The advantage of not having over-planted a summer food garden is that you will have room to plant fall crops in the next month or two. You can start seeding some of your cool-weather veggies indoors. Many fall veggies like to start in warm soil and finish in cool weather. Crops that can be seeded indoors this month include cabbage, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, spinach and assorted greens (Asian greens, mustard and the like). In August, this list will expand. Read more about planning your fall vegetable garden.
In the Garden
It's Getting Hot, Hot, Hot!
Food Gardening With Less Water
During our hot, dry Sonoma County summer, food gardeners need
1) to provide enough water to their crops in order to replace the amount lost to surface evaporation and plant transpiration (the "ET Rate") AND
2) to do so in a manner that conserves water.
Answer: Victory Garden
Released in May
Visit the UC Agricultural and Natural Resources website for more information on veggie gardening and other gardening projects and issues that you may want to address in your self-isolation.
Food Garden Tips
July Food Garden Tasks and Tips
For what to grow this month, click here.
- Weeds are easiest to control when they are small. They will grow large rapidly in a garden bed that is irrigated, and it is important not to let them flower and go to seed. Hand pull or hoe weeds. If you haven’t installed drip in your veggie bed and your water quality permits using drip—do it! It’s the most efficient delivery of water to your veggies in a drought year AND you won’t be watering weeds inadvertently.
- As the summer heats up and soil moisture evaporates at a higher rate, adjust your irrigation. Ideally, water between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Avoid fluctuations in soil moisture. The soil near the roots should remain evenly moist, not soggy to avoid problems such as fruit cracking and blossom end rot in tomatoes. Keep the active root zone (usually 6 to 12 inches) moist by watering daily, if possible. The AVERAGE summer evapotranspiration rate requires 1” of water per square foot—about 2/3 gallon per square foot per week. Divide that into daily applications (or do the best you can if you can't water daily). Many gardeners do not water their tomatoes after they start to set fruit. By then, they will have developed deep roots which will find enough water.
- If you are container gardening, add a complete slow-release fertilizer but consider adding half of the manufacturer’s recommendation. A second half dose can always be applied later if the plant seems to need it.
- Follow-up feedings may be required periodically through the growing season for heavy feeders and long-season crops if a controlled-release fertilizer was not applied at planting. Side dressing your plants with 2 inches of compost will do the trick. Fruiting plants benefit especially from phosphorus and potassium; if using an organic fertilizer, use half of the manufacturer’s recommended amount.
- Keep herbs pinched back to control their size, to encourage new tender growth and to discourage them from bolting. Let a few plants flower to attract beneficials but be mindful of free-seeding plants such as cilantro.
- Fertilize fruit trees with a half application of nitrogen in July or August if mature fruit trees have not put out sufficient shoot growth and/or good fruit set. However, if your trees are stressed for any reason—such as low water availability—avoid fertilizing them as overuse of fertilizer increases growth and water demands. If water is unavailable, do not fertilize at all because trees will be unable to absorb the nutrients. If the tree is developing fruit, this is a critical watering period. Add a three- to four-inch mulch layer to retain moisture, but keep the mulch 12 inches away from the trunk.
- If you haven’t already added flowering herbs or ornamentals in or near your food garden, do so now to attract beneficial insects. Low-water options such as Achillea (yarrow), Coreopsis, rosemary, thyme, chives and Salvia (sage), add a colorful touch.
- Remember to look at your planting calendar, annotated with days to maturity, so that you harvest your crops at their peak of flavor.
- Is the summer garden infested? An insecticidal soap spray or a horticultural oil will smother many soft-bodied pests including aphids, mites, thrips and whiteflies without harming many beneficial insects and bees. Also, watch for codling moth larvae on pears and apples (tell-tale red-brown droppings), referring to UC IPM for infestation control. Larger pests such as hornworms and squash bugs can be handpicked and dropped into a container of soapy water or cut hornworms in half with garden shears.
- Click here for ongoing monthly tasks.