Tuesday, 3 July 2018

July Garden Rambllings

Welcoming the month of July, with high hopes for better weather than we have been having thus far … We seem to be off to a good start, with sunshine and temps in the low 20's this week.


So much to do in the garden this month, but we also begin to reap the rewards... tomatoes are growing and ripening, cucumbers and peas for ready for nibbling, and early spuds for the bbq. 


What to do this month... 

1. Weeding. Try to remember to run your hoe (I loved my Winged Weeders) through the pathways and in between the rows of veggies once a week to prevent weeds from taking hold.

If you have a really weedy bed, sucking up all your time, you need to smother those weeds.
Knock the weeds down first and lay down a couple of sheets of newsprint (worry not, they use vegetable based dyes so are completely safe to use). Weight down the paper with grass clippings, straw, manure, or other organic material. This is all great material that breaks down throughout the season, feeding the soil while keeping weeds at bay.

Alternately, you can omit the newsprint and just smother out the weeds with a good, thick layer of compost or manure, go at least 3 inches thick.  


2. Watering. For the healthiest plants and best tasting veggies, you want to water deeply but less often, using either soaker hoses or drip tube systems. Over head watering promotes fungal issues such as powdery mildew and does not build deep root systems, making plants more prone to pests and disease. 

Water once or twice a week, but water very thoroughly. Most crops (carrots, peas, spuds, etc...) only need a good soak every 5 to 7 days, while 'juicy' or 'watery' ones like tomatoes and cucumbers require water twice a week. A good deep soak every 3 days is much better for your plants than a shallow one daily, and your veggies taste better, too. Never bland or bitter.


3. Feeding. If you already have great soil that you feed annually, you will not require a whole lot of additional feeding. However, if things are looking a bit peaked or in need of a mid-season boost, feed with any or all of the following...
 
- Side dressing with manure, compost, or alfalfa, builds up your soil and feeds the plants.
- Spray tomatoes, roses, cucumbers (anything looking a bit tired/peaked) with a foliar feed of manure/compost tea or with liquid seaweed/kelp.
- Water plants with organic, water soluble vegetable food or manure tea.
- Scratch in organic, granular feed that breaks down slowly to feed the plants all summer.

For manure tea and other recipes, see HERE!


4. Pest control. The very best pest control that you can have is a wildlife friendly yard. Make your yard hospitable to all sorts of critters (snakes, frogs, hummingbirds...) with a natural and organic habitat.
Birds and beneficial insects will literally eat hundreds of bugs daily, talk about organic pest control! To entice these guys into the garden, you need to plant lots of flowers and herbs.
Any and all flowers are helpful but these 5 are the very best of the best... Marigolds, sweet alyssum, calendula, zinnias, and nasturtiums. I also regularly add lots of geraniums, snapdragons, and herbs of all kinds.

If you have a pest problem now, it is not too late to add flowers and herbs to your garden. In fact, you can probably even get them at sale prices! Add lots of variety for the best results.

That said, there are several other things that you can do..
Aphids. The easiest and most eco-friendly method of control is to blast them off with a strong jet of water. I use this method the most. However, if you have lots and the water is not working, blast with water, spray plant with Safer's Soap, leave on for 15 minutes, rinse off. I always recommend rinsing the soap off as it is better for the plant not to be covered with a  layer of soap, and it also prevents damage to any bees or beneficial insects that might land on them. I have seen bees die after landing on soap sprayed roses, well after the soap had already dried, and never ever want to be the cause of that again.
Caterpillars. Pick off and squish or drown. If you prefer a product, look into an organic product called BTK, sold at most all garden centres.
Stink bugs, squash bugs, etc... pick off and drown in soapy water. Nothing else works. Do a thorough garden clean up in fall, leaving nothing for them to lay eggs on to over-winter.
Slugs. Slug bait or beer traps.
Carrot rust flies or onions maggot flies. Cover with white garden blanket or bug netting. They both allow in water and sunlight, but the bug netting lets the heat out while the blanket tends to hold in the heat and 'cook' the plants. Bug netting is also fantastic for all the above pests. Best pest control you can use, super effective, works on every pest, easy to use, and all organic. Worth every penny.


5. Disease control. Water at ground level only, do not wet the foliage with over head or sprinkler watering.

Water early in the day so as not to have the ground go into the night time wet.

Remove any foliage that looks spotty, yellow, or 'off' to prevent the spread of any possible problems. Most times it is just the oldest leaves, the bottom ones, that are beginning to fade, but by removing anything that looks suspect, you may just be nipping a bigger problem in the bud.


Flower baskets ...

To keep hanging baskets looking good all summer long, water thoroughly every day or two. I am currently only watering every 2nd or 3rd day but that will change to daily as the summer heats up. Water so that it is flowing freely from the bottom. Repeat. 

Shower all flowers and foliage with a strong spray of water each time you water. This will rehydrate the foliage, blast off dead flower and leaf bits, dislodge any bugs that may be trying to settle in.

If you have a moss basket, soak through the centre of the basket till water is flowing through, then the soil on the edges of the basket, the moss on the outside, and then spray the entire basket with a strong shower for happy thriving flowers.  

If your basket does dry out, plunge it into a bucket or sink of water and let sit for several hours to rehydrate. Pinch off anything that did not bounce back. 

Deadhead spent blossoms and pinch lanky stems regularly! Feed every week or two with a bloom booster fertiliser, something with a bigger middle number, like 15-30-15. 


Container flowers and veggies... 

Water everything every day or two, except peppers, which only need water once a week. 

Feed flowering containers weekly with a bloom booster, as mentioned above for the baskets. this will keep your potted plants well fed and flowering all summer. 

Feed potted tomatoes and peppers with two tablespoons of Epsom salts once a month. Just toss on top of the soil and it will be dispersed to the roots as you water.

Feed all veggies in pots with manure/compost tea (recipe above in the post) or with an organic veggie/tomato fertiliser.



Garlic! 

Leave garlic in the ground till half green/half brown, with only the top 5 leaves still green. Do not water during the last 2 to 3 weeks before harvest.

We have had some cool, grey weather and a bit of rain in the past few weeks, so ideally, our garlic needs more time to dry before we lift it. However, if yours is ready to go, has more brown leaves than green, you really have no choice.

I lifted one of my garlic varieties yesterday, to leave them any longer would likely have not been a good idea. The bulbs were very wet, full of moisture, and the soil was really sticking to them. This will make it harder for the them to cure properly.

To set out to cure.. brush the soil off of the bulbs with your hands. Take care not to bruise, nick, or damage the bulbs as rot will quickly settle into any physical damage. Do not wash with water!

My bulbs were so wet that the first layer of skin just slid off of the bulbs with the soil. This does not hurt the garlic as they still have several layers of skin left (each leaf on the stalk is one layer), but it was somewhat disconcerting.

Set your garlic out to cure in a place that has great air flow and out of direct sunlight. A carport works great for this, my friend hangs hers in the gazebo. You can also place them on a shady side of the house that gets no direct light. If you have no such spot and must cure them in the shed or garage, leave the door open and run a fan for better air flow.

You can either lay them out or hang them up to cure. I place mine on tables, making sure that the bulbs are all spread out and not bunched together. You can use a pallet for this, which has air flow from underneath, as well (save the pallet for curing your squash later).
If you prefer, you can also hang them up, either singly or in staggered bundles of 8 to 10 bulbs.

Leave be for 2 to 3 weeks before you begin to remove stalks, clean the bulbs, braid them, etc... If you want to braid your garlic, do so now, at this partially cured staged, while the tops are still semi-green and pliable. Then leave them to cure for another couple of weeks. I cure mine for 4 to 6 weeks.

For more information about harvesting, curing, cleaning, growing garlic, put garlic in the search bar and you will find many posts as I seem to have endlessly blogged about garlic ; )


Last, but not least, on this month's long list of to-do's.. What to plant now

Is there a garden after garlic? Yes, absolutely! 

If you want to use that garlic bed for more garlic again in fall, plant veggies that you can harvest by the end of summer. 

Check the back of the seed package for the number of days till harvest, sow varieties that take about 50 days to mature.  

Plant these now for a summer or fall harvest.
- Beets
- Bush Beans. Pole beans have a much longer maturity time, bush beans will be in 45 to 55 days
- Summer broccoli
- Scallions (Green onions)
- Turnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga
- Peas
- Chard
- Summer squash, like zucchini and pattypans
- Spinach, lettuce, greens. (Sow these in a semi-shady bed, not in full sun) Succession sow for the best results.


As you finish harvesting your spring planted veggies, or your bolting lettuces and radishes, plan (and plant) your winter garden now.

Start or sow these guys now for winter/spring 2019 harvest

- Carrots! Last chance to plant. If you plant now they will still have time to size up by fall, if you plant too late, they will be too small and will not begin to grow again in spring, but will instead flower and get hairy. No one, but no one, likes hairy carrots! 
- Cabbage (winter)
- Purple sprouting broccoli (spring)
- Cauliflower (fall/winter)
- Kale
- Walla walla onions (spring)
- Brussels sprouts
- Leeks
- Chard
- Parsnips


  More information about fall, winter and spring 2019 planting coming very, very soon.

Happy Gardening!  








     

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