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Summer gardens offer more than food and beauty

By Sharon Fitzpatrick and Nancy Johnson | La Mesa Beautiful

Summer salads

Some of you have planted one of the many varieties of crunchy, lacy, colorful lettuces in the spring. Hopefully you’re still reaping the benefits. The San Diego heat wave has been late this year, but July will likely find our gardens rising in temperature. You may have to start your salad with a trip to your favorite grocery store or farmers market if needed.

Those of you who planted your sweet corn, cucumbers, and snap beans in April and May can add them to your salads now. There are hardier veggies that you can still plant in July or August. According to Master Gardeners (, you may be lucky with zucchini squash, basil, and sweet bell peppers. Those beautiful tomatoes you planted in all shapes and sizes way back in March are abundant and tasty by now (and you can plant more in summer if you like).

Aloe vera (Wikimedia Commons)


Outside of your vegetable garden, we are encouraged in San Diego to keep to xeriscaping as much as possible. Xeriscaping reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental watering that often comes during drought conditions.

Succulents surprise and stimulate the senses when spectacular flowers emerge from green stalks, clusters, and leaves of every shape and size. The orange, purple, yellow, and red colors attract pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies to your summer gardens.

July is a good time to root succulent cuttings. Plant in pots in good light, but not direct sun while they are rooting. If you wish to put them directly into the ground and you want them in a sunny area, be sure to water in the cool morning or evening. Water at the base of the plants rather than on their leaves or they may burn in the hot sun of the day.

Check out some fun facts about aloe and agave in the next paragraph. These succulents that can be planted just about any time and have multiple benefits for the family.


Aloe and agave are leaf succulents and look similar when growing in your garden, but are two different genera. The leaves from aloe plants are thick and fleshy, while the agave leaves are fibrous.

Agave tequiliana (Wikimedia Commons)

Both plants have a variety of uses and will multiply quickly once put in the ground. As your agave and aloe plants mature, they will form baby plants called pups that can be cut off the mother plant and put back in the ground or in pots to share with those coming to share a summer salad.

The thing about both of these plants is that within their leaves, they hold a little something for everyone. Break off a piece of the aloe vera when your family returns from the beach with signs that the sunscreen applications throughout the day missed a spot or two. Slice the leaf lengthwise and spread cool aloe vera over the kids or yourself for instant relief.

And after the kids are in bed… did you know that the tequila in your summer evening margarita comes from the agave tequilana plant?

—Sharon Fitzpatrick is vice president and Nancy Johnson is secretary of La Mesa Beautiful.

Source: La Mesa Currier

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