"Leisure is sweet when it follows work well done."
If you are a gardener, July is a month of hard work, lots of play and great food. The weeds realy attempt to take over and there is a beginning of heavy harvests that require quick processing (like making pickles).........but then...there are the long, warm days that offer possibilities of small outdoor parties, relaxing repast and tea on the porch, using all the fresh garden pickings as the centerpiece of easy meals. Those meals never taste as good as when you just plucked foods warm from the garden--and pulled a few weeds along the way.
July 1 ~ Today I made several herbal sugars and salts for quick use in desserts and meals---lavender, tarragon, lemon balm, oregano, strawberry........So simple--just mix equal or 1/2 part herb to salt or sugar (depending on your taste) and pulse in a coffe mill for a few seconds. Keep in airtight containers and use in a few months. Later, it will get warmer, so I am setting out some butter to soften and will add the same herbs to that and then roll in parchment paper and freeze for future baked potatoes, warm bread.........
July 5 ~ A few of my gardens are so overgrown, the work required to save them is more than totally redoing them---so with that in mind, along with total frustration .....and on th ehottest day of the year, so far, I took my little Mantis tiller to one of them and totally dug it up--going around the few plants that were surviving. 30 minutes later, I have a nice new garden to start. I put in a frantic order to my favorite herb mail order company--Companion Plants in Ohio. they have most herbs--unusual and typical, but more importantly, their plants always survive--unlike most other places I have gotten herbs. So, now I await their arrival and will do another tilling to get the soil well worked and weed free (mostly quack grass). Today, I am moving on to the other garden disaster, but will fill that primarily with perennials that my Grandma grew and that I grew up with.
July 6 ~ Picking daylily flowers for salads and stuffing with herbed cheeses--they will tide me over until squash blossoms are available.
July 7 ~ Harvesting Hyssop, comfrey, yarrow, heal all..........but mostly, I am enjoying the most wonderful scent in the world---believe it or not----Milkweed flowers!!!
July 9 ~ Over a year ago, I mentioned that there is nothing that can't be pickled--so be creative. Well, really, there is nothing you can't make an herbal/veggie smoothie out of , or sugars or salts or jellies and jams. But, I just found this fantastic book called Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home- by Jeni Bauer. It is filled with wonderous ways to use your herbs and garden produce in natural, unusual ways---like Beet and Marscapone ice cream, Sweet Basil, Orange Zest and Poppy Seed ice creams!!!!! It includes recipes for waffle cones and fruit/herb sauces. Ice cream is MUCH easier to make that you think--maybe 5-10 minutes of prep time. The hard part is the waiting for the ice cream freezer to do it's magic (about 30 mins) and then for the hard freeze in your regular freezer (3-5 hours). She has great recipes, but it also gives me lots of ideas for the things I have growing....... such as a bumber crop lemon balm, lemon grass and lemon geraniums--I could make a Triple Lemon custard.....Rose petal and Apple Mint.......Cucumber ice creams.............
July 11 ~ My plant order arrived, so I went right out to restore my torn up herb beds. The improvements are that I now have a lavender and thyme beds....whereas before, individual plants were scattered around. I now have a bed of "dye" plants and one of poisonous plants. I also tilled up a new, secluded area for my Poke weed. I have tried growing it 2 times before and could never keep it alive----but it is a plant I respect and use a lot, so I will try until I find a place it likes to be. I also ordered plants that will have to overwinter in the greenhouse, like Tea Tree, Coffee, Bay and Eucalyptus.
July 13 ~ This has been a dry/hot month, so herbs that have not done well for years, are suddenly coming into their own. I finally have tons of sage and lavender. I have had the time to look over my landscape and realize how much it has changed in the last 30 years due to tree growth--throwing once sunny spots into shade--too much shade!! So, I will spend a good deal of time clipping branches and removing some trees that are on the verge of dying (or taking over like an old juniper bush that has gone way out of control).
My grandson picked the last of the carrots and onions that remained growing in the greenhouse, so now I can work and prepare that soil for late August planting of a late Fall/Winter crops. It is hard enough to stay on top of succession planting in a summer garden, much less thinking ahead to Fall in the greenhouse, but it is a major learning experience that has actually started to teach me how to be a better gardener in general.
July 14 ~ Walking to and from my gardens to weed, harvest and plant has just gotten more delightful because the berries are ripening. My red and black raspberries are just coming on, so instead of the 1/2 per day of picking that will come over the next few weeks, I can just nibble a ripe berry here and there. So refreshing....and it gets my mind to dreaming about making biscuits with whip cream, honey and berries, berry crisps, jelly and ice cream.
July 17 ~ Harvesting day/night: sage , yarrow, thyme, ground ivy, nettles, comfrey. Of these, all can be dried the traditional way in a warm room--except for the comfrey. That is a very wet plant and after several failures years ago, I learned to always use a dehydrator.
July 20 ~ It is hot, so I have been living on salads of watermelon, feta or gorgonzola cheese and tarragon. Very cooling, hydrating, yet mineral rich.
July 22 ~ Such a heat wave. 2 good things about it--(if I have to find a silver lining in sitting in front if fans all day)--there are very few snails around damaging my young, tender plants and the "rust" that usually ruins my holyhocks and mints and several other perennials is being held in check because that requires some regular dampness. The shallow rooted annuals needs lots of watering, but the weeds, herbs and well established perennials look fantastic.
July 23 ~ I had to replace my sweetgrass as it was one of the casualties of last years garden neglect. But...it had also been a real burden the last several years--invading everything and actually being one of the reasons that particular garden became unmanageable. So, for now it is in a pot, but it is a grass and I use it quite a bit to make smudge, and I want it to spread--just not wildly as before. This year, I have a few castor plants growing in a little patch in the middle of a mown area. They are for show and are annuals, so their spot will become home to the invasive sweetgrass next year after overwintering in the greenhouse.
July 26 ~ Rainy day--since I can't work outside, I am planning which garden to redo next. It is pure craziness because this is also a maintenance week. Weeding and mowing need to be done again--along with my THIRD Lemon Balm harvest.....and the cukes are coming in.....and the zuchinnis......and it's time to do a final fall planting of greens--maybe even some Fall peas.