July is ripe with harvests! Harvest beans, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes at least every other day to keep them coming. It’s your summer religion!
Hot as it is, it is a garden transition time. You are already noticing the shorter day lengths. Get and start seeds for your first fall plantings in August. Build your new raised beds, make compost, install gopher barriers! As plants finish, prepare your soils. Add compost, worm castings, as appropriate for what you will be planting there next. Many think we will be having a long summer that some call an Indian Summer. It has other names in other places. St Martin’s Summer in Britain, Old Ladies’ Summer or Crone’s Summer in Belgium, Hungary & Lithuania (Norse origins); in China, this period is called “qiū lǎohǔ” (秋老虎), which literally means ‘a tiger in autumn’. So, if you have particular summer favorites, it is likely worth the chance to plants just a few more! 🙂
Transplant basil, celery, chard, cucumbers, dill, kale, leeks, summer-maturing lettuce, green onions, white potatoes, summer savory, New Zealand spinach. In our hot foothills and further south, go for more melons, okra, pumpkins, summer & winter squash. Corn is an exception – late plantings often develop smut. I’ve tomato transplants and seen bean seeds started in August produce plentiful crops into October! See what’s growing at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden right now! (Santa Barbara CA)
Transplant late afternoon or evening so plants have the whole night to begin to recover before they’re hit with a full day of sun and heat. Water well and provide shade from intense mid-day sun. Prop up and secure some of those plastic plant flats that have the finer pattern to filter the light. Keep your transplants moist for at least a month or until they’re well established. Mulch to save water.
At the end of the month, sow carrots (they do best from seed), celery and cole crops–broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), cauliflower, and kohlrabi. Keep the soil moist and shaded until they’re up, and then gradually allow them more sun over a week’s time.
Get better germination during summer’s heat.
- Sow seeds thickly in flats or beds.
- Mulch the seeds thinly with sifted compost instead of heavy soil, which easily crusts over.
- Frequently sprinkle the flat or bed to keep it moist, or leave a mister on for several hours each day.
- Shield the bed with a piece of burlap or plywood–this will keep the seeds cooler than the air temperature, give them the moisture they need, and keep the soil surface from crusting.
- Remove the shade board or burlap after one-fourth of the seeds have germinated. Continue keeping the bed moist until most of the seedlings are up.
- If flats are used, place them in an area with less than full-day sun, and pay close attention to keeping them moist.
- Transplant the seedlings when the second set of true leaves develops. These are the ones that look like miniature versions of the mature plant.
Carrots, parsley, and other slow-comers need to be kept moist. Sow seed on the north side of a furrow, or right in the bottom of the furrow where it’s most moist. Make the sides of the furrow low sloping, and sprinkle with water so you don’t degrade the sides of the furrow. Cover the seeds lightly with potting soil or fine compost, and shade with cheesecloth, windowscreening, or slats of wood until they start to come up.
Still producing plants are hungry! Manure can be applied as a mulch directly onto globe artichokes, asparagus, cabbages and other cole crops, cucumbers, melons, sweet corn, and squash–but don’t let it touch the stems or foliage, as it will burn them. Keep high-nitrogen fertilizers away from beans, beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet and white potatoes, and tomatoes, or there’ll be more foliage than fruit.
Big plants need a lot of water! Tomatoes and other large plants may need about one inch of water every three days of hot dry weather. Rinse the undersides of leaves with water to discourage spider mites. Water and fertilize melons deeply once a week for juicy, fleshy fruits. Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate.
Protect vine crop fruits like melons and squash from snails and slugs by lifting the fruits or vegetables onto cans, berry baskets, or boards. Metal cans speed ripening and sweetening of melons by concentrating the sun’s warmth and transferring it to the melons. Place ripening melons onto upside down aluminum pie pans or cans to keep them off the damp soil. The reflected heat and light will help them ripen evenly and sooner than when they are shaded by foliage.
To your health and happiness!