I once wrote a column about June, voting it not only the perfect month for a wedding, but one that provides a much needed rest for the gardener. June gives us a little window of time to enjoy the results of all the hard work we’ve been doing - cleaning up the debris of winter, planting seeds and seedling, staking various perennials, edging borders, spreading compost. It’s a time to savor the tidy yard, the little green hands of lupine leaves each cupping a drop of dew at dawn, the colorful fleur-de-lis of blooming iris, the heady perfume of peonies, and the joy of the first fresh radishes and lettuce.
By mid-July our little window of rest vanishes as the yard loses its tidiness and hot weather inspires the weeds to shoot up by the dozen. Fruits and vegetables will suddenly become so abundant we must begin the chores of harvest, get out the freezer bags and the canner kettle and face hot days in the kitchen. My elderberry bushes are in full bloom, but before you know it they’ll be dripping clusters of purple berries ready to make a huge pot of elderberry jelly.
This year June was anything but the little window of rest I’ve enjoyed in past years. Rearranging the border to supposedly make it less work has been a monumental job as I dug up heavy clumps of phlox, heliopsis and other badly behaved plants, mixing more than a dozen buckets of compost into the soil and then planting a half dozen flowering shrubs and a few hostas, all recommended as trouble free, to the empty spaces.
I was so totally consumed by the border that I think the vegetable garden would win a prize as the biggest failure a gardener could face. Too busy to even get to the local nursery, I used last year’s seeds (or possibly even older ones) and paid the consequences. The bush bean row managed to sprout four seedlings and another six when I planted more of the ancient seeds. The broccoli – I have no idea why, but it produced those pretty yellow flowers before I even thought about harvesting.
The squash produced a single seedling in its hill. Brussels sprout and cucumber seeds never came up at all. The tomato plants were keeling over by the time I got around to staking them. I haven’t found time to thin the carrot row or separate the foot-long clump of lettuce seeds I planted. The only success so far has been the healthy looking row of onions. The garden is really too big for just me, so I left half of it unplanted, and as a result it has become a carpet of weeds.
Hot weather has brought a thousand biting bugs, so weeding, which I usually find a restful job, is no fun at all. And the ticks are equally bad. This year’s ticks are microscopic. I’ve already had three, and finding them is a challenge when you live alone.
I hope your June was not as exhausting as mine, but I can at least end on a cheerful note. The 40 acres of hay fields that has hemmed me in all month, were finally cut, tedded, raked, baled and taken away last week. My view of the valley is back and I intend to enjoy it from the front terrace for the last little bit of June.