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How does your summer vegetable garden grow?

May 16, 2011 | 10:56 am

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one inspired by a gorgeously sunny Sunday to hit the nursery and get started on my summer vegetable garden. My favorite local stop --  H&H Nursery in Lakewood -- was jam-packed, particularly the section selling vegetable starts.

Normally, I game-plan my summer garden like a college freshman on his first date. I’ll spend a couple months browsing the various catalogs and weighing the merits of pole versus shelly beans, this variety against that. Anticipation is part of the fun of gardening. Garden

But this winter was so crazy I wound up being spontaneous. I got some Blue Lake green beans to go up a trellis and Cocozelle zucchini to mound in front of them. As usual, one raised bed will be a lettuce mix.

I’ve gone back and forth about tomatoes -- living in Long Beach only a couple miles from the ocean, our May gray can last until early August, which does not encourage great fruit. Tomatoes would rather be in Bakersfield, and though I like my home-grown 'maters as much as anyone, that’s a sacrifice I’m not willing to make.

Gradually, I’ve whittled my selection from a dozen plants to probably half of that this year. I’ve got old favorite Brandywine -- I might get only a dozen or so fruits from it, but they are great -- and a couple of mini-tomatoes -- Juliet and SunGold. These fruit and ripen reliably even in cool weather.

That chicken-wire contraption you see in the front of the picture is my latest innovation. This is actually my second summer garden this year. The first I planted several weeks ago, but it was very quickly un-planted by the neighborhood cats, which regard my raised vegetable beds as super-deluxe litter boxes. So Saturday, a friend and I screwed together some 2X4s and topped them with chicken wire. Let’s see the kitties dig through that.

I’ve still got one raised bed to plant, sometime in the next few weeks after I harvest the last of the winter/spring crop of beets and shallots. It gets pretty good sun, so more tomatoes? Or do I go for eggplants and cucumbers? Or maybe something entirely different?

What do you suggest? And what have you planted in your summer garden?

-- Russ Parsons

Photo of tomatoes and cat-proof garden by Russ Parsons / Los Angeles Times