Summer Soltice Garden Update
With the summer solstice just behind us, and the sun lighting the sky
for more than sixteen hours a day, all the plants up here on the
plateau, from oak tree to lupine, broccoli to radish, bulbous blue
grass to alfalfa, have been working overtime converting sunlight into
sugars that then take on various shapes and sizes, colors and scents.
The light of June is exhilarating, and the seemingly tireless efforts
of the plants in this race of photosynthesis and reproduction keeps
all of us diligent observers and co-conspirators a little on edge and
working steadily to keep up.
The salad greens are growing faster than
we can eat them; the radishes are still crisp and sweet but have grown
to sizes I have never seen before; the first plantings of peas stand
taller than I do; and the broccoli, despite the efforts of the ground
squirrels, is producing heads for us daily.
purple cabbage after a rain
Maybe if I live here long enough, I will realize that every year is an
anomaly in its own way. But for now, I compare each season to my
understanding of this region's average, and am continually surprised.
After a relatively mild winter and dry spring, the rains have
continued into much of June, so the grasses still stand green and tall
on our hillside and in places the creek still has water running over
its basalt stones.
While the cool and cloudy weather with rains
soaking deep into the soil at night prolongs the harvest of the
spinach and arugula, the tomatoes and squash, peppers and beans have
been slow to establish themselves in their new soil. But now, the
weather is finally turning, with temperatures reaching up into the 80s
and I take delight in watching the summer squash beginning to grow in
its characteristically speedy manner.
garlic doing great in the damp spring weather
While at this point all the bed preparation is complete, with a home
garden, the work is never done. Since our goal is to provide as much
continued nutrition throughout the season and then have extra for
winter storage, we constantly are thinking to what to plant next as
the season progresses.
The first crop of summer squash is beginning to
flower, so its time to seed the second round, and the spinach and
arugula are finally now going to seed‒which we allow for since we
save as much seed as we can‒ and will open up new bed space for more
beans, beets and squash‒the crops that can survive the summer heat.
chard, cliantro and broccoli growing together
As we thin out the carrots and beets we are enjoying the first sweet
bites of each in our noontime meal; and the turnips' insistence on
flowering means that the bunnies will be able to enjoy their spicy
flavor this year. The ground squirrels seem to be particularly
ravenous this year, eating broccoli, cabbage, lettuces, kale and even
hot peppers! Last year, it seemed that they quit after the rest of
plateau greened up, and then only came back again come fall. But we
have had to cover much of the garden with netting, which makes it more
challenging for the squirrels but it is not 100% protection.
theory, I am okay with some of the garden going towards the squirrels
who plant our oak forest, in fact I even plan for it when seeding, but
it is still discouraging and frustrating to find a broccoli plant with
only the mid-rib of the stems remaining. Even though we use a heavy
layer of mulch to increase soil moisture retention, the weeds can
still be prolific‒particularly the mallow‒but Theresa has been
saving the newly germinating crops from this overwhelming fate.
beets and onions growing together
Jon and Andrew have been cutting the grasses that grow abundantly
between the bed space and near the fruit trees much to the delight of
both the goats and the plants that are given a new perspective on
This spring, Mary Lou and the pool team increased our summer water
storage by almost 3 times‒which will go a long way towards nursing
trees and veggies through the usually relentless August sun. The drip
irrigation is working well in the main grow beds, though irrigation
lines consistently require attention and upkeep‒fixing leaks in the
main hose lines, checking to make sure the valves are tight, making
sure the lines are not plugged and the water is reaching all the
The success with this poly tubing in the main garden is
inspiring me to lay similar lines for the fruit trees‒as it delivers
a slow and steady supply of water to the plants and significantly
decreases the amount of time spent, hose in hand, watering.
As the evening light lingers in the tops of the Ponderosas this
evening, a refreshing if not cool wind is blowing, and I cannot hep
but wonder what more surprises this season will hold for us, as the
regional averages rarely allow room for barefoot running in the rain
during a late afternoon July thunderstorm or the chilling breath of an
early September frost.
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 70