Summer in the south is something special. With July’s arrival comes the best and the worst of the season. Some years can be hot, miserable, and dry yet somehow the humidity never goes away. In the first few days of July we have already seen rain out after rain out. Our gardens have loved it, but so have the mosquitoes and all of the garden pests we are battling it out with.
Some days we just want to throw in the towel and call it a year. It’s tough working through the heat and bugs. We have the battle scars to prove it. Some days we feel like fully decorated gardening veterans proudly (and embarrassingly) wearing our badges of mosquito bites, blisters, splinters, and sprains. Through it all, we keep digging.
When all of the work is done, don’t forget to take some time to enjoy your garden. July garden chores are all about harvesting and enjoying summer.
Our gardens are located in a fairly mild climate sitting on the border of 7b and 8a. We have a hot humid summer ahead.
One last go around in the garden
Plant any lingering seedlings immediately.
Unless the dog days of summer arrived early and brought the heat with them.
Harvest and cut back herbs.
Harvest herbs now while their flavor is at its peak. Basil, mint, and oregano can be cut in half. This will help discourage them from flowering and going to seed giving you more leaves to harvest. Plus, it can help keep overeager plants from completely taking over a garden.
Keep up the watering.
Keep your gardens watered well between rains. Use a rain gauge to make sure that your gardens are getting at least an inch of water a week. Soak plants deeply to reach more of the root zone.
Don’t forget about your compost. With the hot weather, compost piles tend to dry out quicker. Be sure to check the moisture levels weekly to ensure that everything is breaking down.
Keep feeding herbaceous vegetables and flowers.
Add an extra layer of compost to plants in the garden for an extra boost. Side dress with dry organic fertilizers as needed. Plants in pots need a little extra attention. Give them a regular feeding as their root systems are constricted.
Hold off on feeding woody plants.
Delicate new growth on woody trees and shrubs needs time to harden off and toughen up for the coming winter. Wait until later winter or early spring to start fertilizing again.
Stake and prune your tomatoes.
To grow larger and more flavorful tomatoes as well as deter disease and pests, it’s important to stake and prune your tomatoes. Remove suckers and leaves close to the ground. Tie the main branches to stakes to keep an upright form.
Wander the garden daily
Keep weeding the gardens.
It’s all about competition now. By July, space and water are the limiting factors in most gardens. Pluck though pesky weeds before they start out competing the plants you want.
Fight off those pests and diseases.
The worst of the pests and diseases seem to arrive this month. Be vigilant and fight back. Handpick Japanese beetles, tomato hornworms, snails, slugs, cabbage worms, and other common pests and drown in a jar of water. Treat bad infestations with natural measures such as introducing beneficial insects or organic pesticides such as neem oil or diatomaceous earth.
Enjoy the harvest.
The flavors of summer are flooding our kitchen during July. Cucumbers and tomatoes are coming in daily and will soon be followed by okra and corn. Take your daily garden stroll picking as you go.
Start planning the fall garden
Sow seeds for a late summer harvest.
Carrots, beets, dill, and basil can all be sown. Keep sowing dill to make those late season pickles. Basil will slow down after flowering, so sow fresh basil to keep the harvest coming.
Sow seeds for a fall and winter harvest.
Brussels sprout, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collards kale, leeks, peas, radish can all be sown in July. They can be sown directly into the garden or in trays for transplanting when space opens up after the summer harvest.