Happy Summer Solstice! It happened at 6 a.m. this morning (June 21). That’s it, folks. It’s all downhill from here, daylight-wise. In about 2 days, the sun’s journey will begin to get shorter by about 2 minutes each day until the Winter Solstice on Friday, Dec. 21.
There was a time when Mid-Summer was considered the best time to gather herbs. It was believed that the plants had soaked up the maximum amount of sunlight and would be their strongest. People on the British Isles were especially likely to gather St. John’s wort at Mid-Summer to protect them, not only from disease, but from witches and demons as well.
It was said, if you rubbed fern seeds on your eyelids, you would be able to see fairies. This is entirely possible. Fern “seeds” are really tiny spores. If you rub them on your eyelids and any get into your eyes, I’m sure you would have an itching, burning problem. There’s no telling what you might see through blurry, weepy eyes!
There are a few practical plant facts you can count on at the summer solstice.
For example, you shouldn’t be feeding fescue lawns. Fescue grass prefers to go dormant in the heat of summer. By all means, make sure the lawn gets about 1 inch of water each week to keep it healthy. Just leave off the fertilizer.
On the other hand, warm season grasses like Bermuda and zoysia can be fertilized in summer months. You don’t need much — only about a half pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
Obviously, we aren’t planting cool season vegetables like radishes, lettuce or broccoli right now. But, you’re about out of time to get those melon sets out, if you haven’t already. The same goes for okra. The plants might come up but your harvest will be limited or nil because you probably won’t have a long enough growing season to bring the plants to maturity. Plus, the plants will have to struggle to get established in the hottest portion of the year.
You can still set squash. Feel free to try your hand at rooting tomato suckers for later season plants. If you haven’t foundered on cucumbers yet, those vegetables can still be planted.
Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy the summer season with an iced beverage and a ‘mater sandwich. Soon enough, we’ll be out there setting turnips and collards and planting our autumn landscape chores.
* J.D. Walker’s garden column appears each Thursday. Follow her on Facebook at GardenSown.