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Celt's Garden - Crunch Time in the Garden

The summer garden planting time is upon us, and a right good trick it is. In between the downpours, it's time to rush out and plant tomatoes, peppers, basil, summer and winter squashes, sweet corn, beans and cucumbers. Those brave and blessed with a good microclimate may try some northern adapted melons. Russian Collective Farm Woman melon is my choice this year. Last year, I planted a French heirloom cantaloupe thingy and got a half dozen drippingly sweet softball sized melons. The full force of weather off Bellingham Bay hits my garden, and melons are a stretch.

It's also time to get the big brassicas that will take you through the winter started in little pots to transplant in six weeks: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts. Look for broccoli and cabbages that say fall, winter, overwintering in the description, such as January King cabbage and Purple Sprouting broccoli (a show stopper, that one.)

We could use a dry stretch to get the herbs harvested. They are flowering, or just about to flower. That early flowering stage is just what you want. Wait until the dew has dried on the herbs to pick them. Late morning, or an overcast day, after a night without rain is best, but it's to the point that soon we'll have to get them in as best as we can, and spread them to dry on the dining table if necessary. Try to avoid the really soggy stage, because the herbs tend to mold instead of drying. The lavender is just budding out. For potpourri and medicinal use, harvest the lavender when the buds are fat but still unopened.

Meanwhile, the garden is trying to revert to temperate rain forest. Blackberries are springing up in the lawn. Small trees are sprouting among the shrubs. The weeds are waist-high. In last year's seed production beds, there is a sudden abundance of kale, a mat of stringy volunteer beets coming up too close, a thicket of radishes already bolted and flowering. No doubt your lawn, or what is left after you put a garden on it, is reaching for the sky as well.

While you're doing all that gardening and keeping up with your day job, strawberry season is upon us. The map of u-pick berry farms from Sunday's paper is on line at There too, a dry day is best, because wet berries mold. Sometimes they mold before you can get them home.

As you are up late stirring jam before getting up early to start work the next day, it may cross your mind to wonder why bother putting in hours planting, drying herbs and jamming up on top of everything else you already have going. Good question. I ask myself this every year, particularly when it's past bedtime and I still have jars to fill and process. Then in winter, I crack open a jar of homemade jam and the fragrance of strawberry fields in June fills the air. Could I buy organic broccoli in winter and artisan preserves as good as homemade? Sure, but then I'd have to make twice as much. Far better to spend the time here than driving I-5 to some techno-geek job in Seattle. I did that for a while, and decided that with the garden as part of my business plan, I had far less stress and about the same take home income, after the cost and time of commuting. Besides, it's difficult to get laid off from gardening.

Go for it.

And, hey hey, if your potatoes are flowering, the new potatoes are ready. Reach in, feel around, and taste the summer.

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