Garden Lifestyle

Midsummer Garden

We've just celebrated the solstice and midsummer is officially dated at June 24--so now we are heading into the summer garden season.

  • Garden just a few weeks ago when we installed this year's deer defense. The fairly constant movement of the surveyor's tape as well as the spinning pinwheels seems to keep the deer at bay. click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • The cool weather crops like this mustard, brassicas and lettuces are flowering or bolting. Time to harvest them and make room for other crops like a second planting of coriander, dill, summer spinach, or put in those extra plants that are sitting around in market packs!
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Beets are coming along nicely--sown thickly--we've thinned them and eaten greens during spring and early summer.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Chard is maturing--cut the larger leaves and wilt with other greens--these will last throughout the summer.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Oh dear... I know they have to eat too... however these green cabbageworms devour the brassicas in no time. Note the mantis too--eating other insects and bugs eggs on underside of leaves. I just cut all of the brassicas back and made a giant pot of wilted greens (after meticulously removing caterpillars).
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Another crop almost ready to harvest is the garlic. When the leaves begin to turn yellow or brown, it is an indication that the bulbs are ready to dig.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • The second planting of cilantro is also blooming. Use the flowers just like the leaves in all sorts of dishes; cut the flowers and put them in a vase with other edible flowers. Or wait until seed forms--they are tasty to eat green or dry them for winter baked goods and spice blends.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Calendulas are also blooming now; gather flower heads to sprinkle petals in salads or cook with rice. I also dry the petals for making salve.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • While I've been harvesting dill and keeping it cut back, it is just starting to send up flowers. Cut dill and freeze it in oil, make dill vinegar or eat lots of it in salads. It goes good with most vegetables, especially cucumbers and squash, and grains.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Basil has had its first flush of growth after its initial pruning at planting. Time to harvest--be sure to cut them all the way back--just above the bottom two sets of leaves. You can do this 3 or 4 times during the growing season.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • The first chile pepper of the season! This Baltimore fish pepper has striated peppers which will turn red if left on the vine, however it is best to harvest the first round of chiles to encourage more flower production, fruit set, and a bigger harvest.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Heirloom tomato plants are between two and three feet in height and lookin good--waitin for that first homegrown tomato!
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

We’ve just celebrated the solstice and midsummer is officially dated on June 24–so now we are definitely heading into the summer garden season. The garden is abuzz–full of pollinators–plants to harvest and all sorts of lovely veggies coming on. Oh and the weeds… the never-ending garden chore… Here’s what is happening in my zone 7 garden…

Too bad, I have real jobs like writing and taking photos–it forces me to be inside at the desk–and not being outside in the garden. Right now if you stand still long enough in the garden, you can virtually see things grow before your very eyes. Daily inspection is necessary in order to still maintain some kind of order.

The cool-weather crops are nearly finished. Golly we had one of the best salad seasons ever. Lettuces that are bolting and salad greens that are flowering tend to become bitter, leggy and flop over. So it is time to harvest them and eat the leaves that are still tasty and not bug-ridden or brown; all of the flowers are edible too. Right now I have a container full of bright yellow mustard flowers on the back porch and the pollinators are all over it. Clean up the salad bed to make room for those plants that are suffering in marketpacks (if you are like me), or sow some more seed for late summer crops. 

The cabbageworms have invaded the brassicas–all over the broccoli, collards and kale. Usually when I see the lovely little cabbage butterflies fluttering about, I cover the brassicas with floating row cover to prevent them from laying eggs, which really does work if you do it. This year I was busy and neglected this simple task and so now the green caterpillars are chomping the cole crops. So yesterday, I harvested all of the leaves, as well as the flowering mustards and sorted through the leaves. I put the rejects on the compost pile and brought a huge bowl into the kitchen, whereupon I filled the bowl with water, adding both salt and vinegar, in order to remove the worms. While one can spend time looking for these camouflaged worms–you can never get them all–and thank you very much, this vegetarian doesn’t want to eat them. They fall to the bottom of the bowl after soaking. Had a wonderful wilted greens and tempeh dish which I will post soon.

I’m harvesting herb flowers of cilantro, calendula, dill, arugula, beebalm and more to eat and adorn the house. They can be used on any dish that you might use the herb leaf on and they make great herb butters and vinegars. I have vases of these incredible edibles on the table and counters, which are pleasant to look at and make grabbing a few for the plate more likely.

A few of the garlics have just started to turn yellow/brown which indicates the harvest will begin soon. Once about 40 to 50 percent of the plants start to change color or flop over is time to dig the bulbs. Here is a link to garlic harvest and curing by Ruth Dobsevage. /item/3247/harvesting-garlic

Basils are ready to be cut back. Remember to cut them all the way back just above the first two sets of leaves so you get maximum harvest throughout the season. /item/3668/video-how-to-harvest-annual-herbs

Peppers, stringbeans, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes are just flowering and beginning to produce fruit. We’ve eaten our first baby squash and picked the first chile, however I am anxiously awaiting the taste of that first homegrown tomato.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor–happy summertime!

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