A Midsummer Harvest
When I was kid, my parents had to force me to weed the garden beds. I remember the task boring me to death! I would dread kneeling at the edge of the lawn plucking at the relentless Morning Glory and Bermuda Grass. I just wanted to play, or get on with an art project, but regardless of my childlike mindset, weeding remained on my summer chore chart most days of the week. Looking back, I’m grateful for the discipline and lessons this task instilled in me. At some point in my maturation, my mind shifted, and I began to enjoy the chores that brought me into our yard.
I think perhaps, it was the food we harvested, and the flowers my parents grew that gently altered my perception overtime. I loved gathering around the dinner table on weekend evenings to dine on grilled summer squash, sun-ripened cherry tomatoes, and buttery zucchini. The roses lining our fence - bright magenta, deep ruby, and ombre peachy pink, softened me to the magic that gardens harbor.
Now, as a grown woman, I nearly can’t step away from my garden. My work is my play, and my art is growing. Ironically, weeding has become one of my favorite tasks. It’s a meditative act that lulls me into a rhythmic flow where breath, body, and nature converge into shapeless being. Planting teaches me, watering relaxes me, pruning excites me, and harvesting nourishes me.
As we stride into high summer, I look forward to reveling in all the abundance that comes with a summer harvest. I’ll fill my basket until it’s heavy laden with ready garden ingredients. Harvesting is the perfect precursor to my second favorite summer activity (next to gardening), which is dining al fresco with friends and family. Below, I share my midsummer garden harvest that will soon be adorning my plates for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Here’s how I grew all of this delicious goodness…
I started by cultivating rich healthy soil - in the Autumn. I always amend my soil buy adding loads of high quality compost to my garden beds after every grow season. This allows the soil to be refilled with nutrients that will leach down throughout the winter months and create the perfect growing environment for plants. Then, I planted garlic and onions and put my perennial herbs to bed. Read my post about fall gardening tips that help make springtime gardening a breeze, as well as set me up for a successful early summer harvest.
Come springtime, the soil was ready, so all I had to do was select my plants and choose where I wanted to plant them. I live in a high alpine desert climate, and on an exposed foothill at the base of the mountains. This means that my garden’s microclimate is tad cooler than other places - even within my same town. I chose to plant more cold hardy crops, like broccoli, brussel sprouts, and kale, as soon as the soil was workable.
Nearer to my average last frost date, I planted the tender cool season crops which was all of my lettuce varieties. At this same time I planted the root vegetables, like carrots and beets, by seed. I made sure to plant my lettuce in locations that receive gentle morning light and are most protected from the afternoon sun. As it is, I know I’ll only be able to harvest these for a little while longer, because once temperatures rise, the cool season crops will bolt quickly.
After my average last frost date, I planted my warm season crops, like tomato, corn, pepper, and squash. I won’t be able to harvest these until later this summer. I planted those in the locations that receive the most amount of sunlight. Staggering my planting times based on the micro seasonal climate and my local weather patterns is important. I do this to grow in alignment with each plant’s optimum growing conditions, so I can harvest at the right time in the plant’s lifecycle. For more detailed information about spring gardening, read this post.
I also raked in loads of edible flower seeds surrounding my larger crops. The flowers will grow well in full sun, then take up ground space in place of weeds.They’ll shade the soil so it retains moisture longer, attract pollinators, and provide homes for beneficial insects. This is one of my natural forms of pest control.
The herbs, onions, and garlic that overwintered are now in their prime and some are ready to harvest. The garlic has shot up flower buds, known as scapes. Those are an incredible treat and can be used in the kitchen just like the bulb. Harvesting the scapes redirects the plant’s energy back down into the garlic bulb, so I’ll let the bulbs sweeten up for another couple weeks. Once the green stalks dry up and fall over, the bulbs will be ready to harvest.
I’ve allowed some herbs to flower, which has provided me with a variety of gorgeous edible flowers, and invited pollinators and beneficial insects into my garden. The other herbs I’ve deadheaded, or trimmed, so they don’t self-seed and spread. Strawberries over winter wonderfully and provide the first sweet fruit of the summer. The first round of strawberries are usually small, then I find the second to be more robust and juicy.
Following my planting, I fertilized the garden with organic liquid fish emulsion. I've kept an eye on the weather as well. If snow or frost was in the forecast, I covered my crops to protect them. I reused old plastic food containers and milk cartons as makeshift cloches. If rain was in the forecast, I made sure that the irrigation system was turned off, so I was able to conserve water and not oversaturate my plants. I’ve weeded as needed, and kept a close eye out for pests. So far, I’ve only found aphids and a few deer footprints. I have not noticed much damage from the deer, but I’ll keep watching. For the aphids, I have used ladybugs as a biocontrol (organic pest control) method, since aphids are their favorite snack. I purchased a container of one hundred lady bugs from my local farm store, then released them into my garden in the evening. I’ll continue this regular maintenance of my garden throughout the summer season and continue to harvest as more plants become ready. The good news is that harvest season just getting started!
I’ll be honest, gardening sounds like a lot of work. Some days, it certainly is. However, most of the time, the work isn’t so bad. It turns into a creative expression, a playtime activity, a meditation in action. The discipline of the work tethers me to the earth and introduces me to the everlasting - the metaphysical cycle of life, death, life. It tangibly nourishes body, mind, and soul. Then all of a sudden, harvest season arrives, and I look up from my work to see this beautiful buzzing environment, full of color. I realize that I’ve created something much bigger than myself.
There is no doubt about it - the work is absolutely worth it.
Here’s the full line up of my midsummer harvest.
Heirloom Curly Red Leaf Lettuce
Speckled Butterhead Lettuce
Blue Curly Leaf Kale
Curly Leaf Parsley
Flat Leaf Parsley
What is growing in your garden this summer?