By Candy Venning

This month, although it’s hot, the garden is still fresh, it’s still coasting on that tremendous effort spring pumped into ‘the great unfurling’. We’re in that sweet spot before the weight of August crushes our love for summer, a time to relax, so what, dear reader, would I ask of you or your garden?

So glad you asked!

Observation and collection are my recommendations. Last month I encouraged people to actively ‘go on safari’ in their own yards, looking for creatures, this month, possibly (although it’s up to you) even more laid back.

In July, I’m wandering around observing what’s in bloom in other places, when it’s in bloom, and whether I could add it to my own yard or if I have it already, divide it to fill in a blank spot and/ or keep sowing more of it/them. (also called ‘sequential’ or ‘staggered’, planting)

Speaking of space fillers (and money savers) I often use easy-to-grow annuals like Nasturtiums, Cosmos and Calendula, even Frilly Kale to overcome a boring zone. I also recommend seed collecting, especially with pricey perennials  (Columbine, Coneflowers and Native plants especially) This is a low energy and extremely rewarding activity that you can put off the second part of (planting I mean) until winter if it’s a perennial or next spring if it’s an annual. Google to learn the method of making a simple folded ‘seed envelope’ and always label right away, including the date and year collected.

Observe where you like to spend time in the garden then consider & or collect some ways to make it easier to do so – anything from hefty stumps for seating or side tables to foldup chairs, thrift finds get a second life outside, a hammock or even, if you have the space, a pergola for additional shade and privacy.

Observe and photograph your plants – start a file on your computer for just your garden and shoot throughout the year. This record-keeping aka ‘collecting’, can be very inspiring in the depths of winter and frequently reminds me of plants I forget I have.

Consider buying, reading or listening to the audiobook of one or more of the following: ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer, ‘Finding the Mother Tree’ by Suzanne Simard, ‘Natures Best Hope’ by Douglas Tallamy, ‘A garden for the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee’ by Lorraine Johnson and Sheila Colla, ‘The Humane Gardener’ by Nancy Lawson, ‘Earthshot, How to Save our Planet’ by Colin Butfield & Jonnie Hughes. I have added most of these to my permanent book collection.

Level up to ‘doing’; join a local garden club or volunteer group, Green Venture, Environment Hamilton, The Sunset Cultural Garden, invasive species removal at The Royal Botanical Gardens. I’ve noticed that summer and fall have a considerable volunteer drop off once spring fever is over but the many parks, gardens and pollinator patches around the City still need casual help – especially for preventing invasives from taking over – this is something you can do as part of a walk, on your own with that audiobook or with a friend, it can even be in the evening as long as light (and mosquitos) permit

That’s it! I know that’s already a lot, but to collect seeds, read, observe, tweak, volunteer all have generous rewards in return.

P.S. Enjoy your summer!