It’s June, which means gardens are in full swing! Between weeding, beginning to harvest, maintaining irrigation, and getting those last seeds and starts in for summer- this is a busy time of year.
Here are some quick tips for making the most of your June garden, in terms of harvesting greens and dealing with aphids.
- Don’t forget to harvest! It seems funny that this is a legitimate tip- but it is! If your heads of lettuce look like they do at the store- harvest them! If it’s a head of lettuce, use a sharp knife to cut off the head at the base. They are only going to get more bitter as the heat progresses.
- When harvesting greens- pick from the outside most leaves and if possible, spread your harvest between plants (meaning don’t pick all the leaves off of one plant). I usually pick 2-3 leaves per mature plant for something like kale.
- Harvest when it’s cool out- the morning or the evening is the best time. Harvesting in the peak heat of the day is a recipe for vegetables that won’t keep for long at all.
- Make sure you get your greens into a plastic bag and into the fridge for maximum shelf life, though having a garden full of greens means you can just pick and eat fresh!
- Recipe ideas: Give heartier greens a quick dunk in boiling water (called blanching) before sautéing or making a cold salad and they will be velvety soft. We often steam or blanch a bunch of kale and then pop it into a big bowl and put into the freezer to cool down for a tasty kale ceasar salad. If you can prep a bunch of greens at once, then you have them ready to throw in scrambled eggs or as an easy, cool side. Go simple with lemon, oil and salt (maybe a little feta). Or add some ginger and chile for a little heat.
With the heat of the summer often you will see aphids on plants that would rather have cooler temps (such as broccoli and others in that family). If you see aphids on your plant, this means that your plant is not happy! Plants- like people- have immune systems and preferences. When a plant is covered with aphids, that means its immune system is not doing well. It may not be getting enough water, or have a fertility issue, or it may just be too hot outside for what that plant prefers. There are a few different approaches to aphid management.
- Supporting your plants and understanding seasonality: This means understanding that broccoli is just never going to be happy when it’s 90 degrees out. Now, there are things you can do about this. You could give it some overhead water, or shade cloth, and try adding a little compost at the base. Or, you can do what I do- which is to go ahead and harvest it and give this space to plants who like the heat. Soak it in a cold water bath to get the aphids off, and eat it. As you progress in your gardening journey- you can develop habitat in your garden to support beneficial insects- planting things like dill, phacelia and alyssum can provide great habitat for beneficial bugs who will take on your aphids for you. Having mulched areas where spiders can hide is also an aphid fighting strategy.
- Physically doing something: Now, I’m a lazy gardener but I know that some people want an actionable solution. Here it is. Go out there and smush them. Aphids are soft bodied creatures! If smushing is too gross and/or time consuming for you, consider a trying a product like Safer Soap. Be aware though- this is an actual (Organic) insecticide. Or go buy a bag of ladybugs to release and watch what happens. You can play the offensive if that’s your style!
One last note on aphids- I don’t worry about them too much. They are easy to rinse off and don’t cause any harm to humans if you (ahem) accidentally ingest them. They are an indicator to me to pay attention to the overall health of my garden and where we are in the season. I also love to watch when there is an infestation because often I can get a front row seat to watch the beneficial bugs do their work! So, be curious about your aphids. What are they telling you about your garden ecosystem? About where we are in the wheel of the year?