July marks the beginning of the fall vegetable gardening season in our zone 7.
Whether you are a beginning gardener or an expert, there are many foods you can grow at home starting now that will be ready to harvest by fall. The cooler nights of fall provide the right conditions for the plants to mature before frost.
Some vegetables will be more successful if the seeds are container-started in part-shade this month and transplanted out into the garden when the soil is cooler. These include cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, leaf lettuce, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
After a month in containers, the plants should be well-rooted and ready to be hardened-off by giving them more and more sunlight over a period of 3 to 6 days.
Lettuce seeds will not germinate in temperatures over 70-degrees F. In order to start lettuce for a fall harvest the seeds are planted in seed starting mix and kept cool until they emerge. Then the seedlings are grown into small plants in individual containers, hardened off and planted.
The soil in vegetable rows has to be kept moist with regular watering. Row cover shading fabric can be suspended over the plants to reduce soil surface drying. Mulch helps retain moisture and diligent weeding prevents weeds from stealing the available water.
With the exception of peas and beans, seeds can be soaked overnight to hasten germination. For small-scale growing, vegetable seeds can be planted into peat moss-lined furrows that help hold moisture.
These seeds can be planted directly into your garden in July: Beans such as pole beans and cowpeas, corn, pumpkins, summer squash, winter squash, and cilantro. Eggplant, tomatoes, tomatillo, and peppers should be planted as seedlings so start those seeds in containers now to get them into the garden by the middle or end of the month.
Some vendors such as Lisa Merrell, the Tomato Man’s Daughter, re-open in July, selling the tomato and vegetable start varieties specifically selected for fall gardening. Merrell’s plant list is on her website or you can contact her directly for more details: http://tomatomansdaughter.homestead.com, email@example.com and 918-446-7522.
Winter squash, pumpkins and potatoes store well for winter use. Seed potatoes can be cut into 1.5 ounce pieces and planted in deep furrows after 5 days of curing at 45 to 65 degrees F. Plant the cured starts 2-inches deep and cover with a mulch of straw or other loose, organic material to keep them as cool as possible.
August provides the next opportunity to plant seeds of vegetables that prefer the cooler temperatures that will arrive with shortening days.
At the beginning of August plant beet and carrot seeds that have been soaked overnight. Chinese cabbage, turnips, collards and other greens such as kale and chard can be also started from seed the first of Aug.
Using the cool-start method, leafy salad vegetables such as arugula and lettuce can be started by seed or plants.
Bush beans, lima beans, green peas, radish, rutabaga and cucumber seeds are planted mid-August.
September and October is onion and garlic planting time but you can also put in leeks by seed or by using seedlings. My best success with leeks is to start the seeds in cell trays indoors, gradually harden them off outside and put them into the garden properly spaced and ready to grow over the winter for a spring harvest.
Mustard greens need only 40 days to be ready to eat when planted from seed, so they are often put out mid-September.
All of these dates are variable, of course. We have planted garlic as late as November and still had a good crop the next summer at harvest time.