Wednesday, July 6, 2011

DIY almanac: what to plant in the garden in July

July is a very busy and very rewarding month for vegetable gardening. This year we've had a long, cold spring but I'm hoping that summer is here at last. According to the forecast we're supposed to have 10 straight days of sunshine, so I've been working hard outside to take full advantage of the light, doing more intensive-weeding, feeding my already established plants and sowing lots of seeds (mainly beans and winter squash) in preparation for growth. It's funny because every time we have a sunny day I swear my Hop vines grow half a foot! Along with the work I've been enjoying lots of homegrown peas, potatoes, cucumbers, kale, turnips, early onions and more at my dinner table.

Anyway, a big part of planning for July planting is considering when the next major killing frost will be and how this compares to the length of time it will take for vegetables to mature (usually noted on seed packets in days unless you've memorized the planting rhythms). Last year, the earliest frost we had was in late October...I remember this because I made the mistake of leaving some of my harvested sugar pie pumpkins out on the porch. The frost hit them and they became mushy. Sad story. At least this was after I had had the chance to make a few batches of pumpkin chili, a pie, bread and "pumpkins stuffed with everything good" (a recipe I heard on NPR), so I did get to enjoy most of them.

Another planting consideration to make is to anticipate what kind of weather we'll have from July through October. Most vegetables can be planted and grown now, but some might not do as well with the raising temperatures. Potatoes, for instance, prefer a long, cold start and are usually best planted around the end of March. I've heard of folks having some success planting them late, but I suspect that yields won't be as much as they could be. However, one should consider that we've had a funky spring, so maybe planting potatoes now could be like a game of catch-up. Peas are another crop that are usually planted in early spring. I have heard of people planting a second crop for fall. Yields, again, might not be as good as the prior crop, but if anything, you're building up the nitrogen in your planting space and controlling weed growth, so the peas are acting like a green manure. Pea vines are also delicious sauteed in a hot pan. If lettuces, spinach, and arugula get too hot, they'll bolt (go to seed), but it's good to throw them in the garden anyway. I usually try to put them on the shadier side of my garden, or plant them as living "row covers" between plants like squash and corn.

In early July you'll want to plant the following:
-beans! get them in now
-corn (it's a little later to plant corn, but we have had a weird spring and some local farmers have had to replant their corn too)
-winter squash (pumpkins, delicata, acorn, spaghetti...I'm holding sugar pie pumpkin seeds in the photo above)
-second-crops of summer squash (like zucchini, patty pan, crookneck, etc)
-salad greens, chard
-root crops like beets, carrots and parsnips

In mid July you'll want to plant the following:
-cabbage family members like kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and kale for overwintering (a touch of frost makes them taste extra sweet)
-arugula, spinach

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