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Garden Lifestyle

Summer Solstice in the Garden

Today is the longest day of the year--15 hours and 18 minutes to be exact.

  • Love the shaggy heads of Monarda fistulosa which are abuzz all day with pollinators--they are blooming much earlier this year. Both leaves and flowers taste like a spicy oregano.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Monarda didyma (red flowers) has a tea-like flavor with a hint of Earl Grey--it is great in beverages and dessert.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Cilantro is in bloom--I have harvested most of the leaves and frozen them as an aromatic herbal paste. The rest I will let go to seed to save for planting and to have coriander for the kitchen
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • The salad bed is about finished--lettuces do not like the hot weather.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Gather those lettuces and greens and enjoy them while you can--once the hot summer arrives--the lettuces tend to bolt.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • I love nasties and use the flowers and leaves in bouquets and the salad bowl. They are pungent like watercress.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Daylilies are peaking now. The roadsides are covered with the wild native orange ones--best year I can ever recall--what a show! I don't eat from the the roadside, however I do gather the ones from the garden and scatter them over salads or use them as crudites.  
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Harvest lavender blooms now for making wands or drying for culinary and aromatherapy uses. Leave some for the happy pollinators.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Harvest mints and lemon balm now and dry or make herbal pastes; you will have another round of leaf growth if you don't let it flower yet.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Today is the longest day of the year–15 hours and 18 minutes to be exact (according to the Farmers’ Almanac). It is the official beginning of summer on the calendar, however, many of our gardens have already begun to produce summer bounty. I’ve noticed from different posts and blogs that gardeners down South are already harvesting early tomatoes and the first squash. While folks in the North are posting photos of herbs and gardens that I was enjoying about a month ago. So I’m sort of in the middle here in the Mid-Atlantic and I’m still harvesting the last of the spring crops like lettuces, mustards, kale, and other leafy greens. My cilantro and arugula are flowering.

Other summer herbs and flowers are blooming already: the monardas, both M. didyma and M. fistulosa have just begun this week which has set the the hummers a buzzin’ almost as much as the bees; other pollinators are busy with the fragrant lavender spikes; while the foxglove have finished the hollyhocks are just coming into their full glory; daylilies are showing off daily; and nasturtiums have been putting out blooms for about two weeks. Butterfiles are visiting the butterfly weed which has just started to flower.

Spearmint, peppermint, orange mint and lemon balm all need to be harvested for drying as soon as I can get round to that pleasant, aromatherapeutic task.

In the vegetable garden, potatoes have bloomed and the tomatoes are just getting ready to form flower buds. Chile peppers have finally started to gain some height. Onions have produced green tops about 8- to 10-inches tall. The fall-planted garlic is yellowing and a few have even fallen over, which means that the garlic harvest is imminent. Once I dig those, I’ll have a row to put in some travelers (as in they travel over the garden earth and take a lot of space)–like the vining melons and perhaps pumpkin or gourds. Or any of the extra plants that I never stepped up–which have been long-suffering in cells or marketpacks…

The cabbage caterpillars have been trying to take over the brassicas and eating the kale, although they don’t seem to bother the Swiss chard which is honking. The rainbow chard mix is one of my favorites–they are so bright and colorful that I’ve used them in flowerbeds. I will cut back the kale and there should be a new flush of growth without the caterpillar damage. In past gardens, I’ve had the kale hang on all summer and then have a good flush of growth in the fall–so I am hoping for the same performance.

All in all, we have had a good growing season so far, although it has been too hot too soon and not quite enough rain. I celebrate today–this longest day of light–bringing us the summer season. Tonight’s supper will be from the garden: salad with garden greens, herbs and edible flowers and some of the gorgeous chard–not sure yet whether it will be wilted with garlic and olive oil, eaten as a side, tossed with pasta or topping a pizza–or perhaps I’ll make chard rolls (like cabbage rolls–just remove the big stem and roll them up) filled with grains and nuts and herbs. (/item/12719/swiss-chard-rolls-with-quinoa) Maybe I’ll even get round to making some lemon balm biscuits for strawberry shortcakes. (/item/13822/homemade-strawberry-shortcakes-with-herbs-and-whipped-cream) Celebrate the season and better get harvesting!

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