You want to make some honey? All right. Here’s the recipe.
Pour the juice from a thousand flowers
Through the sweet tooth of a bee.
~ X. F. Kennedy
Here is my summer garden tips to help you get more out of your garden. Doesn’t It always feel like forever between planting your garden in spring and being able to start enjoying it come summer? Before you know it, your eating salad at every meal in an effort to use up the lettuce before it bolts and your co-workers are stuffing zucchini’s in their purses because someone planted too much.
It’s important to check in on the health of your plants in the high of summer. Adjusting feeding routines and watering schedules are necessary to get the biggest yields out of your garden.
Last week I noticed as I wandered by my potted garden area where zucchini’s and cucumbers grow against a hot wall, that their leaves appeared yellow…..never mind the white powdery mildew ( the latest challenge ). I’ve been feeding these pot’s with an organic fertilizer on a regular basis so why are they looking like they are suffering from a lack of nitrogen?
I did a Google search and discovered that organic fertilizers like the powdered form I’ve been using, sometimes require further breaking down before the nutrients become available to the plant. This ties up the available nitrogen as it get’s locked into the Nitrogen Cycle, which the diagram below briefly explains but it is quite a bit more complex than that. If your interested in learning more about Mother Natures amazing recycling system, check out Wikipedia’s explanation here.
All this time I’m thinking I’m doing the right organic thing and my poor zukes and cukes are just pooped! So, I decided to give it a quick remedy and make some tea….compost tea.
This method doesn’t get any simpler than just adding water. My compost heap is just about ready to start getting turned back over but at the bottom of the ready bin there’s good healthy compost ready to go. I’ll save this in a black bottomless barrel until fall when I spread it on the upper beds but in the meantime, I’m going to leach some nutrient goodness.
Shovel the compost into a bucket about 2/3 full…add water and let sit for several days. I used a piece of chicken mesh to strain the water through but an old window screen would work too. Besides, most of the big matter sinks to the bottom so it’s easy to pour off the liquid. I’m not going to lie, this compost tea can get a little funky smelling….which is good, because it’s acting like a liquid manure. If it’s a bit staunchly, then your right on track.
I applied the tea to the vegi’s and poured the left over muck onto the compost heap. Then I refilled the buckets and started again.
This is the time to save seeds or start drying your herbs before they bolt ( or go to seed ) and since we are on the topic of tea, let’s discuss collecting Chamomile flowers. The easiest way is by hand, sometimes you can drag your fingers along the stems, pinch the flowers and pluck off several at a time. But the thicker stems may require you pinch it off with your thumb nail. I dry these flower heads spread out of cookie sheets on newsprint or on parchment in a low oven.
Once they are thoroughly dry then store them in an air tight container. I like to mix my Chamomile with broken bits of cinnamon bark, dried ginger, and mint for a fresh tasty tea.
Be sure to wire bundles of herbs together and place these in rooms throughout the house….their fragrances are just as therapeutic as their physical properties. I have a lot of Chamomile this year so I created a beautiful wreath to dry it with some Lavender and Helichrysum. Check out my tutorial here.
In most cases you’ll want to collect from flower heads that have already gone to seed. But this requires a little patience as the plant usually has heavily declined and begins to look unsightly before the seeds are ready.
Isn’t this Dianthus row lovely! This is also known as Sweet William and is considered a biennial as it re-seeds itself and flowers in its second year. When I harvest these I’m sure to shake out the remains back into the bed after I take my share.
I actually work at this over a couple of weeks until they are all trimmed back because these flowers don’t all bloom at the same time ( which is good for a longer show ) so they all mature a few days to weeks apart. Basically I look for the driest heads where the pods are opened and I can see the black seeds just waiting to get knocked out. I tap these heads into the bucket and throw the stems onto the tarp that will go to the compost heap.
It’s important to let these seeds get really dry before you put it into an air tight container and freeze them. You can lay them out on newsprint or dry them in a paper bag for a couple of weeks. I like to put the seeds in a glass jar with a rubber seal that’ll give me an air tight lock. Be sure to date and label your seeds. These seeds will be used in an upcoming post for making gifts for Christmas…..stay tuned 🙂
Weeding is a constant chore but don’t forget to stay on it as you harvest out your summer vegetable bed, I plan to grow a green manure crop this year once those vegi’s are done. My lettuce is still going strong due to a late sowing after a battle with slugs this past spring. As I pull, I can sow another row at this time for a fall harvest. Same goes with carrots, swiss chard, kale, and other fall growing crops.
I hope my summer garden tips help you harvest more from your garden than just vegi’s and vase stuffers. With a little effort, you can harvest potpourri, tea and even gifts from the garden.
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