The first of June! Summer is in evidence on every sunny morning in
our California garden. True …there is still the occasional chilly morning when a sweater is comfortable and a light mist blankets the creek bank; but,in my heart, it’s SUMMER!


Summer afternoon — summer afternoon;
to me those have always been the two
most beautiful words in the English language. 

_Henry James

Summer is as sweet as the smell of saucer magnolias. Early this month the days are soft and nights warm, but by the 15th or so summer’s heat will return full force.


Our California Garden produces daytime high temperatures of 100° plus on average! Anything that gets done needs to be accomplished before 8:30 or 9 AM. Dick and I share the required two-a-day watering for container plantings and run a misting system in the greenhouse in late afternoon to lower the heat levels.

If we’re going to enjoy being outdoors this month it’s going to be early in the day since it won’t cool down significantly until after 10 or 11 at night. I suppose it’s safe to say July and early August are my least favorite time of the year just for that reason.

So… since there’s not a lot going on in the garden besides trying to keep it cool – I thought you might get a kick out of this little bit of local humor. By way of explanation: our home is in Tulare County, in California’s Central San Joaquin Valley. The locals pronounce it too-larry…
and only when you’ve spent July and August here can you truly appreciate the joke.

  • Maintain – cut back perennials and shrubs when they’ve finished
    blooming to keep them tidy, prevent them from going to seed and encourage re-bloom. Perennials really benefit from an annual reshaping.

If petunias and other annuals have grown leggy and stopped
blooming, shear them back and fertilize to encourage a flush of new flowers. I like to cut back small areas of the garden at a time rather than leaving large bald spots.

I always dreaded the *end of summer – gone to seed* look of
my late July, early August garden. Now I have learned with routine trimming and dead heading the garden’s life can be extended well into fall.

  • Water – This is still the most critical job of July. Deep water
    shrubs and trees by trickling a hose a foot or so from the base for several
    hours twice this month.

Keep containers well watered. By mid month, with temperatures
reaching into triple digits, some of our containers can be on a twice a day watering schedule. It’s possible to purchase a water meter to check the moisture levels, but I prefer the old fashioned *poke you finger in it* approach. If it’s dry 1/2 inch or so under the surface, give it a drink. If it’s moist, leave it until next time. Simple, inexpensive and foolproof.

  • Enjoy – Take a cool drink to your favorite corner of the garden,
    sit quietly for a bit and contemplate your extreme good fortune at having such a place to rest. I have a dear friend from Japan who constantly reminds me not everyone in the world is blessed with a garden.

Last but not least go play in the water. Run your sprinklers
(if you have them) through a cycle. Check for broken or clogged heads, dry spots and puddles. This is a fun and easy way to make sure your sprinkler system is doing the job it was meant to do.

Put on a bathing suit and wash off all the plants you can reach
with the hose (the kids love this project). It will remove dust and insects.
Everything will look fresh and healthier and you’ll cool yourself off in the


continue the summer’s simple pleasures

  • 1. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
  • 2. Memorize your favorite poem.
  • 3. Don’t believe all you hear, spend all you have, or loaf all you want.
  • 4. When you say, “I love you,” mean it.
  • 5. When you say, “I’m sorry,” look the person in the eye.
  • 6. Be engaged at least six months before you get married.
  • 7. Believe in love at first sight.
  • 8. Never laugh at anyone’s dreams. People who don’t have dreams don’t have much.
  • 9. Love deeply and passionately. You may get hurt, but it’s the only way to live life completely.
  • 10. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.
  • 11. Don’t judge people by their relatives, or by the life they were born into.
  • 12. Teach yourself to speak slowly but think quickly.
  • 13. When someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer, smile and ask, “Why do you want to know?”
  • 14. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  • 15. Call your mother.
  • 16. Say, “bless you” when you hear someone sneeze.
  • 17. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  • 18. Follow the three R’s: Respect for self, Respect for others, Responsibility for all your actions.
  • 19. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  • 20. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  • 21. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.
  • 22. Marry a person you love to talk to. As you get older, his/her conversational skills will be even more important.
  • 23. Spend some time alone.
  • 24. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  • 25. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • 26. Read more books. Television is no substitute.
  • 27. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  • 28. Trust in God but lock your car.
  • 29. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life. Do all you can to create a tranquil, harmonious home.
  • 30. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  • 31. Don’t just listen to what someone is saying. Listen to why they are saying it.
  • 32. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  • 33. Be gentle with the earth.
  • 34. Pray or meditate. There’s immeasurable power in it.
  • 35. Never interrupt when you are being flattered.
  • 36. Mind your own business.
  • 37. Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t close his/her eyes when you kiss.
  • 38. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  • 39. If you make a lot of money, put it to use helping others while you are living. It is wealth’s greatest satisfaction.
  • 40. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  • 41. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  • 42. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  • 43. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  • 44. Live with the knowledge that your character is your destiny.
  • 45. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.
  • Maintain – Treat acid-loving plants with special care this month.
    Water deeply to leach out harmful salts that can accumulate because of rapid evaporation in the heat. Acid-loving plants are the first to show signs of distress, but eventually all plants may be affected. A mild fertilizer, rich in iron sulfate, aluminum sulfate or liquid lime sulfur will penetrate and correct alkalinity. I’ve found a couple of light applications are preferable to a single heavy dose.

Keep deadheading flowers, vegetables and herbs this month. Herbs trimmed back (by no more than a third) now will renew themselves vigorously as the weather cools. I have an ongoing battle with my basil, keeping the flowers cut back so it lasts a bit longer.

Lawn and ground-cover insects and diseases become more prevalent toward summer’s end. Control them at first appearance. Crabgrass, aphids and ants! Oh my!
Get rid of the ants and you may see fewer aphids, too. The ants carry aphids, scale insects and mealy-bugs and farm them out on your favorite plants in order to harvest the sticky sweet substance they produce. A bath with mild soapy water is the best way to clean away such pests, but if you don’t discourage the ants they’ll be right back.

  • Water – As in July the most important chore in the garden is watering.
    A thick application of mulch can reduce the frequency of watering appreciably
    and help to control weeds. Mulching is especially important with roses, camellias,
    azaleas and all plants for which a comparatively high humidity is desirable.
    Camellias and azaleas are very shallow rooted and can be permanently damaged
    by allowing the surface soil to dry out.
  • Enjoy – What more can I say… summer is a too-short dance… enjoy
    it while it lasts.