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Singer: July in the garden

A single Dahlia lasts over a week as a cut flower

Spending as much time as possible in my edible garden this month is the highest priority. Frequently this summer gardening connection is shared with visitors who are delighted to eat raspberries and young beans, marvel at the quail damage, and help carry the harvest to the kitchen.

The garden is beautiful and bountiful this year. It seems that I have had more time to tend it day to day.

Maybe I’ll even catch up with weeding and controlling the wild edges.



Observing closely and lingering to appreciate the healthy abundance fills the early morning hours. Each day I can assess the needs of individual plants.

In past summers, busy with writing and family visits, the garden at this time has been irrigated every four days. But so far, this summer is hot!




Lettuce and other greens need more frequent watering. I have often given them irrigation in between the regular schedule.

Heavily mulched with decomposing wheat straw, the beans, peppers, kale and summer squash are doing well on the four-day schedule.

Tomatoes are over seven feet tall and loaded with fruit, which began ripening in late June. These plants really do not need irrigation more than once a week, and soon they will need less than that. There’s a strong advantage to growing in the ground rather than in containers.

Testing cultivars of kale for summer production, I am not disappointed. Perhaps not as sweet as after a fall frost, they still have excellent flavor grown under 30 percent shade cloth.

I’m growing Renee’s Garden ‘Wild garden frills,’ a delicate heirloom Russian kale, and triple-curled ‘Dutch Darkibor.’ Both produce sweet young leaves for salads and larger for steamed kale.

Of course the “secret” is very fertile soil. And yet I wonder if it isn’t also the supplemental use this year of Sustane 4-6-4.

When plants are healthy, the edible portion tastes better. This is the first summer I have used this organic fertilizer with all my edible crops, and I am very pleased.

In spite of days of relentless heat, the garden looks great.

This week I mixed Sustane’s 4-6-4 compost tea to feed tomatillos that had volunteered in an area of poorer soil.

When I know the results I will report to readers and to Jami at Rare Earth, who suggested I try Sustane’s organic fertilizers.

I enjoyed using the old watering can, memories of my first summer job some 60 years ago, carrying water to my parents’ planting of fir trees for 25 cents an hour.

Cut flowers are picked in the early morning hours I enjoy in the garden. Conditioned in warm water, the Zinnia and Dahlia blossoms last more than a week.

Many of June’s perennial flowers have faded, but often the seedheads provide fall and winter interest.

The “rule of maintenance,” if there is such a thing, is to cut back faded flowers or foliage if it’s distracting you.

While my plan was to cut back the lavender soon, when I saw the goldfinches feasting on the seed, this maintenance was postponed.

However, young plants will benefit from being deadheaded as soon as flowers fade, so the plant can put its energy into growing, and surviving the heat with less water.

Oregano is a heavy bloomer in July and August, each species providing a progression of blooms attracting pollinators near my edible garden.

It isn’t far from the oregano to the vegetables that depend on an assortment of native bees and honeybees for fruit to form.

The bees don’t mind when I brush past them in the early hours. They will soon be with me in the vegetable garden when the squash blossoms open.

Carolyn has gardened organically in Nevada County since 1977. She will be teaching a class on “Habitat gardening” at Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply in Grass Valley 9:30-11:30 a.m. Aug. 2. For details, http://www.carolynsingergardens.com. She is the author of the award-winning “The Seasoned Gardener, 5 decades of sustainable and practical garden wisdom”, and two volumes of “Deer in My Garden” (deer-resistant plants), available locally.


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