By Cassandra Warner
July’s garden is all that and more, a delightful place to see some of God’s beautiful creatures flit and flutter about. They gently lift your spirits with their wings as they come and go. It is a peaceful place for meditation and contemplation and filled with fabulous food on which to feast. All good for body, soul and spirit.
No doubt, gardening can be work and a workout. Up, down, here, there, all over, all around, in and out, that’s the rhythm of the garden workout.
However, I can do it all day, until I can barely see by moonlight and starlight, loving every minute of it. I was recently called a garden hoarder by someone who will remain nameless. There may be some truth to that accusation, but those who understand me know I never see a tree, rock, flower, sea shell, old gnarly piece of driftwood, seashore of white, shimmering sand that does not make the trip home with me. So I think really I may be a natureholic. Seems like I just can’t help myself. I feel better now that I have made that confession.
Well, June may have given us a little something more than we needed, like rain! I love the new song “Crying in a Rain Storm” by the Redhead Express. If you ever wanted to do that, June definitely provided many opportunities. Just enough is really good, but too much of a good thing can be bad, like too much cold, too much heat, too much rain, too much salt, too much sugar or too much chocolate. Well, maybe not too much chocolate. The beds in my garden are raised and the paths mulched with wood chips, so things drain well and I just lost a little of the wood chips in some areas and two frogs from my frog parking spot in the garden. I went searching for them, but no luck finding them yet. I hope everyone’s property and gardens have survived and recovered from June’s more-than-usual rain storms.
Another New Veggie In My Garden
Chinese Red Meat Radish, or Watermelon Radish, has 4-inch round roots with white and green skins and a rose red center. They are crisp and sweet and make a beautiful addition to a salad or stir-fry.
*Tomato, yeah! Whoopie! All right! Yes! I am so excited!
*Cucumbers, okra, summer squash and green beans. Harvest at their peak when they are young and tender for best taste and to keep the plants producing. Remember, if you stop, they stop.
*Harvest baby carrots.
*Continue to cut broccoli side shoots.
*Cut cabbage heads and leave some of the large outer leaves and stem to produce baby cabbage heads.
*Harvest leaf lettuce by cutting the outer leaves, or all the leaves, but do not remove the stalk or crown to stimulate more leaf production.
*Harvest the outer leaves of parsley, leave the center leaves to continue to grow.
*Regular harvesting of herbs will keep them from flowering, keep them producing and keep them looking good.
*Harvest herbs early in the morning when the weather is dry. The oil content for basil, fennel, mint, sage, sweet marjoram, summer and winter savory is highest just before their blossoms open, but rosemary and thyme is highest at full bloom. So go ahead and pinch and snip away, use what you can fresh. Share and dry some. Dry in a dark location to minimize loss of essential oils and preserve color.
*Harvest garlic when leaves start to brown but when it still has 4-5 green leaves.
For continuous harvest through the summer, keep sowing and planting leaf lettuce, carrots, beets, cilantro, green beans, kohlrabi, turnip, chard, mesclum, brussel sprouts, escarole and endive.
It is time already to get your plan for a fall garden in the works. By late July, you can start to set out broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower transplants. Seeds can be sown for collards, spinach, kale, turnips, mustard greens and lettuce.
*Keep a close watch on tomato plants for the green villain, the hornworm. Your mission, if you find them, is to pick them off and destroy by whatever method you choose. Remember though, if you see one that looks like it has white rice sticking out of its back, porcupine style, these are cocoons of parasitic wasps. Leave them alone. The wasp parasites will kill the hornworm, thus saving you that job.
*If you shake the shoots of your tomato plants and you see a flurry of white, those are white flies, and they would be sucking sap from the leaves. Insecticidal soap can be applied to get rid of them, making sure to get the underside of the leaves.
*Continue to hill around leeks about every 2 weeks.
*When your garlic produces a seed head, cut it off to signal the plant to put energy into the bulb. You can snip the flowers off garlic and onions and add to your salad. They are very pretty and taste great. Also, use the heads in flower arrangements. They look spectacular.
*Turn old pea vines under. They are a good source of nitrogen.
*Keep the compost going.
*I saved it for last, but I’m sure there are weeds.
Herbs In The Garden
For centuries, calendula has been associated with the sun, opening its flowers when the sun appears and closing them when the sun sets. It is also known as pot marigold, and should not be confused with the African marigold (botanical name: Tagetes). It is good to have in the garden to help repel insects and is beautiful. It is not a medicinal herb, and should not be used when pot marigold/calendula is called for.
Calendula, easy to grow, has bright green foliage and cheerful yellow and orange flowers. It tolerates poor soil and will grow in partial shade or full sun. It’s used to ward off pesky, garden bugs, so interplant it in the garden. It also makes a good border flower for a garden with that purpose. It has a bushy habit, but can get leggy. Just pinch it back and keep it deadheaded to keep it blooming. This hard working herb easily reseeds itself.
Calendula was prized by herbal doctors of old Europe. Today, it is used in ointments for dressing wounds and sores. An infusion of fresh blossoms has a traditional application in breaking fevers, and it has also been used to treat toothaches and ulcers. Powdered calendula petals mixed with cornstarch, pure talc or arrowroot powder are used to soothe skin rashes in adults and children and may be used on infants for dipper rash. It is great for the skin. You will find it in salves, lotions, tinctures, soaps and oils.
There are many culinary uses for calendula and it has been used in cooking for centuries. The flowers were a common ingredient in German soups and stews, which explains the nickname “pot marigold.” The petals were also used to color butter and cheese. The flowers are traditional ingredients in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. You can use the dried and ground petals as a substitute for expensive saffron. Preserve whole flowers in salad vinegar. Add the petals to salads or to cooked vegetables. Use fresh or dried flowers and/or the foliage to make a delicious tea you can drink that is soothing for gastrointestinal problems. Use it as a skin wash for sunburn or irritation. You can sip a calendula wine, while relishing in soothing bathwater laced with fresh calendula flowers. Wow, what’s not to love about this herb?
Harvest the flowers regularly by snipping off the flower heads (don’t worry, the more you harvest, the more flowers each plant will put out) when they are newly opened. It’s best to harvest in the morning after the dew has dried on the plants, but if you cannot, it’s better to harvest when you can than not at all. Don’t wash the flower heads. To dry, spread on a nonmetallic screen, sheet or paper, and keep them out of direct sunlight. Turn the flowers daily. Drying could take two to three weeks. Once the flower heads are fully dry (even the dense, green part of the head), you can store them in glass jars or plastic bags. For making calendula oil, you may want to use only the flower petals, not the heads – it’s up to you. If you do want to use just petals, then after drying, the petals can be plucked from the heads easily all at once. Use a dehydrator with the temperature set at 90 degrees. Let it run two to three hours and check the petals. If you still detect moisture, dry another 30 to 60 minutes and check again. When completely dry, allow petals to cool down to room temperature, then place in an airtight glass or plastic container.
In the garden, there are so many wonderful, amazing plants provided for our health and well being.
God put the first man and woman in a garden, and I still think that’s the best place for us. Many garden blessings to you!
Originally from Texas, Cassandra Warner is a transplant to the garden of Tennessee. Gardening has been one of her passions for forty years. “Gardening connects you to the miracle of life and provides healthy exercise and stress relief. Mine has been a learn as you grow school, and I plan to always ‘Keep it Growing’.”