Strawberries, roses a-plenty; and for July?

A basket of fresh, picked strawberries is a perfect addition to any table. — Photo by Susan Safford

July is upon us, and the official summer season beckons, with all that that portends. For gardeners, may it be beautiful and bountiful, and may all the rain fall at night.

In my June garden

June is the month of strawberries and roses. This year has been spectacular for roses; they appreciated all that rain the rest of us were grumbling about. Strawberries have been fabulous. However, when runner time comes halfway through the summer I’ll be weeding them out. My plants came as a gift so I cannot share their variety name, but I can share plantlets — get in touch.

I received very good flower and vegetable seed gratis from Renee’s Garden, which has a media program with garden writers for publicizing their products. Although it is a California company and therefore not “in our watershed,” they sell much seed that is organic. After Christmas they send out a media packet containing a form on which one checks off up to 15 different varieties — herbs, vegetables, flowers; a while later the seeds arrive. Nice company!

It is time to protect cabbages, turnips, and kales — all the brassicas, also known as cole crops — from cabbage butterflies and caterpillars. Floating row covers are the preferred method for many, due to their eliminating the bother of spraying. Lifting the covers and checking must still be done, should something unexpected be going on beneath the fabric. That is bothersome. However, sprayers are bothersome as well.

Many gardeners use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), sold under various names, to protect crops from lepidopteran caterpillars. Bt is a stomach bacterium that causes caterpillars to stop feeding almost immediately and is applied by spray on a regular schedule; I aim for weekly applications and use a spreader sticker to counteract the beading-up of liquids on leaves.

Potatoes may be protected from immature Colorado potato beetles with Bt known as Bt San Diego. Gardeners also use the micronized, sprayable clay known as “Surround” for CPB control at all ages. I seem so far to be doing okay with the straw method, which has other, soil-conditioning advantages as well, but may promote slugs and snails in damp gardens.

A different approach completely is tailoring soil fertility and adjusting soil pH to suit your crops, including brassicas. One system for accomplishing this is Biodynamics, the system created by the late Rudolf Steiner. Another author, Steve Solomon, a retired seed company director, has a great deal to say on this general subject as well, in his “The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Foods” (New Society Publishers, 2013) but it cannot be easily summarized here.

Poles for beans

This year I am using a row of supports for pole beans, instead of bean pole tepees. The row of poles supplies needed shade for salad greens that are harder to grow in summer heat. The row of poles gets the beans higher up into sunshine later on, more so than my rebar/reinforcing wire arrangements, when the September sun is behind the treeline and the garden begins to lose light.

I set up two strings laid out straight and parallel, then placed pairs of tall bamboo poles about two feet apart along them, crossed lightly at the tips, for a total of ten pairs. Poles are laid across the crossed tips for longitudinal stability and lashed in.

I sowed three different varieties of pole beans in this row. Unhappily for me, two of the three — all stored identically — have yet to germinate. Maybe this is a cosmic hint for me to stick with ‘Franka’s Italian’ bean.

When our spring garden succeeds to its summer format, beans take over as a dominant crop. For bush beans I think Romano-type ‘Roma’ and filet-type ‘Maxibel’ can’t be beat, but this year I am putting significant row space into Italian white kidney beans, cannellini.

Growing protein, such as dry beans or other storage legumes, in your own garden makes sense, especially if you wish to avoid the glyphosate cascade of the conventional food supply. Reasons for wanting to do so are explored in this absorbing video: