July Garden Update

The July garden update includes a quick update on the flowers, vegetables, herbs and more here at Seven Oaks Farm, where I garden in zone 6b-7 in Virginia, USA.

 

Happy Independence Day to my American readers! I described Independence Day to my British friends as the third most popular holiday in America, and I really believe that.

There are few holidays that bring people together regardless of religion or race and I truly believe that Thanksgiving and Independence Day are the two in America that bridge everyone, everywhere.

No matter who you are, what country you hail from, or what religion you subscribe to, you can be thankful for the bounty in your life and grateful for the country we live in.

july garden updaye and pierre the cat

Okay, onwards to the July garden update…but first, a little “housekeeping” detail. Some of you are subscribed to our email list.

I am discontinuing our email service and our list effective this July. I know, I know, all the “experts” say you “HAVE” to have an email list. But you know what? I don’t use it very much anymore and I find it’s easier for me to connect with my readers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

So, instead of spending the time and money to put together newsletters, I’m going to ask everyone to head over to their favorite of those three social media sites to keep in touch.

And if you don’t like social media, you can subscribe to blog updates via Bloglovin’ and never miss a post. It’s that simple and it’s all in the sidebar.

The July Garden

We picked the first peppers of the season last night and they were great! I made chicken fajitas with fresh peppers and had some leftover which I ate raw. I usually don’t like raw peppers and find them too spicy, but these were so mild and sweet they didn’t repeat on me. Nice. “Big Bertha” peppers are a keeper. No, I didn’t take pictures….I was cooking and in a rush, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it that they were good. Another time and I promise to take photos.

The tomatoes are a puzzle this year. There are plentiful green tomatoes but nothing turning red yet. Every day they grow larger…and still green. I suppose we will see red soon and then I’ll scramble to do something with them all!

We have gorgeous beets this year and plenty of onions and carrots. I’d forgotten that I had grown purple carrots this year and accidentally pulled a few out when harvesting my beets. They made a lovely addition to this salad, which included Romaine lettuce, beets, purple carrots, and borage flowers. Delicious!

We have acorn and butternut squash as well as prolific French heirloom melon vines but I have yet to find a melon…and the green beans are just starting, which means we will have plenty to come. The onion harvest was good and I look forward to the parsnips in the fall even though only a few grew.

The flower garden is abundant this year thanks to the rain this spring. The deer, however, have also been abundant. We had a newborn fawn in the yard with its mother and watched in awe as baby nursed from mom.

There are some things in life that happen and you’re just glad to be in the right place, at the right time, to catch it.

I bought a fountain kit on eBay and set it up with this Mexican planter inherited from my in-laws. I moved a bunch of ferns that were growing behind the air conditioner units to the side garden in the hopes of creating a lush quasi Asian garden with my bamboo fern. I like it, but I can tell my husband isn’t thrilled. Oh well, it will “grow” on him.

My sister in law and nephew are coming for a visit in mid-July, and the young man is looking forward to helping his uncle replace warped boards on the deck, in the vegetable garden, and dig up my flower bed that need a complete do-over. I plan to sit in the shade and watch while the 13-year old applies all his youthful energy to my weeds. That, my friends, is what I call a vacation.

Happy gardening and here’s to a wonderful, safe 4th of July!

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Growing St. Johns Wort

growing st johns wort

Growing St. Johns Wort added to my list of plants I’ve always wanted to try to grow from seed. It’s a useful plant that’s also beautiful.

St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum), also called by some herbalists St. Joan’s Wort, is a perennial herb that is best known for its reputed properties to treat depression. But did you know that St. John’s Wort, when infused into oils, also makes a good skin salve?

As a perennial, St. Johns Wort  offer attractive, cheerful yellow flowers and interesting foliage. They aren’t easy to grow from seeds, but I successfully grew mine from seeds purchased online, and you can, too.  Here’s all you need to know about growing St. John’s Wort.

growing st johns wort

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Borage, an Old Herb with New Life

Have you ever heard of the herb, borage? If you haven’t, you aren’t alone. Most 21st century Americans have never heard of this plant. But if you had lived 100 or 200 or more years ago, borage would have been as common as a head of iceberg lettuce.

What Is Borage?

Borage (Borago officinalis) is an annual herb from the Mediterranean. It grows to about one to two feet in height with thick, broad leaves covered in fine hairs, and stems with small hairs that can grow quite coarse and heavy.

The flowers are lovely blue and purple star-shaped adornments crowning the top of the herb. These are the jewels of borage, and why many gardeners grow the plant.

This herb self-seeds very easily, so plant it where you won’t mind it growing back year after year.  You can direct sow the seeds into the garden. They germinate readily.

Uses

Throughout history, borage was the poor man’s friend. It was easy to grow and had many uses.

The leaves were cooked into soups, stews, and everything in between. I have not yet tasted the leaves but all of the books and articles I’ve consulting claim they taste like cucumber.

Cultural Popularity

The herb is popular in Germany, Lithuania, Spain, some parts of Italy, and the U.K. Both the herbs and flowers are edible and used in a variety of dishes. In Germany, a special ‘green sauce’ is made from the leaves. Soups included the leaves, potatoes and onions are also found in many German, Lithuanian and UK cookbooks.

The flowers are especially delightful with a taste that is sweet, like honey. Perhaps this is why the flowers attract so many pollinating insects!   They are often added to lemonade both for the beautiful juxtaposition of yellow beverage and purple flowers and the sweet taste the flowers add.

And yes, borage was once the garnish for an alcoholic drink — a Pimm’s cocktail. Nowadays, a piece of cucumber is often used, but borage was the original garnish.

Throughout history,  monastery gardens and kitchen gardens everywhere had a few borage plants tucked in to the garden beds. The plant is also called bee bread, bugloss, and many other terms related to insects and bees, a hint at its ability to attract plenty of pollinators.

Natural Insect Control

Another great attribute of this plant is its ability to keep bad bugs away from plants you want to grow. I tucked eggplants under the shelter of borage leaves and found that the eggplants growing directly next to the borage aren’t troubled by the Colorado potato beetle, but those a little farther away are.  Like marigolds and companion planting, folklore has it that the plant repels may bad insects  including tomato hornworn.

Whatever your reason for growing this herb, it is a pleasure to behold, a pleasure to grow, and a pleasure to eat.  Enjoy!

 

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