Nurturing my summer garden

Having successfully made the transition from cabin fever to spring fever, all we want to do now is play in the garden! The weeds are growing vigorously and I really wish I could love them. But I don’t, so I pluck them out, being careful to shake off as much soil as I can.
We’re harvesting the veggies from our early spring plantings and planning where to place our summer crop. Some will be placed near the spring veggies to create some shade for them and extend their season. Most people plant their summer garden right after Mother’s Day. The old timers say to wait till the wild blackberries in your neighborhood bloom. With so many microclimates in the

foothills, this approach is a bit more specific. We have already made our selection of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cukes, and squash and transplanted them into larger containers. When our blackberries bloom, these veggies will be twice as big and more established.
We’ve decided to use the no-till method in our garden. When we cut the cover crop, it stayed on the soil and we covered it with beautiful local compost. As the tops break down, they add their nutrients to the soil and as the roots break down, they feed the soil microbes and contribute to the soil structure.
We’re also focusing on our flower garden, which is close to the veggie garden and will attract all kinds of pollinators. Our favorite perennials are the core of our flower garden and we plant annuals around them. The perennials are great because they are long-lived but don’t bloom all summer as the annuals do. Some of the annual flowers can be cut and brought into the house. If you want them to reseed, you have to make sure you let the last of the season’s flowers go to seed.
The annual that makes us happiest is the Mexican sunflower. Not only is it big and beautiful, but it’s a great nectar plant for the monarch butterfly. We also have the perennial native milkweed in our yard, which the monarchs use as a nursery for their eggs and caterpillars. Last year we shared our yard with three generations of Monarchs. (Or are we sharing their yard?) You should know that milkweed attracts a very specific aphid; it’s a beautiful orange one that I’ve never seen on anything else.
We’ve also discovered a new favorite squash: Tombocino. It’s a vining, summer squash that needs lots of room and will easily cover 20 feet of sturdy arbor. It’s prolific, has few seeds, good flavor, and stays firm when cooked.
Enough now about our garden… when you see me in the expanded BriarPatch Garden Center, I’d love to hear about your favorite plants.