In most years, July is hot and dry. But with the strange weather this year, it’s hard to know what will happen. The days are already getting shorter bit by bit and fall is on its way. The days are passing by quickly so use your time wisely. Take stock of garden progress and sow the seeds for a fall and winter garden.
Before planning for the future, take stock of current conditions. Many plants are struggling after a late spring, late planting and too much rain. Damp conditions are ideal for the rapid spread of fungal diseases. Tomatoes are particularly susceptible to Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot. If plants are crowded or there is a lot of foliage, prune plants to allow better airflow. With damp and cool weather, brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, etc.), can get Black Spot or Black Rot disease. Visit http://tinyurl.com/nypkpzg for information, photos and possible solutions to your disease woes.
Slugs and earwigs can be particularly prolific in wet weather. Remember other problem pests as well. July is prime time for potato beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borer and the spotted or lined cucumber beetle. Control can be tricky. The UW-Extension service provides an excellent booklet on identifying and controlling garden pests: http://tinyurl.com/md52wly. This booklet is also available for a small fee by calling 877-947-7827.
The weeds have had a particularly bountiful year. Many perennials weeds go to seed in July so be ready to control them. If you can’t dig or pull the weeds, carefully cut off the developing seed heads, dropping them into a bag for easy disposal. A typical red-root pigweed plant can produce 10,000 to 30,000 seeds in one season. Ungerminated seeds can live in the soil for as long as 40 years. Take action before those seeds drop.
Should the weather dry up a bit, remember that your garden needs 1.5 to 2 inches of rain per week. Newly planted seedlings need fairly frequent watering until they get established. Surprisingly a 3-inch rainfall can be absorbed or can evaporate in a flash. Be ready to water when needed.
Garden mulch can break down quickly, especially in damp conditions. Mulch around potatoes seems to get too thin in record time, exposing tubers close to the surface to the greening effects of the sunshine. Monitor the mulch depth and top up where necessary.
Make up for a difficult spring with a fall garden. July is the perfect time to plant for the fall. Peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and bush beans can all be planted this month. Carrots like to germinate in cool soil so water a spot and cover with a board or cardboard to let it cool down before planting. After sowing seeds, keep the cover in place for a week or so to help keep the area cool and damp. Sow seeds of brassicas indoors for protection against a harsh climate and insect damage. Brassicas like to mature in the cooler days of fall, so choose your varieties with that in mind, checking “days to maturity” before sowing. Remember “days to maturity” usually means the days from transplant into the garden, not the day the seed is sown.
July can mark the start of an intensive harvest season. Raspberries are a particular treat this month. In hot weather, you may need to pick these fragile fruits twice a day. Raspberries freeze beautifully when spread on a tray and then bagged once frozen.
Above all, don’t let the garden become a chore. Do a little bit every day and enjoy your summer.
Beverly Carney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.