NATURE’S TURN: Peak sunshine, peak gardening, edge elements

Although the vegetable gardener is focused on growing staple foods, immeasurable benefit is gleaned when “edge elements” are included. Plants of purely botanical and ecological interest invariably attract beneficial birds and insects.

June 22 – July 5, 2015
Garden sculpture created by the author’s belle fille, Kelsy Waggaman, when studying at IS183 under its former name, Interlaken School of Art, Glendale, MA. She was 13 years old.  The fired clay sculpture is a timeless addition to the garden through all seasons. Pictured here with garlic leaves in the foreground and pea vines climbing a wire mesh trellis in the background. Blue-violet Centaurea montana seeded itself at the sculpture’s base. Photo by Mackenzie Waggaman, June 21, 2015
Garden sculpture created by the author’s belle fille, Kelsy Waggaman, when studying at IS183 under its former name, Interlaken School of Art, Glendale, MA. She was 13 years old. The fired clay sculpture is a timeless addition to the garden through all seasons. Pictured here with garlic leaves in the foreground and pea vines climbing a wire mesh trellis in the background. Blue-violet Centaurea montana seeded itself at the sculpture’s base. Photo by Mackenzie Waggaman, June 21, 2015

Mt. Washington — The sun is at its peak and its alchemy with the land has created a swell of varied green and fragrant color in the garden. Watered by recent rainstorms and suffused with the gardener’s diligence, spring seedlings are maturing to something like the bloom of adolescence. We move through the garden as through byways in a town or rooms where family members dwell, feeling a deep sense of being at home and of responsibility to a diverse community. Although the vegetable gardener is focused on growing staple foods, immeasurable benefit is gleaned when “edge elements” are included. Plants of purely botanical and ecological interest invariably attract beneficial birds and insects. These plants, as well as garden sculpture and architectural features, nurture the spirit and aesthetic sensibility of gardener and visitor alike, complementing the food that nourishes the body.

In our locale, there are usually about two and a half months of growing season before the summer solstice (this year, June 21) and, of late, three to four months afterward. Cool weather crops grown from seed sown in April – spinach, lettuce, radish, Asian greens, dill, cilantro – are providing delectable food and flavoring, as are perennials like asparagus, sorrel, Egyptian onion, rhubarb, oregano, thyme, tarragon, lovage and sage. Garlic planted last fall is thigh high and offering its first harvest: flower stalks known as scapes. Cut the long stems close to where they originate; they are a superb culinary curiosity. Opinions differ regarding harvesting the scapes. See Resources, below, for links to viewpoints and recipes.

garlic scapes
Garlic scapes ready to harvest. Image by Judy Isacoff

Small potato tubers planted in bare ground on May 4 at Schoolhouse Gardens have filled out their beds and elongated from their compact beginnings. Continue to hill soil, leaves or another mulch material throughout the bed. Lavender-colored flowers are just appearing on the all-blue variety, an indication that small, new potatoes may be searched for around the plants by hand, gently, in a couple of weeks, which will be two months after planting.

The first lettuce and arugula plantings are lush. When arugula becomes too peppery to your taste, pull out, chop and briefly sauté. Either eat fresh or freeze for a winter treat. Arugula, spinach and the weed called lamb’s quarters, Chenopodium album, may be combined to make a batch of especially satisfying sautéed greens. See Resources, below, for more about my favorite edible weed.

Tomato, pepper and peas are flowering. Sungold and Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes, the latter grown up from plants nurseried by Left Field Farm and purchased at Berkshire Co-op Market, have set their first fruits here at 1,700 feet elevation. They are supported inside sturdy, 4 – 5 feet tall variations on commercial tomato cages, or fastened to mesh fencing. Be sure to trellis climbing peas. A rustic support can be made by lining up small diameter branches. For image, see https://theberkshireedge.com/natures-turn-spring-planting-summery-weather/ Onions and squash plants are fleshing out; keep weeded with a stirrup hoe or suppress weeds by mulching.

Three robin’s eggs in the nest within the honeysuckle vine. Photo by Judy Isacoff, June 20, 2015
Three robin’s eggs in the nest within the honeysuckle vine. Photo by Judy Isacoff, June 20, 2015

A close look at the calendar and at “Days to Maturity” requirements noted on seed packets tell us that this is the last call for planting long season vegetables such as the winter squashes and Brussels sprouts from seed. Varieties of both may require 85 – 120 days. Choose the earliest end of the spectrum; it’s best to plant for earlier rather than later maturity. Now is just the right time to sow seeds of beet, turnip, black storage radish, carrot and cabbage for late autumn harvests that will provide winter food.

Resources:

https://www.garlicfarm.ca/growing-garlic.htm

https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/garlic-scapes.aspx

https://gardening.about.com/od/herbsatoz/a/What-Are-Garlic-Scapes.htm

https://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/growing-potatoes.html

https://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Lamb%27sQuarters.html

For coral honeysuckle  www.projectnative.org

Days to Maturity: https://www.mastergardeners.org/publications/plantingYourVegGarden.html

Centaurea montana https://www.finegardening.com/mountain-bluet-centaurea-montana