The Summer Solstice, perhaps counterintuitively, offers an opportunity for reflection and a chance to plan for the next phase of the season. It is a break from planting because seeds and seedlings are vulnerable to the intensity of heat and sunlight that characterizes the month that surrounds the Solstice. Rather than sowing new crops, our farmers are tending to the ones that are already in the ground and beginning to plan for the fall season, even though it feels so far away.
Getting your plans for the next succession in place during this time will set you up nicely to extend your garden’s productivity into the fall and even winter.
About the Summer Solstice
The Summer Solstice is the peak moment of sunlight at the point of the Earth’s furthest tilt toward the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere, our Summer Solstice takes place on June 20.
Depending on your latitude, the day length can range from 12 hours at the Equator to 24 hours at the pole. In the Hudson Valley (41º Latitude) we receive 15 ½ hours of sunlight. The intensity of sunlight is ideal for mature and developing plants, but many seeds and seedlings require cooler, more protected environments. High levels of light exposure and short nights can induce flowering, so we avoid planting outdoors during the two weeks before and after the Solstice to limit plant stress.
Starting seeds in a protected environment during this period provides transplants at the ideal moment in the weeks ahead. Crops like fall brassica (kale, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) and fennel are started as seedlings (June 18-20) and are ready three weeks later for the halfmoon transplanting date (July 12).
We’re harvesting spring crops like peas, bush beans, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, beets and leafy vegetables that are in full maturity.
While the heat does not necessarily feel less intense in July than in June, the light is waning at this point. The hot summer sun can quickly dry out the garden soils but the influence of the Solstice has already passed and seeds will respond much better to the lengthening nights.
During this time we are sowing seedlings for fennel, lettuces, basil and parsley for transplanting in successions through August and September help to fill out the garden as earlier season crops finish and make space for new arrivals. Crops like beans, carrots and beets benefit from being seeded in mid July so they have enough time to reach full maturity by Fall. Vegetables like cilantro and dill can also be seeded for short harvest rotations.