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GardenSMART :: The Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice

By Therese Ciesinski, In the Dirt Newsletter Editor

This year, the summer solstice falls on June 20 at 6:34 p.m. EDT. It is the day when the sun reaches its highest point in the northern hemisphere at the Tropic of Cancer. It’s the day with the most hours of sunlight (cloudy weather notwithstanding). We refer to the summer solstice as the longest day of the year. It lasts the whole 24 hours at the Arctic Circle.

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According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac: “The word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time (and again at the winter solstice).”

It’s also the first official day of summer, even though many Americans consider Memorial Day weekend three weeks prior as the kickoff. In ancient times, when everyone was a farmer, people regarded May 1 as the start of summer, and June 24 to be midsummer, the midpoint between sowing and harvesting.

Gardeners embrace June. In most of the U.S., the hottest temperatures are still to come. Roses are blooming, vegetable gardens are yielding their early harvests and both gardeners and the garden are in the groove. It’s not too late to start a vegetable garden – from seed even – at this point. The soil is warm and frosts are a memory. Try cucumbers, beans, carrots, and scallions, even melons. A spot that gets afternoon shade is good for a second crop of lettuces and salad mixes. And don’t give up on flowers. Sow marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos for late summer color. 

Whether you think of the coming solstice as the beginning of summer or its midpoint, enjoy this time of warmth, lushness, and light. Take a moment that day to walk around your garden and enjoy its fecundity. Celebrate with a bonfire, as the ancients did (a barbecue will do), and raise a glass to our neighbors in the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s winter. There, it’s the shortest day of the year. And we all know what a bummer that is.

For more information on succession planting vegetables, read Vegetable Growing Tips.

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