The end of June and the beginning of July are presenting real challenges this year for the gardener and the garden. We have lacked rain as diseases and pests move in!  Even watering seems to have negligible results in perking up my tomatoes, beans, and cukes.  The stars of this summer’s garden are the sweet potatoes which are thriving, and egg plants, yard long beans, Okinawa okra and sweet basil which is gracing my salads along with Mexican tarragon.  Also, I have been harvesting and drying comfrey as it has been a most needed medicinal in my household at this time.  Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries were gathered and enjoyed by a grandchild, but these too are now challenged by the heat.

Even in this heat there are things we can do and enjoy!

  • Keep harvesting your basil to keep it from flowering and make delicious pesto. Pesto freezes well in ice cube trays to enjoy during the winter months.
  • Use some fun herbal combinations for infusing vinegars or olive oil.  I have harvested garlic which would work well with either.
  • Herbal butters make a delicious addition when grilling fish.  I like tarragon and basil combined with sweet butter as one possibility when broiling salmon.
  • Lavender is blooming, so cut the flowerheads for lavender sugar or lavender sachets.
  • Remove spent flower heads throughout your garden to keep these plants blooming.
  • Consider which cool weather plants you would like to start as seedlings next month.  Be sure that you have the seeds, quality potting soil, and seed flats or containers to be successful.
  • Make watermelon juice with basil and sip with contentment!

Reporting on the sweet potato project, it is gratifying to see one plant in the garden totally enjoying and thriving in the heat. I have seven different cultivars and am still producing and planting slips from Diana. The best part is sharing slips with others who would like to try an easy, productive and nutritious food source. The sweet potato has the additional virtue of needing NO weeding, just watering. I will be filling in spaces with sweet potato slips until about July1st.  My thanks go to Jeff Carnahan of the USDA in guiding me to greater success!

~~ Reni Erskine

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