July In My Food Garden
The month of July has arrived with cooler than normal temps, humidity, and grey skies. While we are getting a titch of rain here and there, is really more just grey and cool rather than actual moisture for the gardens.
This type of weather is a real disease spreader, so now we also get to worry about powdery mildew, rust, and even early blight. Ack! Keep an eye on your plants, remove anything that is spotty, yellow, or mildewed.
Garlic - Likely your garlic is almost ready to harvest now. It is ready to go when it is brown half way up the stalk, with about 4 leaves still green on the top. Ideally, you have not watered for the past 3 weeks so that the bulbs are not full of water. The amount of rain that we have had should not make a big difference, except that the soil may stick to your bulbs a bit more.
Loosen the soil around the bulbs with a garden fork and then gently pull up on the stalk. Do not wash your bulbs, but instead brush off the soil as best you can, bundle in loose groups of up to 10 bulbs per bunch, and hang to dry. Alternately, you can lay them out on a table or bench to dry, making sure to leave good air space between each bulb. Do not leave them out in the blazing hot sun to cure or they will cook and not cure properly. You want a shaded area with good air flow, like a carport or the north side of the house where the sun does not shine.
These grey days are not ideal for curing garlic, wet and humid weather can make mould set in during the curing process. Sadly, there is not much we can do about this weather, mother nature is pretty unpredictable, so we just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best. Be really careful about providing good air flow around each bulb.
Carrots - This is your last chance to grow some more carrots for your fall/winter crop. Try to get them in today, by the end of the first weekend in July. Much later than this and they just will not have enough time to size up for winter.
Carrots only grow till the days grow short and temps grows cool, they will not continue growing in late fall or winter. Seed them now so that they have lots of time to size up for your winter harvest. In spring, when the days grow longer, the carrots will not begin growing again, they will instead get hairy with roots and go to seed. While they are very pretty in flower, they are no longer edible.
Carrots take from one to 3 weeks to germinate and must stay moist until they do, so water daily until you see the greens pop through the ground. These cool and grey days will keep them from drying out as fast, so that is one positive about this weather ; ) After they germinate, you can begin to taper off with your watering, first to every second day, then every third, fourth, etc… until you are only giving them a deep soak once a week.
Tomatoes- Hopefully your tomatoes are flowering profusely and fruiting for you right now, with some already ripening or very close to it. Deep soak water them for 20 to 30 minutes every third day. If they are looking peaked, water them with some tomato food or liquid seaweed, you can also side dress them with a bit of manure that gets down to the roots to feed the plant when you water.
Try not to wet the foliage as they are very prone to getting early blight in this weather, any extra moisture may just tip them over the edge. You can also lay down a barrier on top of the soil, around the plants, to lessen the chance of spreading the fungal spores to your tomatoes. Use newspaper, plastic, cardboard, grass clippings, leaves, mulch….
Pruning… Remove any foliage touching the soil, as well as any leaves that are spotted, yellow, or just look off. Sometimes just getting rid of the iffy leaves also gets rid of issues before they start.
Determinate tomatoes - bush types - These tomatoes get anywhere from 18 inches tall to 4 feet, depending on the variety. These guys do not need much extra pruning. Just take off any leaves touching the ground and ones that do not look healthy, as mentioned above. Other than that, leave them be, they are just fine.
Some of your first tomatoes may not look awesome. They may be warped with cat-facing because of poor pollination, they may have Blossom End Rot due to the wonky weather and our watering, they may have green shoulders from the hot and dry that we had earlier, or they may have concentric circular cracks due to this rainfall so their skins crack as they grow so fast.
What can you do? Remove the fruits, they are still edible, but if you prefer, you can also toss them into the compost. They are not diseased, these are all caused by the weather and so are called physiological issues.
Try to regulate your watering, water every 2nd or third day with a deep soak. No shallow watering, no sprinklers.
Feed them if they look peaked, as mentioned above.
Shake your plants to help them self pollinate. Grab the main stem and give them a wee wiggle.
That is about all that is in your hands, the rest is up to the weather.
Indeterminate tomatoes - Vining types - These guys will turn into massive beasts if not pruned. Remove the suckers that grow between the stem and the branches, as shown in the picture above. This type of tomato grows very tall and needs to be grown up a stake, string, tomato spiral, or in a tall, sturdy cage. I remove most all of the suckers, but if they are growing in the square cages, I will sometimes let one or two of the suckers go to fill the cage. No more than that.
What else can you sow this month?
Turnips, kohlrabi, rutabagas
Kale, broccoli, cauliflower - direct sow or pre-start
Potatoes - you can toss in a few now for harvesting at Thanksgiving or Christmas
Peas… I usually sow mine in late July or early August, but this weather might just be great for getting them off to a good start. Either way will work : )
Lettuces, spinach, greens - if you have a shaded or part shade bed, keep on sowing these guys. If like me, you do not have such a bed, pre-start and plant the seedlings out later.
Cabbage - Savoy or Ballhead
Bugs and Diseases- I am getting tons of questions regarding what to do about bugs. For this year, there are a couple of things that you can do…
I do not like to recommend spraying with anything, not even the eco friendly soap sprays, as anything you use will kill the good guys as well as the bad. So, I would say to first have a really good look at the bugs.. do you see lady bugs mingled in there? lady bug larva? parasitic wasps? hoverflies? lace wings? If you see any of these good guys in amongst the aphids or whiteflies, walk away and let them take care of the issue for you.
If you do not see any good guys, blast off the bad guys with a strong jet of water. Often that is enough if you have a light bug problem. Do it to any and all plants, it will not hurt them to get whacked about with water. If you still need more pest control, then I would recommend that you try one of the Safer’s products.. Soap, Trounce, or End-All.
If your plant is heavily infested, get rid of it. Is not worth the time and product to try to save it. Plants something new in it’s stead.
Shield bugs like squash bugs or stink bugs are shield shaped insects that may be green, brown, black, or red/orange. They can cause a whole lot of damage as they go after all sorts of berries, fruits, and veggies, anything from tomatoes to rhubarb and raspberries. You can try spraying them with the Safer’s products. Spray the plant to a good drip, this will work if you can actually contact the bug with the spray. If not, smack the plant about in order to knock them off of the plants, stomp, squish or drown them in soapy water. They like to hide in the foliage of your strawberries so I moved my strawberries out of the potager and into the front yard. There are less plants that interest them in the ornamental garden than there are in the food garden.
For bug control NEXT year! Please, please, please plant lots of companion flowers to attract not only the pollinators, but also beneficial insects and birds that eat the bad bugs. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. I have virtually no pests in my garden. My cabbages look great, as do my brassicas. The top most annuals that you should always add to your garden are…
Calendula (aka pot marigold)
Nasturtiums (trap crop that draws the aphids away from your veggies)
Other companion plants that also work great in the garden are.. snapdragons, cosmos, petunias, nicotiana, geraniums. Plant any flowers that you like to grow, they will attract someone that will help in the garden. Birds, especially hummingbirds, are also great pest eaters, so plant things that they like.
Herbs - also plant or add potted herbs to your food garden. Dill, fennel, oregano, lavender, lemon balm, thyme, etc.. are all really great at attracting pollinators, birds, and beneficial insects of all kinds.
Remember that simple, single flowers are better for the insects and birds than the fancy doubles are. So, plant simple open faced flowers. like the dwarf dahlias from seed. You can grow the fancy ones, too, but if you want the best one for the bugs, go simple in the potager.
Diseases like early blight on our potatoes and tomatoes are something to keep an eye out for with all this humidity and cool temps. When you water, do so at ground level, do not wet the foliage. Do not water often and shallow, do a slow and deep soak every 2 or 3 days for tomatoes and once a week for potatoes.
Remove any leaves that are yellow, spotted, or mildewed to prevent the spread of disease. Clean up around the bottom of your tomatoes, making sure that there are no leaves touching the soil.
Squash are starting to get powdery mildew already! Argh! Pick off the mildewed leaves and hope for sunshine. Make sure you have good air flow around all your plants, thin out plants if they are too close together.
You can try the milk spray (1/3 skim milk to 2/’3 water) on them but it is often not super effective on hairy foliage plants like cucumbers and squash. Spray once a week.
You can also try the baking soda spray (3 tbsp. soda, 1 gallon water, 1 tbsp. cooking oil, 1 tbsp. dish soap). Spray once a week.
Flowers… Water - You will soon have to start watering your flower pots and baskets daily, as soon as this grey weather departs and the sun starts shining again.
Feed them! It has now been quite a while that they have been in those pots and planters and they are just starting to shine! They need lots of food now. Toss some more slow release on top of the pots and baskets and pick up a water soluble fertiliser that you can feed them with every week or two, depending on the instructions on the type you buy.
Deadhead once a week, remove seed pods, and pinch back any lanky stems to keep them blooming and looking amazing.
Harvest - Pick your flowers once or twice a week to keep them blooming. The more you pick, the more they make. This applies to so many flowers, from sweet peas to zinnias. Bring them in to add colour to your table and they will thank you buy making even more blooms.
This month may be rife chores and it may sometimes seem like nothing is going right, but hang in there… you will soon be reaping what have sown… eating zukes and cukes, tomatoes and potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, and all will be okay. Some plants will thrive and be the best ever, while others may be a complete bust. Toss out the sad ones, pop in a couple of new seeds, and they too will be okay.
Happy July Gardening!
Penelope in the garden… looking for carrots ; )