July’s Garden – There is Still Time to Plant

Steamy July is later than backyard gardeners usually think of sowing seeds. You look out at all the telescoping lettuce and spinach and yellow broccoli blossoms and promise yourself to do better next year. Actually, though, this is a great time to plan green beans, summer squash, cucumbers, warm weather herbs like basil and cilantro (coriander greens), and even the faster varieties (less than 100 days) of corn, melons and even pumpkins or winter squash. The estimated maturation dates on the seed packets which are over-optimistic earlier in the season are much more accurate when the soil is warm and nights are long. Also we usually have a handle on slugs and snails by now, and seedlings won’t get wiped out by rains or chilly weather.

Even if you already have these vegetables growing, the plants will have burned out by late summer when these later sowings come in. Killing frosts seldom strike in Boulder Creek before late October. What could be more delightful than a September meal of fresh green beans with garlicky pesto or sweet buttery corn on the cob not long before Halloween?

Just remember to mulch well with leaf mold, old straw or anything else you can find to conserve soil moisture. Never turn your soil over or  uncover the compost heap at this hot time of year unless you are actually going to plant right away and keep those beds moist. Otherwise you will fry the little soil organisms and lose precious fertility.

You should begin to sow brassica seeds (cabbage, cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale and collards) and leeks too at the end of this  month to transplant in August for your fall and winter garden. Ideally you have a slightly shaded spot to put your seed flats or pots while they germinate. If you get the timing figured out, and overcome summer lethargy, your seedlings will be sturdy and ready to be harvested as the days shorten and it gets cold,. They will also grow more slowly and hold well in the outdoor “refrigerator”, unlike spring crops that tend to bolt to seed. Your produce will be as easy to pick as going to the market.

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