Oh, what a glorious season we're in! The days of warm sun and copious rain have brought forth an explosion of flowers, so all the bees and butterflies are flitting about like mad to gather all that precious nectar and pollen. The milkweed blooms that fed so many pollinators are getting towards the end of their life, with a first few small milkweed pods making their appearance, but so many perennial favorites have sprung into color!
Daylilies! Daylilies are everywhere! The soft blue of chicory and white Queen Anne's lace are cheering up the summer roadsides. Echinacea is a favorite of butterflies, as is the bee balm, which also is host to hummingbirds (have you ever heard the charming squeak of a sweet, little hummingbird? Oh, be still my heart!). Any time a fresh flush of roses open up, the bees just go bananas. Watching a bumblebee ecstatically tumble about in a newly opened rose is utterly endearing.
It's amazing to realize how sensitive the pollinators are to a plant's readiness - it might seem like a plant has flowered but isn't getting a lot of attention, and then all of a sudden, some days later, it is the place to be for bees. Our thyme patch is like that - it was blooming a little, with just an occasional bee, but I hadn't realized how much bigger that blooming was going to become. Now the thyme is absolutely full of honeybees!
Of course, the bees aren't the only ones thrilled by the new roses - japanese beetles are out and about and looking to devour your flowers! How we naturally deal with these pests is to get a large jar with a little water in it and, holding the jar beneath the beetle, knock them in. Their escape tactic is to fall down and burrow into the ground, so if your jar is beneath them, you'll catch them just as they think they are being crafty. Then dump the jar on your driveway or another hard surface and crush the bugs. (Kind of gross, we know. Please wear shoes!) Alternately, if you keep poultry, dump the jar into the birds' water and give them a free snack.
It seems like an early morning beetle check is helpful, as they become more likely to fly off as the day goes on. If you note what plants you typically find them on (for us it's roses, evening primrose, marshmallow, and elder) you can focus your efforts on their favorite spots. This method doesn't prevent all their damage, but if you do a beetle hunt a couple times a day, it helps keep them in check.
In the garden, things are getting really exciting. The blackcaps are having a bumper year - so much berry goodness! There are baby cucumbers and squash on the vines, plus loads of blossoms that mean more are on the way. We've harvested our first carrots and beets, which are just amazing grated raw into a salad.
Speaking of salad, the lettuce is going strong! A couple tips for a good lettuce season:
- select a seasonally appropriate blend of lettuce to grow. We like Fedco's Summer Lettuce Mix, which has varieties that are slower to bolt in the heat. Then when we do planting for fall, we switch to a Winter Lettuce Mix for better cold tolerance.
- on hot, sunny days, put some cheesecloth or floating row cover over your lettuce to shade them from the strongest heat of the sun. Take it off in the evenings so you don't encourage slugs.
- if you can, harvest your lettuce in the cooler mornings, rinse off any dirt and store it in a produce bag in the crisper until you're ready to eat it. This way your lettuce is cool and perkier than it would be if you harvested after a day of heat and sun.
It is SO easy to eat healthily in the summer, with all the delicious, abundant produce you can grow or pick up at a local farmers' market. Especially if you aren't able to have as much of a garden as you'd like, be sure to patronize your local growers! Getting your fruits and veg from a small farmer is their livelihood, unlike the large grocery stores that really won't notice if you shop there or not. We all need to support our local foodshed to make sure that our farms and orchards can continue to be viable in a world of globalized food production. Plus, the freshness can't be beat! Win-win!
So, as this luscious season continues to dole out its many gifts, make sure you are giving yourself a chance to soak in some summer goodness! Relax in a hammock and listen to the wind rushing through the trees. Make some tasty cool drinks to keep hydrated. Wiggle your bare toes in the grass (always brushing off and doing a tick check, of course!) and ground your energy in Mother Earth while reaching for the sun. Hike a mountain path and look out on this amazing world. Jump in a lake - or ocean.
This life is magical! We are so glad to be on this ride with you!