Happy Solstice!

I’m a day late but happy summer solstice to all! According to the weather site I frequent our sunrise occurred at 4:14 am and sunset settled into place at 9:55 pm. That’s a whole lot of sunshine : ) I know a lady with a sparkling green thumb who spends every summer solstice in her garden weeding. On the longest day of the year she has made it a ritual to get up with the sun and weed right through until dark; she’s been doing that for years. The thinking behind it is that if you don’t have the upper hand with your weeds by the third week of June you are in for some heavy pulling and – especially in the case of vegetables – a diminished harvest.

Weeding is both my woe and my joy. When I’m on top of things there is nothing more satisfying than an afternoon spent tidying up a bed. When I’m behind and when the weed is quack grass, oh the woe!

The secret to success is to get to the weeds early and often. It is far easier to go around the garden every morning and evening with a hoe, tapping out the tiny weed sprouts, then it is to wait until the weeds have become ‘worthwhile’.

One brilliant gardener told me that her secret to keeping things in control is to not start weeding where you left off, but to start where you began. Once you’ve weeded a few beds, the next day quickly go through those same beds again before starting on the next ones. Once you’ve caught up you should be able to easily go over your entire garden in one go.  If you can’t get to it all in the time you have allowed for gardening then your garden is too big. Downsize.

Good advice; I should take it. Instead I seem to keep expanding! Even so, I do have a spring routine that works. Every morning I go out to the flower beds and fill a couple totes with weeds, which I then feed to our chickens. By afternoon they have recycled the weeds into fresh eggs for the fridge and poop for the compost bin. What a brilliant economy!

Two Totes of Weeds a Day…That’s the Minimum

Chickens checking out their morning weeds…

Oh, and that’s an onion by the hen’s foot not an egg…just in case you were wondering!

In the afternoon I duck out from my desk to weed one of my vegetable gardens and in the evening I work in the other. I use a lot of hay mulch in my vegetable beds and that makes a huge difference. In the spring I pull it back so the soil can warm up (which, alas, also lets the weeds grow) but around this time when the plants are all coming along nicely I start tucking the hay back around them. The hay does a wonderful job of keeping the weeds out and the moisture in – no small thing when you rely on a cistern for your water and like to do all your watering by hand! Here’s what one of my vegetable gardens looked like this morning…

The June vegetable garden with a hay mulch

Chive Talk

Chive harvest is coming to a close and now they are moving into their blooming stage. Like rhubarb, chives are a  great addition to the ornamental garden. I have chives everywhere…in the herb garden, the vegetable plots and my flower beds. I love the sight of all those gorgeous purple orbs bopping about on their healthy green stems. Tasty, hardy and prolific self-seeders chives are an economical addition to any landscape. And bees like them too! If you are worried about having too much of a good thing, when blossoms start to fade go out with a pair of nippers and snip them off before they go to seed.

Here are some chives paired with a Therese Bugnet rose – one I highly recommend for cold climates. I’ve had this rose for almost ten years and it continues to flourish no matter what kind of winter we have had or how much the moose or deer prune it. It comes into bloom a couple of times every summer and in the winter its red canes look beautiful against a backdrop of snow.  But I think it is in June when the chives compliment the first flush of rose blossoms that I love this rose best. The pairing is serendipitous. Not only do the pink and purple blooms look great together, chives are the perfect companion plants, serving as an organic method for keeping roses in tip-top health.

Chives with a Therese Bugnet Rose