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GARDEN PATH: Summer solstice helps forge strong link to garden

'It's not too late to plant warm-season crops like seedlings of tomatoes, bell peppers and watermelons,' garden expert says
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Monika Rekola photo

(All photos by Monika Rekola, except where indicated).

Welcome to this week's Crown of Flowers, where we’re showcasing the beauty of peonies, Japanese irises, lupines and Virginia creeper.

First up, the peonies. Their extravagant blooms and intoxicating scent bring a dramatic flair. Then there are the Japanese irises, with their bold, intricate petals in fierce shades of purple and blue. The lupines follow, with their tall, spiky blossoms that stand defiant and proud.

Finally, the Virginia creeper, with its wild, sprawling vines and vibrant leaves, weaves everything together with a touch of untamed nature.

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When the summer solstice arrives, I feel a deep connection to my garden. This marks the peak of yang energy, the height of light and heat, where everything is alive and thriving. My plants, especially the sun-loving ones, are at their most vibrant, growing rapidly and bursting with life. It's a time of abundance, with tomatoes ripening, peppers swelling, and cucumbers racing across the soil, garlic scapes curling elegantly, and honeyberries (haskap) hanging heavy and ripe.

I embrace this intensity. The sun blazes overhead, and I'm out there, fully immersed in the activity. Watering becomes a critical routine – it's all about timing, catching the early morning coolness to soak the roots before the day's heat sets in. Pests are more active, but I'm vigilant, ready to protect my plants. This is the height of the growing season, and my garden is in full swing.

The haskaps are always one of the first berries to arrive in my yard, ripening just after the rhubarb, asparagus, chives are up.

As a budding homesteader, I firmly believe that everything tastes better homegrown and handmade. One of my favourite things to do is make homemade jam.

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What we buy from the grocery store is usually full of GMO ingredients (high fructose corn syrup) and food dye. I don’t know about you, but when I spread jelly on my toast, I want to actually taste the fruit, not a pile of chemicals.

I’ve linked an easy haskap jam recipe here. Make sure to check out your local planting calendar to determine last dates to get crops in the ground.

It's not too late to plant warm-season crops like seedlings of tomatoes, bell peppers and watermelons. Many crops with short maturity times (such as radishes) can be succession planted all the way through the summer.

Hold off on planting cool-season crops like lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard. These plants prefer cooler temperatures and can bolt, becoming bitter and less productive, in the summer heat. Instead, plan to sow these in late summer for a fall harvest.

As the solstice passes, the days begin to shorten, marking the onset of yin energy and the transition to cooler days. The garden senses this shift, prompting me to prepare for the next phase.

Mulching becomes crucial for conserving moisture and cooling the soil while the placement of taller plants can provide shade and balance the intense sunlight.

Crop rotation keeps the soil healthy and prevents pests from taking hold.

Garlic scapes are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes such as pizza toppings, pasta dishes, pesto and stir-fries.

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When summer comes, I watch out for a few pests in my garden.

First are the whiteflies. These tiny white insects suck the sap from plants, making leaves yellow and fall off. I use neem oil to control them and add ladybugs to my garden since they eat whiteflies. One thing I steer clear of is using yellow sticky traps outdoors. While they do catch whiteflies, they also trap native bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects that I want to protect.

Next are Japanese beetles. I start looking for them in mid-to-late June and onward. The best times to catch them are early in the morning or in the evening when they're more sluggish. I knock them into a bucket of soapy water—a simple solution made with a squirt or two of dishwashing soap and water does the trick. This method is straightforward and helps keep their numbers down without resorting to harsh chemicals.

Fortunately this year, I haven’t seen any, and my rose bushes are lovely and flourishing.

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For a complete list, check out this link.

Summer is officially here and so is the heat dome! It’s a jungle out there. TOO HOT TO HANDLE??

Here are some beat-the-heat tips for fellow gardeners: Choose cooler times of the day for garden chores, such as morning and evening; pace yourself to avoid overexertion; stay hydrated; wear loose, breathable clothing; and consider a gel freezer pack or placing a wet towel around your neck to stay cool. Keep a spray bottle of water handy for a quick, refreshing mist.

Don’t forget to fill up the bird bath, our friends need to cool down too.

Summer gatherings

We look forward once again to a season of outdoor living at its finest – Fresh garden vegetables and flowers on the table, swimming to beat the heat, and warm nights, candle-lit dinners, and stories around the fire. Let's enjoy these moments while nurturing our gardens to ensure they thrive and bloom beautifully throughout the season.

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Martagon lilies in the garden/Monika Rekola photo....Family table/Pinterest

A certified landscape designer and horticulturalist, Monika Rekola brings landscapes to life with her passion for gardening and CAD designs, guided by a profound love for all living beings. As a budding homesteader and garden writer, she shares her passion for sustainable living. With a knack for recycling and repurposing, Monika finds beauty in simplicity, while her love for birds makes her a keen observer of nature. Committed to forest management and gardening with an ecological focus, she strives to create balance in our delicate ecosystem. She can be reached at [email protected].

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