Withering poppies are ready for seed harvest, just about now. (Heather Hacking — Contributed)
CHICO — Putzing around my garden has been a great solace the past two and a half months. Random meandering, around and around, the hose like the limits of a chained dog. After a while, my mind has slowed down and if I knew how to meditate, I may have indeed reached some form of inner peace. Yet, I do not perceive a great transformation, outward nor within.
Gardening is something to do, and I eventually receive a sense of accomplishment. Tomatoes are mid-way up their metal cages and vine vegetables have found the edge of the raised bed. Progress reminds me that even if the world seems to be swirling in uncertainty, the garden ticks along at its own predictable pace.
In many ways, tending my garden and losing five pounds seem to be the only things for which I have control.
And here we are in June — the longest day of the year still two weeks away, already suffering through 100-degree days.
However, there are still new things for which we can plant our hope. The trusty Chico Valley Area Planting Guide for Vegetables — https://ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg/files/184803.pdf, print it and laminate it — suggests that now is the preferred time to plant Brussels sprouts in sheltered containers. Who knew?
In early July, we can do the same with seeds of cabbage and parsnips. Seeds of corn, beans and melons can be sown now. Another factoid, stuck in my heat-dulled brain, is that June is the time to plant pumpkins.
Pumpkins, some unwanted
Pumpkins are trying to grow in my compost pile. This is where I dumped the orange orbs I planned to bake in the winter. In previous years I would let the vines grow as they may, watering them a little. Invariably, disappointment grew with the fruit that more closely resembled a hardened Nerf football than anything that would merit warming in the oven. Most store-bought pumpkins are hybrids, and the seeds reproduce with unpredictable variables.
Nope, this year I’m yanking out those hopeful pumpkin sprouts as soon as I spot them among the dying poppy plants.
Seeds in the neighborhood
Recently I wrote about poppies growing in the cracks of my alley. Poppy seeds are best planted in the fall. You can bury them just under the soil, and then forget about them. The rains nurture the plants and you only need consider squirting the plants with a hose when the flowers are about to fade.
I buy poppy seeds in bulk at Northern Star Mills, https://northernstarmillschico.com. The shelves with pitchers of bulk seed are on the right, before you step down into the room with the hay bales. In that same area of the store, you’ll find big bins of bat guano, dried sea kelp, fish meal and bone meal. This is where I buy bulk amounts of Osmocote for my potted plants. I simply refill the big plastic bottle of Osmocote that is now depleted.
If you have nothing else to do these days, you can walk around the neighborhood and gather poppy seeds from cracks in the alley or edges of other people’s yards. If you ask permission, you could even meet your neighbors.
Poppies are among the plants that launch seeds to allow the spring-time patches to gain territory. In nature, I imagine the seed pods reaching a point where they explode, seeds flying like cannon balls.
Right now, the seed pods are brittle after days of blistering sun. To gather for next year, I carry a small plastic bag into the alley, and carefully grab the dry beige pods with a cupped hand. You can also pull the grayish brown poppy plant by the stem and walk around the yard shaking out your pandemic frustrations, like a seed-sowing pompom.
My guru of erratic gardening, LaDona, parades around her garden with dry arugula in hand. Later she can feign surprise when the seeds grow.
When I perused her yard last week, she had a lawn-like area of new arugula sprouts at the base of where mature plants only recently towered. She said the plan is to snip off the new seedlings as microgreens.
In my yard, I have a kale plant that was too impressive to kill, and now looks like the trunk of a small tree. I recently bagged so many dried seed pods I could sow kale across the entire front lawn of Bidwell Mansion.
I’m willing to share, and will send seeds to the first 10 readers who send me their address.
Kale is best planted in mid-October, or follow the same instructions as above for poppies.
This month I always try to remember to plant seeds for zinnias. Zinnia, a sun-loving flower that will bloom all summer. The flowers are as bright as the ceramic pottery purchased in a Mexico souvenir shop. Faded, they’re still lovely.
Zinnias in June. You can sow seeds in March and April, but they won’t grow. The problem is, I often forget to buy zinnia seeds. I’d be tickled to trade kale seeds to any zinnia seed hoarders among my readership.
While you’re borrowing or buying zinnias, it is not too late to plant sunflower seeds and many other heat-loving flowers.
The good folks at Renee’s Garden, https://bit.ly/2UclBZ4, suggest sowing a second crop of edibles now, including squash, beans and chard, with plans for a late-summer harvest.