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Happy Summer Solstice!

This may be the first summer solstice where I am harvesting summer veggies- basil and summer squash are on.   As Wendy shared in the last blog it is an early season and we will be getting everything earlier than normal.   Don’t forget to do some successions of cucumbers, summer squash, beans, and basil.   I also love to do a late planting of sunflowers to get a big sunflower bloom in October.

What else is going on in the garden this time of year- I call it the regrouping weeks, where after we have pushed to get everything in the garden we can now catch up on the loose ends and do some maintenance and care.  Now the soil is so warm, it is a good time to mulch crops you haven’t mulched earlier, a thick layer of mulch on the kale and chard can keep it going through the warm months ( though it won’t be that sweet).  Basically I mulch everything that is not a “hot crop”.  The hot crops are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans and corn in my book and I pretty much mulch everything else.   I have really poor soil that turns into clay bricks if not kept moist, when it is left under a layer of straw mulch it is so much easier to work.  If you have really bad snail and slug problems you may not want to mulch as much.  Mulch also really helps conserve water.

This is often the time when I can finally get a drip system on and the timer working if I have been too busy.  Usually a vacation pushes me to get a system set up so I can leave and feel like the garden is getting watered.  I have been hand watering a new small plot I have at my home and I sure see the trickiness to hand watering.  One thing is getting the amount right, if you lightly sprinkle it most likely is not enough and you get water on the tomato leaves which they hate.  But then if you go heavier and at the ground it floods and compacts the soil.  Makes me appreciate drip when I see this.  I highly recommend getting a drip system set up if on nothing else but your tomatoes to help with blight.

I was at a friend’s house over the weekend and looking at her garden, where nothing was really growing.  It was just sitting there, not doing anything.  Hmmm, really strange.  The normal things all didn’t match, she used compost, added feather meal and kelp meal, has gopher wire.  She doesn’t get much sun but the mustard greens that can handle that had stalled out at 1 inch.  After going through all the standard problems, we didn’t come up with a diagnosis.  The only thing I would do at that point is get a soil test to see if something is really off.  But it is a tiny garden, which makes a soil test feel pretty pricey. Another one of those who knows scenarios I was talking about.  Could it be bad compost with a herbicide residue in it, I know the local places all test for that now.  So not likely.   I am stumped as it is Sebastopol sandy soil and other gardens in the area look like they are fine.  At this point my suggestion was that the soil looked like it lacked any life.  Compost tea would help inoculate the soil with microbial life and some worm compost also would help.  I think that the very sandy soil is very low on microbial life and I also think that many of the very hot composts we can buy also burn out the fungi with their high temperatures.  Adding some mycorrrhizal inoculant might also help if you sprinkle it in while planting.  If you are low in bacteria and fungi the nutrients that are in the soil are often stuck and plants can’t take them up.  Any other suggestions out there?

Don’t forget to pinch back your basil to keep it from blooming to keep it producing longer, harvest your squash and beans when they are ready to keep them going also.  And enjoy the summer!