in the summer and the pots sit on top of my reclaimed basketball court. Hence, the pots get really hot.  As I mentioned before, tomatoes and their foliage like the heat better than the roots do. Last year, to minimize heat absorbed by the pots, I wrapped each one in a burlap bag. I cut open the bag, wrapped it around and pushed one or two garden staples into the soil to keep the bag in place. The bags remained on the pots for the duration of the season. The light color repels heat and when it was extremely hot, I watered down the bags to help cool them and the containers underneath.  This worked well and I was very happy with the results. This was a successful, although not very pretty solution.

Pulp Pots - I bought one of these pots about three years ago, fully expecting it to last only one season.  I'm still using it!  It did a fine job. Water drains, it doesn't get too hot.  I'll say more about this pot a few paragraphs down.

Smart Pots - This is my first season growing in Smart Pots.  I received a huge box full of samples in various sizes from the distributor who wanted my input on how these compare to the plastic.  What a wonderful gift!  These pots are made of breathable, porous fabric.  They are black but this material is said not to absorb heat the way plastic does so I'm giving it a shot.

Here's a little story about growing in pots:

Last February, we had extremely unusual weather. While in most years February is our coldest month, this year we had several days of 80 degree weather. Perfect for growing tomatoes.  So, when I found a three pack of big, beautiful tomato plants on sale at Costco, I just had to buy them! I wanted to get a jump start on the season! Knowing full well that it was still too cold at night and not the right time to plant them in the ground, I decided to try an experiment.

So, I planted one tomato in the pulp pot, one in the black plastic and the last in one of the Smart Pots. I put fresh soil in each container, then the usual additives in each planting hole, and then the tomatoes. I was excited and optimistic that  my desire to have really earl tomatoes would overcome the weather!

Of course, you know what happened.  34 degrees that night...and the next!  I was afraid to go out and look.

 When I finally got up the nerve I went outside and here's what I found - the tomato in the pulp pot was almost completely  limp and black. The bottom leaves were curled but looked salvageable.The tomato in the Smart Pot had gone limp, but not as badly as the one in the pulp pot.  I thought I could cut off a few branches and that it would grow back. The tomato in the black plastic pot was limp at the very tip, but other than that, it appeared quite fine.

What did I learn from that little exercise?  Plastic pots definitely hold heat. Pulp pots do not. Smart Pots seem to be the happy medium. Lastly, don't plant tomatoes in February.

So, while I will definitely use the plastic pots this season, I'm very excited about the Smart Pots. I think they're going to do quite well.  I'll keep you posted.

Want to know more about growing vegetables in containers? Think about signing up for my class on Container Gardening on April 29. For further information and to sign up for this class  email Laura

Monday, April 2, 2012

If you ask 100 different tomato growers how they plant their tomatoes, you will most likely get 100 different answers. And, they're probably all correct! Here's a short video from my new series, Two Minute Tomatoes, where I demonstrate my step by step method to planting a tomato. The goal is to grow healthy, productive plants that provide lots of delicious tomatoes to enjoy. Here's what works for me and I bet it will be work for you, too!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I love going to seedling sales.  It’s not that I’m going to buy something in particular, and I never go with a list. Rather, I like to see what’s different or new and what somebody else thinks is so fabulous that they label it as such. I always find things I never even knew about…Yes, I grow a lot of tomatoes, but there’s no way that I can know them all!

Last weekend, we actually had a rainstorm in Los Angeles. Storm Watch ’12 really was more than a drizzle.  But, I would never let a little or a lot of rain stop me from checking out some new tomato varieties. So, off I went, in my oh-so-cute rainboots to visit the seedling sale at Two Dogs Organic Nursery.

When I arrived, I was greeted by Jo Anne and Alejandro and their two dogs (hence the name) Jake and Lalo. I immediately felt right at home.  The driveway was lined with rows of tables of tomato varieties. I decided to save the best for last, so I went all the way to the back to see what was there.  
 I wasn’t disappointed…there were so many vegetable starts that I was like a kid in a candy shop! There were a number of lettuces – greens and reds and speckled.  I opted for Nevada because I know it’s one of the only lettuce varieties that can survive in the San Fernando Valley heat. Then,  I was elated to find golden beets. First of all, beets are really easy to grow. The golden ones are more mild and subtle in flavor. They’re so delicious in salads with fresh greens, toasted walnuts, a drizzle of really good olive oil and a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel.  There was a nice selection of peppers, both hot and sweet varieties.  I went for one I’d never grown before and chose Purple Bell. 

I really love to grow squash. They’re easy and prolific and, when picked young and tender, are so tasty.  The White Bush Scallop is just so cute I couldn’t resist, but the one I’m most excited about is Zephyr, an adorable two-toned, yellow and green straight necked squash. It can be eaten cooked or raw so it will be a beautiful addition to my crudités baskets in the summer.

Not wanting to go too crazy, I decided to move on to the tomatoes.  There were many of my standards and favorites and, of course, those made their way onto my flat.  What really excited me, though, was the many varieties of tomatoes that were early producers.  Some were grown from seed that Jo Anne discovered at the Heirloom Expo last year.  I’m most excited about AAA Sweet Solano, a yellow striped tomato with a slightly tropical flavor. Sounds like perfection to me.  And Early Annie, a determinate, 60 day producer of high yields sounds great for salads early in the summer. It’s also known to be a great canning tomato.

With a full flat of assorted veggies and tomatoes I felt happy that I made the drive in the rain to this seedling sale. They have many more plants, including berries and citrus trees that I look forward to seeing at one of the farmer’s markets they sell at all season long. To know more about Two Dog Nursery visit Two Dogs Nursery.
Jo Anne and Me talking tomatoes!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tomato Essentials or the Ultimate Tomato Series

Some people are content to grow one or two tomatoes on their patio...others want to go all the way, building raised beds and planting a multitude of tomato varieties. No matter which style of gardening is right for you, there are things you need to know about growing tomatoes to assure that you'll have the most delicious, bountiful crop possible.

The Tomato Essentials class provides a very sound foundation for growing tomatoes.  If  you follow my instructions, you'll be successful.  For those people who want more detail and don't want all of it on one day, the Ultimate Tomato Series is the way to go. The series also includes three cooking classes so you can make the most out of your spectacular harvest. The series breaks things down to 2 hour growing classes focusing on information that is timely for that particular point in the season.  We will begin with a class focusing on getting ready for growing: soil preparation, building raised beds, site location, defining heirloom and hybrid.  In the second class we discuss what types of tomatoes to plant, how to read labels and make selections, specifics of planting including what goes in the planting hole, staking and caging and more. After the class I'll escort the group to the local TOMATOMANIA seedling sale to help in selecting plants.  The third class takes place mid-season. We'll be talking about disease and pest control, the proper time to harvest, storage and seed saving.  Then, we move on to  the three kitchen classes. The first will feature recipes that allow your fresh picked tomatoes to shine. Second is a tomato tasting and canning and preserving class.  The third, and final class in the series will be recipes that utilize your canned product.  It's a great way to celebrate our favorite summer fruit!

The cost - $40 for Tomato Essentials class and $200 for The Ultimate Tomato Series (an incredible savings).  Which way is right for you?

An Interesting Question...

Last week, a young woman contacted me about cooking classes. She was interested in learning the basics - knife skills, how to chop an onion and some simple recipes she can feed her family instead of frozen food. I designed a class tailored to her needs and came up with several recipes that will be easy enough for her to prepare but tasty enough that she could serve them to company.  To make her cooking lesson more fun I suggested that she ask some friends to join her.  She and I were both surprised to know how many young Moms jumped at the chance because they need this kind of instruction. I'm thinking that maybe she was even a little relieved.

One of her friends sent me an email to ask something I'd never been asked before.
Emily wrote, " I'm very interested in the class.  Do you have a cooking philosophy or style".  You know, that's a darned good question. I thought you might be interested in my reply:

So glad you asked! My philosophy is this - Serving a meal is another way to say I Love You - it comes from your heart. Preparing the meal is not just about making food, it's a social activity.  There are often a lot of people around and I like to include them in the process.  Sometimes the experience of making the meal is as meaningful and memorable as the food that you eat. No matter what food I prepare, whether it's just me or the entire family involved,  I want the food to be delicious and not complicated. 
In my cooking classes everyone is involved. There's no competition. I want everyone to feel comfortable, no matter their level of experience. It's very informal here. The phone rings. Sometimes my grown kids come in to say hi. To me, cooking is about my family and friends  and that's exactly why I teach in a home kitchen.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Planting vegetables right now can be a tricky thing. Not because it's January, and in just two months we'll be planting our tomatoes and summer veggies. It's because this January, unlike last year when we were practically drowning in rain, we haven't seen a drop of water from the sky. Nor is any predicted.  What's more, daytime temperatures have been in the high 70s and low 80s. 

These are not optimal growing conditions for winter and early spring crops. However, with a little human intervention,  we can make it work and still enjoy homegrown salads and fresh-picked vegetables from the garden.  We need to do all that we can to simulate a cooler, moister climate without depriving the plants their sunlight or water-logging them.  

This week I pulled out the shade cloth that I use to protect my tomatoes in the extreme heat of summer.  I use good old-fashioned clothes pins to attach the cloth to the fencing around the raised beds. My vegetable beds are surrounded by rabbit wire to protect the plants from Hucksley, the Harvesting Basset Hound. If you don't happen to have a rabbit wire fence like I do to, put a stake at the corner of each bed and  attach the shade cloth to those.  It's not pretty, but it works!  The shade you create probably won't trick the garlic into splitting but it just may keep the arugula from bolting.

Along with the unseasonal heat, we're experiencing high winds.  Put the two together and you have really dry soil - exactly the opposite of what your lettuce and peas want!  Don't waste water deep soaking the plants.  They have short roots and that won't help.  It's better to give a little water each day to keep the soil evenly moist.  The key phrase here is "a little"...they don't need a downpour, just even moisture.

One of the best ways to keep the soil cool and moist is to keep it well mulched.  You know all those beautiful leaves that are flying through the air thanks to the gusty conditions?  A nice layer of those on top of the soil will help shield it from the heat.  As a bonus, mulch  helps to suppress weed growth. Nobody wants to have weeds competing with their veggies for water and nutrients from the soil. So, rather than putting the leaves in the green bin for pickup or adding them all to the compost pile, use what you can to protect the veggies. It's a simple solution that won't cost much in effort or greenbacks. What could be better?