Jottings for June

AND what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days; Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune, And over it softly her warm ear lays; Whether we look, or whether we listen, We hear life murmur, or see it glisten; Every clod feels a stir of might, An instinct within it that reaches and towers, And, groping blindly above it for light, Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers; James Russell Lowell Red

Another poem I was forced to memorize in school! Now I appreciate that I can remember such lovely words - thank you, Mrs. Green. June in New England has to be one of the best months of the year. There is possibly no greater time to enjoy the out-of-doors. June brings warm weather, lots of sunshine, and a surge of growth for plants. We can enjoy the long days and savor the scents of the season. There is still time to plant, especially in the beginning of the month. Heat loving plants, such as eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and basil, should be planted now. Remember to water if we hit a dry spell or stretch of very hot weather. One good soaking is worth more than several "showers" so water heavily once rather than lightly a few times. Try to get ahead of the weeds - they will grow faster than your plants and compete for moisture and nutrients. I have had great success with using grass clippings from my lawn as mulch for my tomatoes. Place some in handfuls around your plants, and keep adding as the summer goes on. You don't want to just dump them in a pile, as they will get clumped and slimy and smell as they decompose. Fluffing the clippings as you place them around the plants will ensure that they are aerated and dry out a bit. It's time to start pinching back your herbs, too. Use the tips of basil (flowers included) in salads. Basil, tarragon, cilantro and parsley, which taste best when used fresh, can be harvested, then chopped and put in ice cube trays with a little water and popped in the freezer. Once frozen, take them out and store in freezer bags for future use. They make an excellent addition to soups, stews, sauces and other dishes in the winter months. Annual herbs, such as sweet marjoram, summer savory, dill and fennel, can be done the same way, or dried. If you wish to dry your herbs, gather them together mid-morning on a dry day, and fasten them in small bunches with an elastic. (If you use string, as the plants dry and shrink, the string will not be tight enough to hold them.) The herbs need to be dried in a dry, dark, warm, and well ventilated place - an attic is ideal. Light will cause the herbs to lose their color, so darkness is essential. I have heard that using a car trunk on a sunny day will produce good results - just lay your herbs on an old window screen or netting and put in the trunk. You know how hot it can get in there in summer - so check the herbs in a day or two. The idea in drying herbs is to dry them quickly so that the oils concentrate in the leaves, giving you superior flavor. After they are dried, you can keep them in a dry place, or strip the leaves from the stems and place in jars or bottles. For other tips on preserving your herbal harvest, consider joining us in July for a session on Preserving your Herbal Bounty (see Events section of the website). If you would like to try your hand at decorating with herbs, sign up for the Pressed Flower workshop scheduled for the end of June. You really do not have to be craft-oriented to create pressed flower designs, and it is another way to share the delights of your garden with others. I will be away from June 1 through June 12 at the Annual Meeting of The Herb Society of America, held this year in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Plants will still be available for sale at the farm, and my daughter has graciously agreed to fill in for me. Please call if you'd like to stop by, as she will be around on weekends, from 10-4 on Sat. and 11-5 on Sun. but may be able to arrange other times as well. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you might have regarding herbs or gardening. I'm always happy to share and would love to hear from you.

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