Charlie’s Mid June Newsletter


Butterflies Love Bee Balm, Crisp Kohlrabi, Delicious Dill and Cucumber Beetles

RosesJune in our zone 5 garden is all about colors and flavors. Our spring crops of peas, radishes, greens, kohlrabi and herbs are pouring in. The roses and early summer perennials are in their glory. And I have to remind myself to stop, sit, look and appreciate all the beauty and bounty we’ve produced in our yard. And give ourselves a little pat on the back for keeping the deer, rabbits and birds away from the plantings!

Bee balm or Monarda is a staple in our garden. In fact, we spend more time pulling out patches that have grown too large than actually caring for it. It’s that easy to grow. Bee balm just needs part or full sun, moist, well-drained soil and some compost and off it goes. I talk about different varieties and how to keep it blooming during the summer in this newsletter.

peas and lettuceI’ve rediscovered kohlrabi. I used to grow it years ago as a novelty, but now I see it more and more at farmer’s markets and on the menus of restaurants and it makes me happy. Kohlrabi loves the cool weather to grow and mature. We pick it when it’s the size of a small baseball, peel it and eat it raw, grilled or roasted. It has a slight, mild radish-like flavor, but is also juicy. Learn more about kohlrabi right here.

Dill is one of those herbs that we never really have to plant anymore. Once you’ve let dill self-sow in the garden each spring it pops up here and there. We do some creative editing about which plants to keep and which to thin out. Dill is not only a great herb for cooking and pickle making, it’s also a great beneficial insect attractor. Learn more about dill in this newsletter.

Our vegetables are not without a few problems. Cucumber beetles started attacking our cucumbers, melons and squash almost as soon as we planted. Not only can they harm the plant with their feeding, they also can spread bacterial wilt disease. Learn about controlling this yellow and black shelled beetle here.

I’m off to harvest some roses for the table, keep up with the weeding and enjoy the beauty of our garden.

Until next time, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.


Charlie & Sharon

Where to Find Charlie:(podcasts, TV and in-person)

How to Grow: Bee Balm

bee balmIf you’re looking for an easy to grow perenniaI flower that has beautiful blooms, attracts butterflies and pollinators and even can be used to make tea, look no further than bee balm or Monarda. The classic Monarda for tea making is Monarda fistulosa or bergamo. The pale purple colored flowers attract a variety of insects and the plant is tough and hardy. It’s often seen in wildflower meadows as well as cultivated gardens. The flowers are fragrant and great for tea making.bee balm

If you’re looking for a bee balm with more pop in its flower color, check out ‘Sugar Buzz Grape Gumball‘. It features bright purple flowers on compact plants that only stand 2 feet tall. It’s a nativar, meaning it’s closely related to the original species and pollinators recognize and enjoy it. It also is powdery mildew resistant. Going even shorter, try the magenta colored flowered ‘Balmy’. This variety only grows 1 foot tall with fragrant flowers, and disease resistant foliage. This variety fits well in small spaces and even containers.

I also love the scarlet colored bee balm varieties. ‘Wild Scarlet’ is a species type that grows 2- to 4-feet tall with bright red flowers. It’s a great wildflower and deer and rabbits seem to leave it alone. One scarlet colored variety we’ve grown for years is ‘Jacob Cline’. It also grows up to 4-feet tall with bright bright red flowers that bees and butterflies love. Not only is it deer and rabbit resistant, it tolerates clay soils.

Bee balm looks best planted in groups in the flower garden. This not only gives a better visual display, it makes it easier for pollinators to find and feed on the pollen and nectar. They grow best in full sun, but we have some in part shade that seem fine. They just get a little leggy and don’t flower as abundantly as the full sun plantings. Monarda grows best on fertile, well-drained soil, but it will tolerate occasional flooding, making it a good rain garden plant. Give bee balm a little compost each spring and it will reward you with more growth and flowers.

bee balmEach spring we have to divide our bee balm because it tends to want to spread. This is important to know because it can take over a garden if you’re not careful. We often dig up runners that are sprouting and move them to new locations. For tall varieties I also use a little gardening trick. To keep the plants shorter and delay flowering I pinch the tops when the plants are 1 foot tall. I do this on just some of the plantings so I get staggered heights and flowering times for the bee balm. Of course, deadheading will also stimulate new flowers to form in late summer.

We plant bee balm in between shrubs, in wildflower plantings, in wet areas and anywhere we want a splash of color. Give this versatile perennial flower a try and you won’t be disappointed.

Go here for more on growing bee balm


How to Grow: Kohlrabi
kohlrabiKohlrabi is in the broccoli and kale family, but looks a lot different. It’s a quick maturing Brassica that forms a round ball at the base of the stem with leaves projecting out from it. Luckily, I have photos to show you kohlrabi, because it’s hard to describe. It’s a fast maturing spring or fall veggie and we’re eating ours right now. While most kohlrabi have green skin and stay about the size of a baseball, some can get huge. ‘Kossack’ is a large hybrid that even stores well. Mostly though, we grow the small green varieties such as ‘ Korridor’; purple skinned types such as ‘Kolibri’; and the newer, white skinned variety, ‘Beas’.

kohlrabiPlant kohlrabi, like you would broccoli, in spring or late summer for a fall planting. Watch out for flea beetles and keep the bed well watered. In a little more than 1 month the kohlrabi is ready to harvest. Cut the plant right below the round ball and strip off the leaves. I like to peel the tougher skin off before eating. Many times I’ll be in the garden munching away on a kohlrabi as I do other garden chores.

But kohlrabi is also versatile. Slice the ball into small sticks and use those for dipping into various sauces. The mild flavor won’t overwhelm the flavor of the dips. We also roast it with other root crops such as carrots and beets. You can sautee it as a cooked vegetable. And you can also shred it to mix into a salad.

kohlrabi and carrotsSince kohlrabi matures so quickly it makes a great choice for a succession planted bed. After kohlrabi is finished in early summer plant bush beans. After the bush beans finish in late summer, come back with more seedlings of kohlrabi or plant kale or spinach. This allows you to have three crops of veggies in one bed.

Learn more about kohrabi here


Watch my video on growing kohlrabi here.

Delicious Dill
dill flowersDill is one of those culinary herbs that we don’t think too much about until we want to cook with it. We might have an abundance of cucumbers and think that dill pickles would be good to make. Then we look in the garden and we forgot to plant dill. Actually, that rarely happens in our garden. We always let some dill self sow each summer so the following spring we always have dill seedlings popping  up here and there. Although not the easiest seedling to transplant, I find that if you move them while they are still very young, they transplant okay.

Dill is known for use in pickle making, but you can use it in the kitchen for so much more. It’s used for making dilly beans (a favorite!), in potato and egg salad, and in breads, soups dips and spreads.

While most of us think of dill as that tall plant in the garden, there are some varieties and variations. ‘Fernleaf’ is a shorter, slow-to-bolt variety that’s good if you’re growing dill for the leaves. ‘Superdukat’ is a variety with high oil content and flavor. ‘Bouquet’ is an early maturing variety with large, 6-inch diameter flowers.

dill seedOf course, you can use the dill leaves in salads, soups and dips, but make sure you let dill flower and go to seed. It’s not only because you need the seeds for cooking, the flowers are great insect attractors to the garden. Dill, like Queens Anne’s lace and fennel, has a flat topped flower that bees and butterflies love. They not only help with pollination, many insect predators and parasites are attracted to dill flowers. So, every year we let our dill go the seed. The insects love it, we get the seed to use in cooking and some seed drops to become next year’s plants.

When harvesting dill seed, cut off the maturing flower before it starts dropping seeds and place it inside a brown paper bag. Hang the bag in a dry airy place to mature the seeds. Jiggle the bag periodically so the seeds drop. Store in a dark, cool place in glass jars.


Learn more about dill here

In Our Garden: Cucumber Beetles

cucumber beetleWe’ve been able to control and work around many pests in our vegetable garden without having to resort to sprays. Whether it be squishing the eggs, and larvae, covering plants to block access or going out early to pick and drop the adults into soapy water, we seem to have a handle on most pests. Then there’s cucumber beetles.

These black and yellow spotted or striped, elongated beetles love any plants in the cucumber family including melons and squash. They emerge in spring, almost at the same time as we plant, and feed on tender seedlings. If not checked, they will kill a small seedling. But it’s not over. They continue to feed on surviving plant flowers and even fruits causing damage and spreading bacterial wilt disease.

cucumber beetleCucumber beetles are hard to control. You can cleanup weedy areas around your garden and rotate crops. That helps. But trying to pick the adults is difficult because they often just drop to the ground and hide. We have tried kaolin clay and Diatomaceous Earth with some success, as long as we spray when plants are young. We’ve also effectively used yellow sticky traps hung above cucumber plants. Once flowering, we don’t apply any sprays so not to harm the bees.

We also have had success growing cucumbers in a straw bale garden. It seems if the plants are off the ground, the cucumber beetles are less likely to find them. There are bacteria wilt resistant varieties available to control that disease if your cucumbers get it.

Learn more about cucumber beetles here 



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