It’s July in Pennsylvania and it is hot. It is humid. It is make it or break it time in the garden. For my garden, July is the time of year that sets the stage for the remainder of the season. I usually get a short break between all the planting, weeding, and harvesting of spring vegetables. Take too much time off and a disaster awaits.
Almost everything from this point on, aside from harvesting, will ensure that my garden finishes strong, and starts the preparations for next season.
Fertilizing. I side dress everything with compost and continue with my mix of fish emulsion, kelp, and Epsom salt sprays every two weeks.
Weeding. Weed control is a never ending battle, and I have learned the hard way if you don’t keep up with it, you have just lost the battle. As I get older I have gotten a little more mechanized, adding cultivators to my tractor, and building new raised beds every year. At this rate, I should have enough by the time I’m 90.
Cover Crops. As crops come out, I fill the space with a cover of buckwheat and winter rye. There are a gazillion different opinions on cover crops and their applications, but I have found the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Super Simple) method of cover cropping has worked best for me. Right now I will be pulling potatoes, and starting a cover in that bed.
Harvest. Like I mentioned previously, I have already harvested potatoes, beets, peas, lettuces, some herbs, cabbage, and broccoli, just to name a few. I am relatively new to blueberries, strawberries, grapes and asparagus, so there was little to harvest this year. My corn should be ready toward the end of July, early August.
Seed Saving. I leave a few plants from the spring crop that I let go to seed and they are starting to come in now. Broccoli, cabbage, and arugula are close to being ready. I have already taken seed from the crops that have already bolted like lettuce and peas.
IPM. Integrated Pest Management continues through out this time of year, and honestly is more difficult to keep up with than the weeding. I am exclusively using neem oil, hand picking, and Bt for all of my crops. I am amazed at the effectiveness of these products. This is the first year that I have made a concerted effort to maintain this practice of neem spray, and the results are fantastic.
My biggest nemesis each year are Japanese Beetles. Using neem sprays every 10 – 14 days and after each substantial rain has made a significant difference. Last year my cherry trees were decimated, every leaf skeletinized. I am still seeing a ton of beetles, but they have virtually ignored my plants. I hate to think what the neighbors garden looks like. One question you may ask is why not treat the grubs? Well the answer is simply, it won’t matter. In my general area 4 acres is the minimum, and unless everyone is treating for grubs, then it is a waste of time, money and effort.
Preserving. I am seeing quite a few large peppers, banana peppers, and others so I would imagine I will be harvesting soon. I grew over 150 assorted peppers this year with the goal to pickle and dry as many as I can. I already have a few quarts of beets put up and corn and tomatoes will be in soon. Last year I harvested 43 dozen ears of corn and have a substantial amount remaining in the freezer, so this year will be for fresh eating only.
Fall Garden. I am starting to prepare harvested beds with cover crops and preparing others for the fall garden. My fall crops will consist of peas, beets, cabbage, broccoli, and assorted lettuces. Next year I think I will change my M.O. a little, growing a larger fall garden than I do in the spring. There is simply too many things to do in the spring, and often my spring crops suffer because of this. I will still grow enough for fresh eating but I think I’ll save the majority of these for the fall, we will see how it goes. I am especially interested in seeing how the broccoli and cabbages will do this time of year.
Poultry. I have been raising chickens for a few years now and this is the first year I have been successful (up to this point) with turkeys (Predator issues). Due to a few vacations and trips, the time-frame didn’t work out for hatching chicks either. I have a batch in now, due in another two weeks, so we will see how that goes. Turkeys should be ready to process in another 6 weeks. I got four this year, hoping to come out with two in the end, but I guess my predator controls worked better than I thought. I have a few friends that may benefit from my good fortune as well.
Well, that wraps it up for July. All of this thrown in with a few hours each week of grass cutting, and there you have it. Let’s see what happens in August.