Ah, July. Time for summer to officially begin — but not until after the holiday, of course!
July is a bit of a limbo month for a lot of gardeners. The heat is building; heat lovers are growing like crazy, spring planted greens may be bolting and going to seed, and while the last of the peas can still be harvested, there may not be a lot of summer produce to harvest yet. Fear not! Peak harvest will hit us eventually.
As demonstrated by both local online chatter and my own home garden, this spring has been rough on cucumbers. Our cool June-uary days mean that growth has been sluggish, and the actual slugs have been running rampant in the garden. If your plants are struggling, short season (50 days or less) cucumbers can still be planted from seed at the beginning of the month to harvest in August and September. Other short season plants like bush beans and some squash can still be planted, too!
Believe it or not, now is also the time to plant for fall harvest. Fall crops of beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, peas, spinach, swiss chard, and turnips can all be planted now to be enjoyed later. Remember that most seeds need to stay evenly moist to germinate, which can be difficult in the garden in July, and some seeds may do better started inside and transplanted after germination.
Those spring greens that are bolting? Try saving seeds! To save lettuce seeds, allow the plant to send up a long flower stalk. The plant will produce small clusters of flowers and the leaves will become bitter and tough. As the blooms dry, they will eventually produce a puffball full of seeds. Once the flower heads are fluffy and dry (you won’t be able to pull the seeds out if it’s not dry), you can pinch out the seeds by the fluffy end or cut off the whole stalk and shake it over a bowl to harvest the seeds. One plant can produce more than enough seeds for next year’s harvest.
July is a good time to look at your garden water usage. Keep an eye on the actual amount of rain that falls, not just how cloudy and misty it is. A few days of mist can lead a gardener to believe that their plants are doing well, when all they’ve actually received is less than a tenth of an inch — and lots of vegetable plants need more like an inch a week! A few good conservation measures include watering in the morning for plants to absorb what they need before midday heat causes evaporation, pulling weeds that steal water away from your desirable plants, and adding mulch around the base of your plants. Remember to water the soil, not the leaves of plants, which can lead to mildew and other problems on the foliage.
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The Ballinger Organic Garden (BOG) is a volunteer-led effort to develop a community garden at Ballinger Park. The BOG, in partnership with MLT Recreation & Parks and the MLT Senior Center and funded by a grant from the MLT Community Foundation, is currently in “Phase 0” while larger construction activities (creek restoration and trail installation) are completed. Phase 0 includes maintenance of the existing raised beds and a garden plot on the south side of the MLT Senior Center in Ballinger Park. Phase 1 will involve installation of a larger garden with plots available for community members to maintain. Want to volunteer, or have an idea of what you want to see in the future garden? Please let us know!
— By Robyn Rice
Robyn Rice grew up in Eastern Washington, pulling weeds and picking up rotten fruit as dreaded chores assigned by her Master Gardener father. Today, Robyn is a fisheries biologist for an environmental consulting firm, and has been gardening in the Seattle area since 2010. Her science background leads to endless research about the “correct” way to do things, but her enthusiasm and sense of adventure leads her to garden fearlessly because hey, what’s the worst that could happen?