We've hit the middle of summer and the gardens are looking full and lush with the heat to spur them on toward harvest. Take advantage of your cool mornings to get some simple gardening chores out of the way. Keep weeds trimmed back so they can't go to seed. In the vegetable garden, pull out any cool weather plants that have finished producing. Add compost and turn it into the soil to prepare those spaces for your fall garden.
Now is the time to seed collards and kale for fall. These are plants that can with stand light frost and even benefit from the cold to become sweeter tasting. Carrots will over winter with a protective mulch covering so start a second crop right now. You can also plant cauliflower, broccoli and Swiss chard.
In all but the most northern gardens, you can put in grape tomato and pepper plants, seed beans, cabbage, cucumbers, peas, spinach, and summer squash for a late fall harvest. Short season corn seed can also be planted if you can get it in the ground right now. Radish seed, which is quick to grow, can be planted mid-August and spinach seeds every two weeks through the end of August. Be sure to rotate your garden spaces by reseeding or planting with plants from different families.
In the flower garden, be on the look out for Japanese beetles. They can be hand-picked and disposed of in an empty gallon milk container with a bit of soapy water. If your are nervous about touching bugs, you can place specially made traps around the garden to capture them.
To keep you flowers producing through the rest of the summer, be sure to remove the flower heads as they start to fade before they turn to seed. Young trees and shrubs need watering every few days during weeks when there is no rain
Mid-summer is the time to enjoy looking at your garden during the heat of the day. Harvesting corn and herbs should be done during the morning hours. The longest-lasting flower arrangements are made with flowers cut in the morning after the dew has dried but before the heat of the day. Be sure to take a bucket of cool water to the garden with you to plunge the cut stems into the water immediately as you clip them. Vegetables such as squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers will be fine harvested in the evening.
And for the harvest you already have, here is a fantastic recipe to help use some of those excess zucchini, from Old-Fashioned Zucchini & Squash Recipes, Bear Wallow Books.
1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup cooking oil (I used light olive oil) 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar 1/4 cup brown sugar 2 eggs, beaten 1/2 tsp. vanilla 1/2 cup buttermilk 2-1/2 cups flour 1 tsp. baking soda 1/2 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt 1/2 cup cocoa 1 tsp. cinnamon 2 cups grated squash, well-drained (any summer squash) 1 cup chopped nuts (I like pecans in this) 1 cup chocolate morsels (Ghiradelli semi-sweet made this wonderful)
In large mixing bowl cream butter, oil, and sugars. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk. In separate bowl combine dry ingredients, then gradually stir dry ingredients into liquid mixture. Stir in grated squash. Pour batter into greased 9x13-inch backing pan. Sprinkle with nuts and chocolate morsels. Bake in preheated 350-degree F oven 25-35 minutes. Cut in squares when cool. (Makes a cake-like, very moist brownie!)