Welcome back to our “Year in the Organic Garden Series!” In June, we were harvesting, starting a second wave of warm season crops and mitigating threats from pests and pathogens. If you missed the post, or want to refresh your memory, please take a look at June in the Organic Garden.
In July, the focus turns toward helping your garden thrive in the heat and making use of the accelerating harvest! As always, we welcome your own comments, questions and contributions to help make this an even more useful resource for our readers.
Watering this Month
July is always hot and often dry. Your garden will need regular supplemental watering this month to survive the elements. We covered good watering techniques in our April post and the principles apply this time of year too.
The most important things to remember are:
- If when you stick your finger into the soil a couple of inches it’s dry…it’s time to water
- Most crops need about 1 inch of water per week
- Less frequent, deeper watering is better than more frequent shallow watering
- Water at the base of the plants
- Water in the morning (ideally) or evening to reduce loss due to evaporation
Even a properly watered garden will often appear to wilt during the heat of the day. This is due to your plants’ transpiration and is natural. Oftentimes, the crops simply can’t pick up new water from the soil at the rate it is lost during the heat of the day. If your plants seem to perk up in the evening, that’s a great sign. If not, you definitely need to water!
Growing, flowering and fruiting all consume the nutrients in your soil. We also covered the basics of fertilization in our April post. Throughout the growing season, you should regularly reapply fertilizer to ensure that your soil doesn’t become depleted and that your garden has the fuel it needs.
The most important things to remember are:
- N-P-K ratios on fertilizer packages refer to the content of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium
- “Shoots/Roots/Fruits” is the primary role of N/P/K in fertilizers
- As the season is further along, ensure that you’ve got either a balanced fertilizer or one that leans more towards the P & K values (Many of these fertilizers are labeled “Fruits & Flowers” to help keep it easy)
- Liquid fertilizers are faster-acting and should be applied every 1-2 weeks
- Dry fertilizers are slower-release and should be applied every 3-4 weeks
- Of course, please use organic fertilizers only as they will naturally build your soil and plant health!
Lots to Harvest, Use and Preserve this Month
Onions, Shallots and Garlic should all be ready to harvest near the beginning of the month. You’ll know it’s when the shoots begin to turn brown and fall over. They can be used fresh or cured for storage.
- Remove bulbs from soil and brush off excess dirt (don’t wash!)
- Store in a dry, dark location with ample air flow (garage, shed, etc.)
- Some people will hang the harvest or lay them out on a screened surface
- Wait 2-3 weeks until outside of bulbs are papery and dry
- Store in a cool dark location until needed (duration of storage will vary by crop and variety)
Your warm season crops (Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers, Squash, Beans, & More!) will also come in this month and the pace can be rapid. When you get more than you can eat fresh, and the neighbors have had their share too, you can preserve the bounty!
Some ideas include:
- Tomatoes: Salsa, Sauce, Frozen or Canned
- Cucumbers: Pickles!!!
- Herbs: Dry or make herbed vinegars
- Beans: Can or pickle
- Peppers: Salsa
Recipes are beyond the scope of this blog post…but we’d welcome your suggestions and favorites in the comments section.
A Note on Strawberries
Strawberries are perennials and if managed properly you patch can be productive for many years. The plants will send out runners (or shoots) in an effort to propagate. This is good. Runners can be buried so that they root and become productive in the next season. Be sure to also thin out areas where there are too many plants and help the runners find the holes.
Believe it or not…it’s time to start our Cool Season Fall Garden from Seed
While it may seem strange to think about “cool season” crops in the peak heat of the summer…it’s time. Just like we did in our February post, you can start a wave of fall crops from seed in the middle or later part of the month. Think leafy greens, root veggies and herbs will be in season soon. The steps to begin from seed are the same!
Looking Forward to August!
In August, in addition to still being hot, our harvests of warm season crops will accelerate . It’s also when our first cool season crops for the fall garden will go into the ground. We’ll be back to cover our suggestions and highlights in a month.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this guide. We welcome your comments and questions. Happy organic gardening!