We are blessed with several wonderful seasons for growing our gardens. Each season has its own special qualities in the gardens of our lives and in our physical gardens. On an early summer morning, the air is still cool, the colors are stunning and there is a peaceful feeling with the dew droplets still on the flowers and leaves. They begin to glisten and sparkle in the early morning sun. Over in the herb garden bordered by echinacea and bee balm, it looks like a butterfly party going on with bees and bumble bees invited to enjoy the sweet nectar of summer’s most delightful flowers. If I can just be as busy as a bee on bee balm, I will get a whole lot of things accomplished out here today!
*Plant more green beans by July 10th.
*Continue succession planting of leaf lettuce, carrots, beets, cilantro, turnip, chard, mesclum, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, escrole and endive to keep the harvest of those continuous. Consider interplanting where other crops can provide some shade for the salad type crops.
*By late July, you can begin to set out broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower transplants.
*Late July seeds can be sown for collards, mustard greens, lettuce, kale and spinach.
*The warm summer sun feels good and makes our gardens grow beautifully. However as we get the HOT summer sun and less rain, it is important to be sure our plants get enough water. If watering is required, water deeply at the base of the plant, let the soil dry out between watering and choose to water either early in the morning or late in the day to reduce water loss from evaporation.
*Be sure strawberries get water once a week if rain is not sufficient.
*Fertilize strawberries with fish emulsion, compost tea or complete fertilizer (10-10-10) using two pounds per 100 foot row. Do not over fertilize them.
*Prune blackberries after their harvest is over. You can tip back the vigorous new growth 2-3 times for more fruit production and remove dying canes.
*Patrol for the bad bugs! Be on the lookout for horn worms on tomatoes, the striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, white flys and Japanese beetles. If you find them, take appropriate measures to get rid of them. For Japanese beetles, knock them off in a bucket of soapy water or spray the plant they are eating with Neem oil. For tomato hornworm, use diatomaceous earth, thuricide (BT) or try sprinkling plants with self-rising flour. For white flies, use insecticidal soap. For striped cucumber beetles, spray plants with Neem oil. Squash bugs-squash them-and their eggs. Eggs will usually be on the underside of leaves, so you have to look under every leaf, of course!
*Don’t over water melons as they get close to maturity. Too much water will reduce their sweetness and flavor. You can also begin to pinch off blossoms that may not have time to mature before the first frost, and this will also speed the ripening of the remaining melons.
*Cut off the seed heads of garlic and onions. This will signal them to put their energy into the bulbs. Those pretty flowering heads look nice in flower arrangements or in your salad.
*As always, keep adding to the compost and keep turning it.
*If you see any weeds, pull them. If you don’t have any, you can come pull some of mine!
*Remember, if you stop picking, production will stop on crops like cucumbers, squash, green beans and okra. Harvest these for peak flavor and nutrition when they are young and tender.
*Pick tomatoes when they develop full color, red, yellow or orange, depending on what variety planted.
*For cabbage, cut head and leave outer leaves and cute, little cabbages will then develop at the base later in the summer and fall.
*Harvest herbs when the weather is dry and early in the morning. Even if you can’t use all the herbs fresh, harvest to keep them from flowering and continue producing. Extra herbs can be shared with friends who aren’t as fortunate to have an herb garden. You can dry them for later use or make teas, then you can add some to the compost.
*Seed pods of radishes. When they are young and tender, they are great in salads and stir fries.
*Prepare leaves of sweet potato vines like spinach or chard.
Planning And Preparing
It is actually time to start thinking about the fall garden. My, how time flies!
If you need to prepare seed beds in late July, no doubt it will be hot. So in order to get better germination, try cooling your beds down. (No, you can’t install A/C in the garden.) A week or two ahead of planting, prepare your seed bed, water it deeply and mulch well. Plan which crops you want for fall and check out maturity dates to be sure you get them planted at the correct time. Try selecting varieties that are cold-tolerant and have shorter-season.
If you need to prepare some growing boxes, raised beds or container gardens, Mel’s Mix in Square Foot Gardening is a great recipe to follow.
Ingredients: Peat Moss = 2 full bales (total 16 cubic feet), Vermiculite = 4 big bags (total 16 cubic feet), Compost = 16 cubic feet of 5 different kinds (measure this by volume not weight).
This would fill six 4×4 boxes with 8 cubic feet each. If you have more or less, you can do the math. It is equal parts of the 3 products.
Some of my favorite heirloom tomatoes I planted this year were Box Car Willy, Hillbilly, Pineapple, Persimmon, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Amish Paste and Rutger. I also have two new heirloom tomatoes in my garden.
1. San Marzano – It is said to produce a heavy crop of 2 ounce sized, richly flavored fruit. It is a traditional paste variety used in most Italian recipes and thought to make the world’s finest sauce. The plants look great and they are loaded, but not yet ripe at the time I am writing this, so I will let you know next month about the taste.
2. Red Oxheart – This is a popular Italian variety grown since the 19th century, said to produce large, mildly flavored, strawberry shaped fruit that’s smooth and firm. Excellent for sauces and canning since it has very few seeds.
Echinacea is one of the most popular herbs today. It is one of the world’s leading herbs for immune system support. The leaves, flower and root are used to make medicine. It is used to fight infections, especially the common cold and other respiratory infections. Research to date shows it probably reduces cold symptoms, but it’s not clear whether it helps prevent colds from developing.
Echinacea is used for other infections including the flu, urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, genital herpes, bloodstream infections, gum disease, tonsillitis, streptococcus infections, syphillis, typhoid, malaria and diphtheria. Other uses include chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatism, migraines, acid indigestion, pain, dizziness and rattlesnake bites and a list of other ailments.
Echinacea was used as a traditional herbal remedy by the Great Plains Native American tribes. Later, settlers followed their example. With the discovery of antibiotics, echinacea use declined. But now people are becoming interested in echinacea again, because some antibiotics don’t work as well as they used to against certain bacteria. It would seem that echinacea would be a great addition to a medicinal herb garden, or just grow it for the bees, butterflies, and yourself to enjoy its beautiful flowers.
“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” -Albert Einstein
“In my garden there is a large place for sentiment, my garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.” -Abram L. Urban
“I think the true gardener is a lover of his flowers, not a critic of them, I think the true gardener is a reverent servant of nature, not her truculent, wife-beating master. I think the true gardener, the older he grows, should more and more develop a humble, grateful and uncertain spirit.” –Reginald Farrer, in A Yorkshire Garden, 1909
“The time spent working in the summer garden is joyful working to me. The sight of all the delicious vegetables that are going to be beautiful, nutritious meals for family and friends makes it an even more joyful LABOR OF LOVE.” – Cassandra Warner