Deborah Lando writes the weekly gardening column for the Triplicate, a daily newspaper serving the northern California-southern Oregon coastal region. As a longtime nursery owner, and overseer of Alfa Vedic Botanical Gardens, Deborah still finds time to teach gardening classes from basics to master level, and shares her substantial knowledge in organic gardening practices and garden Feng Shui. The following post recently appeared in the Triplicate, and the AV Blog will now feature her popular articles with the AV community as they are published here in the pacific northwest.
PLANTING & PROVIDING DEPTH TO YOUR SUMMER GARDEN
The sun has reached its northernmost point from the equator, and the Earth’s crust fully awakens under long days of penetrating solar rays. You shored up your garden to withstand the ravages of a long Winter, and laboriously completed your Spring checklist, but it’s finally here … Summer. It’s what we gardeners in the northern hemisphere live for, and it’s time to celebrate..
Europeans acknowledge the season of bounty with Alpine bonfires, and Scandanavian strawberry festivals, while Druidic rituals at Stonehedge, and Slavic fertility celebrations re-enact medieval traditions. Whether it be the Sun Dance of the Sioux, or the Solstice ‘yoga sun salutation’ ceremony in Times Square, humankind has always paid homage to the Earth’s limitless ‘giving’ at this time of year.
Generously mulch your garden to conserve soil moisture during the summer months. Relentless weeding is necessary to prevent weed ‘seed heads’ from forming. Cut back tall dry grasses for fire safety. Perform regular nightly inspections to spare seedlings from the voracity of snails and earwigs. Water container-grown edibles regularly for optimal production and flavor. Fertilize roses and all flowering plants during their pre-bloom stage. Deadhead blooming plants and shrubs to encourage new flower growth and blossoms.
Stake tall sprawling plants such as raspberries, tomatoes, delphiniums, and foxgloves. Prune back long leggy branches of any citrus you may have; lemons in particular bear fruit at the ends of their branches. Any overburdened branch should be cut back between one-third and one-half. Follow with pinching back new growth during the summer season.
For those shrubs that have finished blooming, June is an optimum time to prepare them for the following season. Camellias, rhododendrons, and daphne are 3 acid-food loving plants that benefit from fertilization and a light pruning to create a more attractive shape.
While transplanting summer-flowering plants into pots and garden beds, fertilize with a bloom-promoting formula. I recommend organic powdered fertilizer to stimulate flower production, while increasing the vitality of your soil and encouraging beneficial bacteria. Fuchsias are also on our list to be fertilized at this time. With healthy, organic plant food, not chemically based, your fuchsias will be resistant to the devastating effects of gall mite disease.
Available in the nurseries during June are Annuals: impatiens, marigolds, and petunias; Perennials: geranium, daylily, agapanthus; Shrubs: Fuchsia,
hydrangea, hibiscus; Vegetables and herbs for Summer and Fall, and potted fruit trees and berry bushes.
Are you aware that some of the flowers in your garden are edible? The culinary use of flavorful flowers may come as a surprise to many, so here’s a cursory look at the tasty florals that do particularly well in the northwest:
Anise hyssop – A lovely perennial with lavender blue blossoms. Both leaves and flowers have a mint undertone combined with a sweet licorice flavor. A native of north central North America, it provides a lovely backdrop to the perennial garden bed. Easy to grow, it is often brewed as a tea, garnish for desserts, or combined with salads and sautéed vegetables. An even greater plus; the honeybees love it!
Bee Balm – A North American native perennial. It has a citrusy mint flavor that is often found in tea. It’s lovely, brilliant, colorful blossoms provide nectar to honeybees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Begonia – The tuberous begonia, a warm weather annual, has a surprising lemon-like flavor in its stems and blossoms. It is often used in fruit or green salads, fish dishes, and cocktails.
Borage – A hardy annual, blue star shaped flowers with a taste like cucumber. It has interesting and varied uses in the kitchen. A tasty cheese spread, candied flowers, borage flavored vinegars, and an ingredient for refreshing teas. Borage is noted for its long-standing medicinal qualities as well.
Calendula – Known as the ‘poor man’s saffron’, calendula has been utilized since ancient times.
Its peppery leaves and petals are a natural coloring for foods. More importantly, the calendula is well known for its strong anti-inflammatory and healing properties for the skin.
Chrysanthemum – Silver foliage combined with yellow and white blossoms this pungent flower has been a traditional ingredient in Asian cuisine. Utilized in Chinese medicine as a restorative drink in addition to the treatment of a long list of physical ailments.
Daylily – A hardy landscape perennial, its blossoms have a sweet and peppery taste. Try them in salads, flash fried petals in butter, or fresh, stuffed with a flavorful cheese.
Dianthus – This lovely, fragrant perennial with its delicate pink flowers is a fun, bright addition in vodka, or gin making an herbal aperitif.
Lavender – This sweet, powerfully fragrant, deer resistant perennial is a must for any garden. Use it as a delicious companion with grilled meats, savory cheeses, and fresh pastries. Used singularly the flowers have long been utilized in soaps, bath salts, room sprays and laundry detergent to name a few.
Marigold and Nasturtium –Ancient brightly colored flowers in shades of yellow and orange. These pungent, peppery tasting blossoms are a wonderful addition to brighten any green salad.
Pansy – These cheerful flowers are mild in flavor, but make a feast for the eyes as a garnish on cakes, salads, and ice cream.
Rose Petals –This favorite blossom of many is considered not only a flower but an herb as well. All rose petals are edible, however some are more flavorful than others. Do not ingest the commercially-grown variety, as they are notoriously assaulted with noxious chemicals that have no place in the human body. Harvest it midmorning, wrap it in a damp towel placed in the refrigerator, and the petals will stay fresh for a week.
Violet – A highly fragrant perennial with dark purple flowers, these blossoms have a tradition of being candied with sugar. As with lavender, they have a history of use in soaps and perfume.
VEGETABLE GARDEN 2.0
After the first round of vegetable planting it’s time for successive plantings to insure an uninterrupted flow of garden-to-table salad greens. Every 2-3 weeks continue to sow seeds, or transplant new salad green starts. The fastest growing vegetables that provide continual food through the summer season are:
Arugula– 21 days for new leaves
Radish – 22 plus days for red roots
Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce – 28 days from seed to salad
Bush Beans – the Contender takes 49 days for 6-8 inch pods
Snap Peas Sugar Ann – 56 days to mature pods
Spinach – 35-40 days for new leaves
Our ancestry equated gardening with freedom, a practical philosophy with an increasing relevance in today’s world. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but the yield of a summer garden will far exceed the totality of your efforts.
‘Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.’ Lindley Karstens