Starting a garden in July: what to plant and how

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A happy, fulfilled garden.

It’s July. It’s hot (finally). And fresh, local food is once again becoming bountiful.

20120314-DSC00395

A sad, empty garden

Farmers markets, CSA’s and Upicks food is everywhere; not to mention the closest access point of all, your own garden. Which, for most of you, I’m sure are well on their way to being a wildly productive food factory. But maybe some of you, are a little slow off the mark. Maybe some of you are like me, and find yourselves in the first week of July  eyeing the neighbours garden, thinking, “wouldn’t it be nice to have one of those for myself?”. Or jealous of their neighbours crop of fresh salad greens, Or maybe you’ve just moved into a new house and find yourself playing garden catch-up.

“Oh well, maybe next year..”, some might think…BUT wait! You don’t have to wait ‘till next year. You can still plant a garden NOW.

Don’t be ashamed of being a little slow. The soil is warmed up, and you’ll be surprised with how fast things will grow.

~~The following are a few tips and ideas on what to grow~~

1)   Find out when your first threat of frost is. Here in Nova Scotia its around October 1st. Use this, along with the # of days until maturity (found on the back of the seed package) to calculate how much growing time you have. For example, it says 65 days to maturity for my peas, I should plant the seed 75 days before first frost (extra 10 days account for diminishing daylight in fall).

2)   Plant transplants. At this time of year, you can take advantage of the fire sales on transplants. This is especially important for the slower growing, heat loving plants like tomatoes and peppers. And other slow growers like cabbage and cauliflower and leeks.

Rootbound seedling

Rootbound seedling

~A Note about transplant~ … bigger is not always better. Large plants may have grown too large for their pots, their roots forming a thick web. This is called Root bound, and can mean that the plant hasn’t been receiving proper nutrient. SO, when picking out your transplants, make sure the roots aren’t hanging out the bottom of the pot.  Smaller, younger plants, will often be healthier and once planted will quickly grow to match the size of the larger, less healthy, root bound plant.  (If you fall into the category of “Its too late!  I already bought the largest tomato I could find!” Read on at bottom)

3)   Seeds not only need heat but also water to germinate. Make sure the soil is moist and kept moist while you wait for your seeds to germinate. This could mean daily watering in July. In other words, even before you can see your plants emerging from the soil, keep soil moist.

4)   Fast growers for quick success:

  • Radish- 20 days to harvest, Wowza!
  • IMG_0404Lettuce and arugula: can quickly bolt (flower and go to seed) in hot weather. But planted in the shade of taller plant it will      continue to produce. Also, read seed packages and find varieties that are more heat tolerant.
  • Beans (some bush varieties only need 6 weeks to mature!)
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Summer squash/zucchini
  • Turnips: although considered a cool season crop, will do well throughout the summer in northern climates, and only take 35days of growing.

5)   Think ahead. July is an excellent time to plant things that’d you’d like to harvest in the fall.

  • Carrots (can sew right up until mid-august)
  •  Beets
  • Broccoli (90 days before first frost),
  • Peas
  • Potatoes- pick an early maturing type like Yukon Gold.

These growing lists are far from complete. But hopefully, if you’re still thinking of planting a garden, this will get you started. Happy planting!

***What to do with Rootbound transplants***

Remove from Pot. Gently massage the root mass in order to tease apart roots. In extreme situations, you may want to use scissors to cut vertical sections into the root mass. Although this is an invasive interventions, it will encourage new root growth. Plant seedling immediately after operation.

2 thoughts on “Starting a garden in July: what to plant and how

  1. Thank you for this post! I’m an avid CSA-er (I have been writing my experiences on my blog), but new to gardening and my lettuce keeps bolting! This is also a perfect reference to make sure I’ll have continuous growth/harvest all summer next year – I will be bookmarking this page for sure, so thanks for sharing your expertise!

  2. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Here in Sackville we deal with similar plantings – much of the time folks aren’t certain if they will stay in Sackville for the summer and once they find out it’s nearly July. It is only then that they can commit themselves to a plot at the community garden and often times believing that their efforts are futile as other gardeners are dealing with potato bugs or bolting. This is a great way to surpass all of the issues that the “late” starters can expect and get on with growing!

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