July is a busy month in the kitchen garden. This month you are caring for the summer’s crops and beginning their harvest, and you are preparing and planting the fall and winter garden.
Beets, turnips, kohlrabi, carrots, and zucchini are ready for harvest this month. Don’t be tempted to grow the biggest this or the greatest that. Pick these crops when they are still young and tender; if you do, you’ll still be remembering their taste next winter.
Garlic and onions you planted last fall should be ready now. When the leaves of these plants turn yellow, lift them gently and leave them in the sun to dry. Later you can clean them up. Save the best of the small bulbs for planting next spring. The same goes for spring planted shallots which are ready for lifting now.
By the middle and end of July, later summer and winter salad crops, root crops, and spring cabbage can go into the garden. A list of winter crops for planting now follows.
Summer weather conditions will prevail in all growing regions during July. Here is a kitchen garden guide for growing zones 2-11 for the month of July:
Harvest. Pick runner and green beans as soon as they are ready. Freeze while they are still tender. Ripen onions by lifting them gently and leaving them in place for a couple of weeks. Continue to lift early potatoes. Cut back artichokes after they bear, to produce a crop next spring.
Succession planting. Warm-weather vegetables can still be sown directly in the garden in most regions. Continue to direct-sow bush beans, French beans, pole beans, lima beans, beets, spring cabbage (in cooler regions), winter cabbage, cantaloupes, carrots, late cauliflower, collards, sweet corn, cucumbers, leeks, lettuces, okra, southern peas, rutabagas, spinach, summer squash, watermelon, and turnips. Plant pumpkins and winter squash in a shady spot, but where the vines will run into the sunlight. Set out more sweet potato slips. In regions where the weather remains warm well into autumn, you can sow eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes now for the fall garden.
When transplanting vegetables during the hot season, set the plants carefully, watering each one and then shading them with paper for at least three days.
Fall and winter garden. Cool-weather crops can be started in the garden during the second half of July; don’t wait until late summer or early fall. Direct sow chicory, endive, Chinese cabbage, Asian greens, lettuces, mustard, and spinach in the shade of taller crops. Direct-sow bush beans, beets, chard, snap, snow and shell peas, radishes and daikons late this month. Start seedlings of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, calabrese, and cauliflower to transplant out into the garden in 3 or 4 weeks. Plant potatoes to harvest as “new potatoes” this fall; use sprouted potatoes from your kitchen. Sow onions for an early crop next year.
Celery is a good fall and early winter vegetable. Start by transplanting small plants in mid-July so that you will have succession bunches for the table.
Tomatoes. Feed tomatoes regularly. Remove side shoots and yellowing leaves from tomatoes regularly. In desert areas, prune back tomatoes by two thirds. Use shade cloth or an old sheet to protect tomatoes and peppers from sunburn.
Herbs. Continue to sow chervil, dill, and parsley seeds. Gather and dry basil, mint, and other herbs before they flower. Harvest lavender flowers before they fade for drying; dry lavender on a tray in airy shed or attic and then store in an airtight container. Cut back bushy herbs and take cuttings of perennial herbs to start new planting.
Water, mulching and weeding. Continue to water crops regularly, especially those that bolt or fall if allowed to dry out. Don’t let the leaves of beans and tomatoes get wet, as they easily mildew. Mulch after light cultivation of the soil to conserve moisture, keep down weeds, and maintain coolness around plant roots. Weed or hoe regularly between crops. Solarize empty beds where weeds or diseases have been a problem: water the empty bed, then cover with clear plastic for at least a month.
Maintain. Continue to thin vegetables sown earlier, before they grow large enough to compete with each other. Remove spent plants. Check the supports on tall and climbing plants. Mound soil around celery stems and tie together. Pinch out the growing tips of runner beans they reach the top of their support. Give afternoon shade to leafy crops.
Tree fruit. Thin the fruit on heavy-bearing trees, and pick up dropped fruit daily. Support branches on heavily laden fruit trees with stout forked stakes. Complete the thinning of apples and pears now; dispose of fruit showing signs of pest infestations. Water fruit trees regularly and thoroughly. Place netting around developing fruit to protect them from being attacked by birds.
Summer prune apples and continue to prune cherries, plums, apricots, nectarines, and peaches. Control woolly aphids on apple trees and spray against codling moth caterpillars. Summer prune the mature shoots of espalier fruit if not already completed to prevent excessive growth toward the wall or fence. Tie in replacement shoots on wall-trained espaliers. Pinch out the tips on fan-trained espaliers.
Brambles, berries. Pick berry fruits as they ripen. Cover ripening berries with netting to protect them from birds. Mulch brambles and water deeply if the weather is dry. Prune summer-fruiting raspberries after harvest; cut canes that have just fruited back to ground level, and tie new canes to supports. Layer brambles to start new plants.
Don’t let first-season raspberries ripen fruit this year because of the weakening effect of the process. The best plan is to snip off the flowers as they open. Next year will bring a big harvest.
Currants to be used for jelly are best picked when slightly under ripe, fully ripe if used for jams.
Strawberries. Remove netting from strawberry beds where plants have finished fruiting; Remove bedding straw from around plants and cut away old leaves and unwanted runners. Top-dress strawberries with compost after harvest. When new plants form at tips or runners, pot them in rich soil in peat pots and sink the pots near the parent plants without cutting the runners. In a month or two, these new plants can be separated from the mother plants and set out. Discard strawberries that are more than three years old.
Where blossoms have been kept off newly planted everbearing strawberries, it is now time to permit the plant to set fruit. Keep strawberries even and regularly watered in hot, dry weather; they like abundant moisture as long as the site is well drained.
Melons. Remove all but three to four fruits on melon plants to insure full, ripe plants at harvest.
Citrus. Prune citrus in the summer and remove suckers around the base of trees.
Container gardens. Harvest vegetables and herbs from container gardens. Weed and fertilize container plants regularly with compost tea. Water containers as often as needed and make sure friends water your plants while you are away on holiday. Discard or replace plants that are past their best.
Greenhouse. Add extra shading to the glass if necessary. Keep a watch for pests and diseases. Spray promptly or use a biological control for greenhouse pests. Pot up and pot on seedling pot plants as it becomes necessary. Pick greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes.