“I hear my mother calling when the summer wind blows,
Go out into the garden in your old, old clothes…”
Rosemary Wells, “First Tomato”
The garden in the height of summer is a source of deep comfort for me despite some contrasts between the reality of it and the idea of it. This quote from Rosemary Wells’ childrens’ book “First Tomato” captures the essence of this comfort for me in both the tangible place of the garden – and the garden as a state of mind.
July in the garden is likewise a unity of opposites: the heat of the summer days, the cool of the summer mornings; the fireworks of early July, the fatigue of late July, the long – seemingly slow – days and yet both mine and my plant’s urgent need for water and shade – which truncates my gardening hours spent in labor or appreciation to the first and last few hours of light each day.
How do the plants, do we, not only flower, but flourish?
My morning walk through riparian oak woodlands – time I consider necessary garden-appreciation – are highlighted by a regular morning view through ancient, twisted tree limbs. The lines of these limbs arching, bowing, crossing and leaning into one another framing some point of light or point of view beneath their sheltering shapes is lovely – and brings to mind ancient and carefully designed and painstakingly constructed cathedral windows the likes of which you see at Notre Dame or Chartres or Bethel Church in Chico.
It is to these morning cathedral-window-views that I take and offer my morning prayers – prayers of hope, of apology, of praise, of mourning, of gratitude. For the extremes of the summer heat, the resilience of most summer plants, and the reliable turning of the summer sky.
For all the things we may want from our gardens, for our gardens, of and for ourselves as gardeners, another voice of comfort comes to me from the poet T.S. Eliot, reassuringly reminding us that though life is terribly short: “There will be time, There will be time.”
As you walk, as you weed, as you water and harvest: breathe in the fat rich smells of the soil, the tomatoes, the basil, the life all around you. Take your time and your specific place and appreciate all that it is – time worn and so frequently illuminated as Beautiful in any one moment.
Many garden clubs and groups lay low in the summer but there’s still plenty to appreciate: In Redding on July 4th is the culminating celebration of Turtle Bay’s Sundial Bridge 40th anniversary, July 12th Tuscan Heights Lavender Garden in Whitmore hosts their 9th annual Lavender festival, July 19th in Chico The Plant Barn Nusery & Gifts host their annual Summer Soiree, and July 20th The Mt. Lassen Chapter of the Cal Native Plant Society leads a nature walk to Wilson Lake and Ice Cave in Lassen National Park.
July 3 – August 11th are considered the Dog Days of Summer and the full moon falls on July 12th.
Photo: RED shooting spikes of Hesperaloe parviflora flowers beckon to hummingbirds from miles away.
Photo: WHITE The spiraling pinwheel pattern of a gardenia blooming and heady with fragrance in the summer shade.
In both the edible and ornamental gardens, summer heat lovers are now lighting up the garden and the heat-tender have retreated to the background. Watering, deadheading, weeding are our primary tasks – along with enjoying the fruits and vegetables starting to come in by the basketful. Some of your heavy bloomers or crop producers would benefit from a mid-summer shot of organic fertilizer, a new mulch of compost or worm castings.
Photo: BLUE Rows of lavender in full bloom at Tuscan Heights Lavender Gardens’ Annual Lavender Festival in Whitmore. Don’t forget that too much water for our drought tolerant California native plants or other Mediterranean basin natives (such as lavender) causes more problems (fungal infections to name the most common) than too little water. If such a plant is looking peaked, consider letting it dry out between waterings.
Now is a good time to finish pruning your spring and summer bloomers to encourage a second flush of blooms later in the summer and to avoid pruning back flower buds forming for next spring.
As many market gardeners remind us, also by the end of the month we can have prepared some of our garden space for the planting of our fall and winter crops like carrots, tasty greens and brassicas.
David Grau of Valley Oak tool writes that “July is the time to work up soil for planting your early winter crops out in August. He points out that cool season crops like broccoli, cabbage, beets, spinach, and onions often go to seed instead of producing a crop in our climate often because they were planting too late the fall before. We don’t naturally think of planting cool season vegetables in July or especially August, but that is the best time. September is too late.”
Jolene Queen of Dairyville Nursery in Red Bluff writes that: “Weeding and watering are threatening to take over life at this point, and it seems, we are building the other events of life around these two functions. If you are fairly new to vegetable gardening, or your garden plot is fairly new, these two things can be overwhelming. A heavy mulch of rotted grass hay at each plant’s base, over open soil and in pathways help keep these two tasks under control and eliminate your use of herbicides in the garden.”
Brian and Nancy at Sawmill Creek Farms in Paradise are all about the many varieties of tomatoes this month and remind us to keep giving your plants support on cages or frames and fertilizer – they like a fish emulsion about once a month right now. Many market growers including Wolfgang Rougle of Twining Tree Farm outside of Cottonwood and Nancy Schleiger of Native Springs Nursery in Durham take the month of July off from the markets – their “winter dormancy” as Wolfgang describes it in her book “Sacramento Valley Feast”.
I enjoyed reading recently that fireworks as we know them are descended from plant beginnings. According to several sources, the earliest fireworks were developed in ancient China and consisted of burning green bamboo in a fire. The moist green plant material with its sections of sealed tubes between nodes along the stems would hiss and then POP in the heat – and this startling explosion was said to ward off evil spirits.
Photo: BLUE Lily of Nile (Agapanthus) elegantly lighting up the summer garden skyline.
If any evil spirits are plaguing your garden this month, the explosions of fragrance and color of flowering plants are sure to bring those spirits around to a better perspective.
The On-line Calendar of Regional Gardening Events at jewellgarden.com adds events throughout the month. I do my very best to keep the calendar up to date and accurate, please confirm all events with the event host. If you have an event you would like listed or if you are aware of a mistake on the calendar, please send all pertinent information to: Jennifer@jewellgarden.com! Thanks!
July 4 – INDEPENDENCE DAY
July 4 – Redding: Freedom Festival Fireworks and 10th Anniversary Celebration of Sundial Bridge: More info: http://www.turtlebay.org
July 5 – Redding: McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Turtle Bay: Charlie Rabbit and His Friends 10:30 am. Join us the first Saturday of every month for an interactive program in the Gardens (or Greenhouse when it rains) for children, their siblings, parents and Grandparents. Join Charlie, our adorable jack rabbit puppet, in various gardening activities. Wear your favorite gardening clothes! Presented by Rick and Kandi Barnett. Free with park admission! Meet at Gardens West Entrance, located off Arboretum Drive next to Turtle Bay’s McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens Nursery. More info: http://www.turtlebay.org
July 6 – Chico: Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society Field Trip: Jonesville Meadow Walk, Lassen National Forest Meet in time to leave by 9 am. Wear foot wear suitable for slogging in marshy ground and for short hikes. Jonesville is on Humboldt county road about 40 miles from Chico at 5000 feet. We’ll explore the wet meadow next to a tributary to Colby Creek, looking for native that like to get their feet wet, likewhite bog orchid, western bistort and little elephant’s head. Be prepared to get your feet wet too. Leader: Janna, 530-893-2886. For more information see website at mountlassen.cnps.org
July 12 – FULL MOON (Full Buck Moon)
July 13 – Whitmore: Tuscan Heights 8th Annual Lavender Festival 10 am – 5 pm. Tuscan Heights Lavender Gardens, 12757 Fern Road EAST, Whitmore, CA 96096. The festival features lavender, crafts, food, tea, wine tasting, music, vendors, massages, fun, and relaxation! $2.50 per person with free on-site parking. Come join us for our Eighth Annual Lavender Garden Festival in the Beautiful Shasta Cascade foothills of Whitmore, CA. For more info: http://tuscanheights.com
July 12 – Paradise: Paradise Garden Club’s Monthly Meeting & Program Where: Terry Ashe Recreation Center, 6626 Skyway, Paradise When: 12:30 PM Program: Begins 1:00 PM. General Membership Meeting follows program. Plant Sale, Benefit Drawing, Refreshments.For more info: http://paradisegardenclub.org
July 19 – Chico: The Plant Barn Nursery & Gifts: Annual Summer Soiree! 10 am – 4 pm. Fun, Flowers, Flower Floozies, Music, Food, Drink, Random Sales and Silly Fun in the Sun, in the Shade. Come on out! The Plant Barn and Gifts 406 Entler Ave Chico, Ca 95928 530-345-3121/fax 530-345-5354 www.theplantbarn.com
July 20 – Chico: Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society Field Trip: Wilson Lake and Ice Cave, Lassen National Forest Meet in time to leave by 8 am. Wear foot gear suitable for sloogy in marshy ground and for short hikes. We’ll drive about 70 miles, the last 2.5 miles on an unpaved road, to Wilson Lake at around 5300 feet. The lake is ringed by a grassy meadow and surrounded by forested slopes. We’ll explore an adjacent meadow where wet area flowers like bog orchid should be in bloom. An ice cave is located about 1/2 mile from the lake’s outlet. Leaders: Gerry, 530-893-5123 and Wes 530-342-2293. For more information see website at mountlassen.cnps.org
July 20 – Davis: UC Davis Arboretum: Planting with Natives 10 a.m., Buehler Alumni Center, UC Davis campus Native plants make beautiful and water-conserving additions to home gardens. Get ideas of what natives to add to your landscape, plus tips on when and how to plant them, on this walking tour of the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California Native Plants. Click here for a map of the location. The event is free;free parking is available in nearby Gateway District Parking Lot .For more information or directions, please call (530) 752-4880.
July 26 – Redding: McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Turtle Bay: Walk with Horticulture Manager Lisa Endicott 10:30 am. Bring your notebooks and cameras for this participant-driven program. We’ll make our way through the Gardens with frequent stops for discussions about (what else?) plants! Free with Park or Garden admission. Meet at Gardens West Entrance, located off Arboretum Drive next to Turtle Bay’s McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens Nursery. More info: http://www.turtlebay.org
July 27 – Chico: Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society Field Trip: Frog, Green Island & Saucer Lakes, Lassen National Forest Meet in time to leave by 8 am. We’ll drive 12 miles beyond Butte Meadows on unsurfaced Humbug road and several forest service roads to the Sunflower Flat trailhead at 6400 feet. The lakes are reached by a 3 mile trail, each way. This will be a moderate hike with a 400 foot elevation gain and loss each way, and we may have to find our way around fallen trees. Green Island Lake has a 5 acre floating bog and is rimmed with huckleberries, buckbean and Potentilla. California fuchsia is usually found along the trail to Saucer Lake. On the way back we can stop at Frog Lake and step out on its tiny floating island. Leaders: Woody, 530-588-2555 and Wes, 530-342-2293. For more information see website at mountlassen.cnps.org
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To submit plant/gardening related events/classes to the Jewellgarden.com on-line Calendar of Regional Gardening Events, send the pertinent information to me at: Jennifer@jewellgarden.com
In a North State Garden is a twice-monthly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs two weekends a month on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday mornings at 8:34 AM Pacific time.