What sort of landscaping activities are still appropriate this time of year?
By now you may want to scale back on planting shrubs and trees. Things will be drying out soon, so be sure your irrigation plan is set up, and stay on top of watering — especially newly installed gardens. How to know if it’s time to water? Stick your finger in the ground to see if the root zone is dry. If it is, apply water at the ground level, slowly, and deeply. Do you have young trees? You might consider attaching watering bags to them to fill about once a week or so. If you’re keeping chickens, hot summer days are a great time to deep-clean your hen house.
What’s possible this time of year in the vegetable garden?
By now tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, beans, and other warm season vegetables are in the garden. It’s also time to stay on top of harvesting veggies you planted earlier in spring, such as salad greens, broccoli, cabbage, peas, and cilantro. And, there’s still time to reseed for late summer harvests. I like to sow new lettuce every week or two throughout the season, to be sure I’m harvesting it all season long. In the heat of summer, pick a cooler, shadier spot to grow leafy greens and choose varieties that are slow to bolt. Starting another round of broccoli, cauliflower, and kale now means you’ll be able to get it going for a late summer/early autumn harvest.
I love planting herbs but never know what to do with them. Any advice?
Herbs have so many uses in our kitchens and home apothecaries. Now is a great time to snip them for fresh flavors. Summer is a fantastic time to harvest herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, raspberry leaf, feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, and mint to preserve for winter use. If you have a food dehydrator, follow your machine’s herb drying instructions for best results. If you don’t, try bundling your herbs tightly at the cut end with jute or other twine. Then, hang the bundles upside down in a clean, dark, and dry spot until they’re crispy. You can loosely wrap a paper bag around them to capture any bits that fall. Once, dry, crumble them into a clean, dry, labelled jar to use in the winter.
Are all weeds bad? Are there ways to use native plants we think of as pests?
I believe weeds are, for the most part, wonderful. We’ve been trained to believe they need to be eradicated to make way for things like the great American status symbol: the lawn, a totally unnatural contrivance. Although some weeds can be dangerous to humans, animals, agriculture, and other plants, many have medicinal uses. Consider, for instance, the benefits of ubiquitous weeds like dandelion, plantain, and horsetail. Dandelion is a 100% edible plant that also feeds pollinators and whose powerful taproot makes a healthy roasted tea. When it’s growing in your garden, dandelion also helps break up clay and create better soil health. Plantain is similarly everywhere. My favorite use for plantain is to alleviate summer itches from bug bites. Simply find some clean leaves in your garden, chew them briefly, and then apply the pulp to irritated skin. While many of us despise horsetail “invading” our planting beds, this pre-human, dinosaur flora makes a fabulous ingredient in hair rinses — which, by the way, I make and sell on Etsy. Remember to always identify and research your own herbal experience before using any plant for food or medicine.
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