Episode 010: What To Do In Your July Garden

podcast cover with an image of a woman, the title of the episode 10, and a waveform in the background

episode highlights

  • The benefits of cutting back spring flowers and vegetables post-season, and how leaving the roots in the ground can be a game-changer for your soil health
  • The importance of adding compost or worm castings for heavy feeders and the role of mulching in your garden
  • The value of keeping detailed garden records and enlisting a garden babysitter to help with harvesting and frost dates

Your Ultimate Guide to July Gardening: Boosting Blooms, Soil Health, and Fall Harvest

Hello, fellow gardeners! Today, let’s talk about some essential gardening tips for the month of July. I know that depending on where you are in the world, your exact gardening tasks will vary. However, there are some general trends and tasks that apply more or less to everyone. So, without further ado, let’s dive into these helpful tips that will make your garden flourish this July.

1. Cut back spring flowers and vegetables

As we enter July, it’s time to cut back the spring flowers and vegetables that are done for the season. But don’t pull them out! Instead, cut them off at the soil level, leaving the roots in the ground to decompose. This is a great way to improve your soil health and reduce the workload.

2. Deadhead and harvest flowers regularly

Deadheading, or cutting off old flowers, is an essential task for July gardening. This simple skill can have beautiful blooms gracing your garden all summer long. Don’t forget to harvest your flowers as well. This is a critical step for keeping your cut and come again type of flowers productive.

“The more you cut, the more the flower is going to produce new blooms. So by picking those fresh bouquets filling your vases, you’re actually helping the plant to produce more for you and those bees and hummingbirds that you’re feeling guilty about taking flowers away from.”

Jessica, host of Organic Gardening For Beginners

3. Plant your last round of summer crops

Now is the time to plant your last hurrah of hot weather crops like basil, zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, and zucchini. If you have any leftover seedlings, get them in the ground as soon as possible.

4. Keep an eye out for pests and disease

As you walk through your garden, make sure to keep an eye out for any pests or diseases, so you can catch them early on. This is especially important for pests like cucumber beetles and Colorado potato beetles, which can multiply quickly and cause significant damage.

5. Water and mulch

Make sure to water your plants deeply and less frequently, rather than watering lightly and frequently. This will encourage your plants to grow deeper root systems, which is beneficial for their overall health. Don’t forget to add mulch to your garden beds to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

6. Maintain your garden records

Keeping track of your garden records is essential for a successful garden. Note down any signs of bugs or diseases, how your spring plantings performed, and when you had your last frost date. This information will be invaluable for future gardening seasons.

7. Enlist a garden buddy

If you’re going on vacation, don’t forget to find a garden babysitter to help with watering, harvesting, deadheading, and general maintenance. This will ensure that your garden continues to thrive even when you’re not around.

8. Provide water for birds and pollinators

Put out a bird bath or bird water source to help your feathered friends and pollinators stay hydrated during the hot summer months. Adding a floating cork or corn cob can provide a landing pad for bees and butterflies to access the water safely.

9. Plan your fall garden

Finally, start thinking about your fall garden. It might seem a bit early, but planning ahead is crucial for a successful fall harvest. Consider what you’d like to plant and where you’ll put the new plants when your garden is packed full of summer crops.

There you have it – your ultimate guide to July gardening! Remember, these tasks are spread out over the month, so don’t feel overwhelmed. Tackle one or two tasks each weekend, and you’ll have a vibrant and flourishing garden that you’ll be proud of. Happy gardening!

Episode Transcript

Hello, hello, and welcome back to Organic Gardening for Beginners. I am your host, jessica from the blog Homegrown Food and Flowers, and this show helps new and beginning gardeners just like yourself turn your backyard and outdoor space into a beautiful and productive area. 

Whether you’re starting with a collection of pots or raised beds or you have an in-ground garden, i am here to share tips and 20 plus years of experience to help you build your own amazing garden this summer that produces fresh food and beautiful flowers. 

Today’s episode is all about figuring out how to make that summer garden that we just talked about work for you and your schedule. Summertime is generally a time where you are a little bit busier, whether that’s with your family and going from activities to camps to work, or whether it’s just you, but you are getting outside more to hike or go camping or go traveling and doing some of those fun summer activities that are best done in the amazing summer weather. So how exactly do you get into a summer groove but keep your garden thriving as well? That’s what we’re chatting about today. 

So, to start off, it’s important to think of what exactly your garden needs, which is going to be pretty specific to your space and your plantings, and a few ideas that you can think about are things such as how big is your garden, how much sun does it get, what kind of plants do you have growing? All three of those are going to affect the amount of care that it needs and what kind of a maintenance schedule you might try to come up with for yourself. So, obviously, the bigger your garden, the more care it’s going to need. The smaller garden, the less care it’s going to need. 

What kind of garden you have as well, containers typically need less maintenance. They need more attention on the watering schedule because they can dry out a lot faster than in-ground gardens, but chances are you won’t have to deal with weeds very often. 

Conversely, in an in-ground garden, as long as it’s mulched, you can water less frequently, typically because there are greater reserves of moisture in the garden soil. But, just like I mentioned, you might need to weed more because there is more surface area for those weed seeds to get a hold of. 

If you have a garden in full sun, chances are that’s going to need a little bit more maintenance because the soil is going to dry out more. Your plants are probably going to grow faster than a garden that’s in partial shade, where things grow a little slower. Weeds take a little longer to try to get ahead. You probably have to water less frequently because the soil doesn’t dry out as much. So those are a couple things to keep track of. 

And then as well, what are you growing? What do you have in your garden? Is it super, super low maintenance plants like lettuce or a pumpkin that just kind of rambles across the ground and you really don’t have to do much for it? Or is it a tomato where you need to sucker the branches and make sure that it’s growing up its trellis? You need to harvest frequently so that it will continue to produce more tomatoes. So that’s one more aspect to look at when you’re thinking of how much maintenance you’ll need to do on your garden. And then, on the other hand, you can think about what is the bare minimum that needs to get done. 

One of those tasks is watering. Chances are, if you don’t add supplemental irrigation during the summer whether that’s drip irrigation or hand watering that your garden is really going to struggle to find enough moisture. There are some really awesome gardening methods, such as deep mulch and building up your soil quality with a lot of compost. That can actually make it so that you almost don’t need to irrigate during the summer, and that’s something I’m personally going to explore on our new property just as a way to make the garden a little more self-sustainable, but not anything that I have really practiced with in the last decade or so, especially living in Southern California and South Carolina, where, without supplemental irrigation, there was no chance that the garden would stay alive through the summer. So watering is definitely one of those bare minimum tasks. 

On the other hand, something like trellising, as handy as it is and as much as it can result in a more robust garden, is not really a make-it-or-break-it type of task. If you don’t trellis your tomatoes, it’s not the end of the world. The tomato plant will still grow, it might not produce as much and you might lose some of the tomatoes to the slugs or snails because the fruit itself is laying on the soil, but it’s not going to stop the plant from growing and producing. Same goes for weeding. You might have a less productive garden because the plants that you planted are competing with the weeds for resources like water and sunlight, but you’re still going to get some harvest. 

So you might need to pick and choose what are the essential tasks versus what are the nice to do tasks if you are super short on time. So once you’ve kind of thought about your garden and what are the qualities of your garden that will dictate how much work you need to do on it, as well as what will your schedule actually allow for. Then here are some of the tasks that I make sure to get to, regardless of what else is going on in the day, as well as a few tips on when you can perform those tasks, how much flexibility is kind of built in to those chores. 

Certain tasks are best done in the morning, such as harvesting greens, like lettuce or spinach, arugula, whatever summer greens you have, because that’s when they are the freshest. They have had the cool weather of the evening to freshen up a little bit, they are well hydrated, and so this is going to give you the longest shelf life for your greens and lettuce. So definitely harvest those in the morning. 

And the same thing goes for flowers, for cut flowers as well as for leafy herbs. So any cut flowers that you’re growing, like zinnias or sunflowers, cosmos, those are best picked in the morning when, just like the lettuce, they are freshly hydrated. They’re nice and cool from the nighttime, and the same for leafy herbs such as basil, cilantro, even parsley, especially flat leaf parsley. If you try to pick any of those in the afternoon in the heat of the day, they will immediately wilt And some of them won’t come back to life. No matter if you put them in the cool refrigerator or you put them in a jar of water to rehydrate, as soon as you cut them from the support of the main plant and they’re exposed to that hot weather or that direct sun, they’ll wilt and there’s no bringing them back. 

So definitely set aside time in the morning to do these chores, even just a quick pass over to harvest what really needs to come out of the garden to get those flowers that have freshly opened before they are full blown and won’t last as long in the vase. Set aside just a little bit of time for that. 

However, on the other hand, there are some tasks that really don’t matter when you do them, such as weeding, harvesting certain veggies like zucchinis or tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, things like that can be harvested really at any time, even during the heat of the day. So if you are crunched for time in the morning, do those other tasks that I just mentioned and save these flexible ones for later in the day or in the afternoon or early evening, if you only have, say, 10 minutes a day to pop into the garden. 

These are a couple things that I would recommend you put on your schedule. The first one is a couple of times a week, check your soil for the moisture level. To do that, all you need to do is push aside that mulch that I know you’ve put on your garden by now and dig down just a couple of inches and test it with your finger, and if the soil feels slightly damp, then you’re good to go. 

Your irrigation is spot on, whether that’s hand watering or sprinkler system. Whatever you’ve got, your plants are getting enough water. If you touch it and it’s bone dry, or even further down it’s dry, then you definitely need to adjust how much water you’re giving your plants, because if it’s dry to the touch, then that means that the plant roots are not able to find sufficient water and moisture. So try adding in an extra day of watering, or run your sprinklers for a little bit longer on the days you’ve already got set. Test it out, see what it needs. Chances are you will have seen some indication from your plants as well by now, with wilting leaves During the heat of the day, that they are needing a little bit more water. 

You can pull a few weeds here and there in that 10 minutes. It’s better to just do one small little patch to stay on top of it And then the next day do another little patch. That way you kind of rotate through the garden to keep on top of the weeds. I don’t bother to get the, to get every single weed that I see, which really aren’t many, but when I do, all I go for are the grasses that try to creep in from the edge of the garden into my raised beds. Those are really the only ones that I try to stay on top of. 

Another thing to check in that 10 minutes, if you’ve got time left over, is to help your vines stick to their trellis. So if you’re growing green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, anything vining like that, a lot of them can. Once they get a hold of the trellis, when they’re younger they’ll climb up it themselves, no problem, especially green beans. But some plants, like tomatoes, that don’t have tendrils or sticky branches, they need a little bit of help to stay, to continue going up their trellis, and so that might mean that you drape the tomato vine over the cage that it’s on. It might mean that you tie the branches to the trellis or the pole, whatever you’ve got it supported with. Cucumbers are kind of a middle ground because they do have tendrils that they can use to support themselves as they grow up. But then, sometimes as the plants get heavy with fruit, it kind of pulls them down a little bit if they’re not properly anchored. So I do like to do a pass-through and make sure that the ends of the cucumber vines are grabbing onto the trellis And if not, I just kind of weave them through the trellis to support that heavy fruit and give the tendrils a chance to grab on to the support itself. 

So with your 10 minutes, try to fit in one or more of those little tasks that I just mentioned, and if you are consistently doing them every morning, even with only 10 minutes a day, you will definitely be able to stay on top of your garden maintenance so that nothing gets too overgrown or you don’t waste your harvest because you can’t get to them. 

If you know you’re gonna be gone for a trip this summer, say a week or two, anything more honestly than say four or five days, then see if you can’t get a garden buddy to come and check on your garden. This way they can stay on top of harvesting, especially, but also making sure that your irrigation is going or that they can turn on your sprinkler or do some hand watering. If that’s the method that you are using, that’s a much better plan than going away, and even if you have your drip irrigation set so you know that the plants are getting water while you’re gone, you would be amazed at how much growth your plants can put on in just a couple of weeks, to where your tomatoes have fallen out of their trellis or your cucumbers have put on fruit that is overripe and going bitter, and so if you can convince somebody to trade time for garden produce and flowers, then take advantage of that. 

Lastly, one thing to think about is in episode five, where we talked about time saving tips in the garden. Some of them I already mentioned, such as using mulch and irrigation. But you can also start your garden off this year with low maintenance plants that won’t need as much care during your busy summers. So calculate your risk on your tomatoes. They can be super low maintenance if you’re okay with them, just sprawling across the ground and picking what you can get. They can then be a little higher maintenance if you make sure to sucker them, which suckering, if you’re not sure of that term, means that you stick to one main stem on the tomato plant and don’t let it branch out to its full potential, and this keeps the plant a little bit more I won’t say compact, it just helps the plant concentrate its energy on a few larger branches rather than dozens and dozens of smaller ones, and you can typically get a little bit more fruit production this way, and it makes it just a lot easier to trellis when it’s a little bit tidier like that. 

So, anyways, what I was saying was you can choose lower maintenance plants if you know that you are going to be busy for the summer. That was one of the things we talked about in episode five, as well as using dense plantings to keep the soil shaded so that they use less water to keep your weed cover, your weed pressure down, and a few tips there. So go back to that episode and pull out what you can from that to help set up a minimal garden chore structure for this summer. 

The last thing I wanna touch on is just to be flexible. So we’ve talked about this schedule of. These are the things you need to do in the morning. These are the things that you can do in the afternoon. These are some of the bare minimum tasks. These are some of the nice to do tasks, but really what it comes down to is adjusting the schedule to yourself. 

So obviously I’m not going to give you a schedule that says at seven o’clock do this and at three o’clock do that, because you know who knows what your schedule is, who knows what your weather patterns are, who knows what you’re growing in the garden. And so take it as it comes to an extent to be flexible and adjust to what you have going on. Turn your drip irrigation on a little bit longer if the weather is going to be crazy hot this week. If you’re gonna be gone, recruit that garden buddy to come and check on the garden. If the weather, if you have a storm coming in, maybe don’t worry about weeding, because chances are there’s gonna be branches that you need to pick up later on anyways. 

So just be flexible. Your weather, how the plants are growing, your pest pressure, your weeds those are all going to influence how much time you spend in the garden and what exactly you do while you’re out there. But as long as you can pivot and make changes depending on how effective your schedule is and your chores that you’re doing, then chances are you can find some sort of routine that works for your garden and yourself throughout the summer. Alrighty, that is all I have for you today as far as tips to stay on top of your garden chores. 

Next week, we’re talking about some of the big mistakes that people can make when getting started with their summer garden maintenance, such as forgetting to deadhead their flowers and other little tips like that. So make sure you tune in next week and if you’re getting value out of this show, then hit that subscribe button and I will talk to you next week. See ya,

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