July Vegetable Garden Checklist Tips from Paula Wolfel
The July heat slows things down in the Austin vegetable garden. For most gardeners, July gardening consists of either trying to keep plants alive with daily watering until the temperatures drop again in late summer, or planning for their fall gardens. Heat and lack of rain can adversely affect growth and pollination so if your plants are not producing new fruits but remain green, try to hold tight until the temperatures drop. And in the meantime, start planning your fall garden. For those plants that have given up and have turned brown, or have succumbed due to pests and disease, pull them from your garden to make room for fall crops.
Your July Vegetable Garden Checklist:
- Water remains the most important factor in the garden as the temperatures remain consistently above 90 degrees.
- Continue to water your plants at the soil line every day if needed and give them a long, deep water once a week.
- Over- fertilizing in summer is a common plant killer. Excess fertilizer (especially nitrogen) can burn plants in dry weather. This happens because the salts in fertilizer draw moisture out of plants that they are not able to replenish from soil moisture or retain due to evaporation on hot days. Lack of moisture results in scorched leaves resembling fire damage, or “burn”.
- Use liquid fertilizers and be sure to water deeply.
- Mulch all bare soil.
- Clean up any dead plants.
- Corn (late month)
- Greens- warm season (all month)
- Eggplant (late month)
- Peppers (mid-late month)
- Tomatoes (all month for harvest before first freeze). Cherry tomatoes have an easier time setting fruit when it’s hot.
Transplants or Seeds:
- Okra (late month)
- Peas, southern (late month)
- Squash, winter (late month)
DISEASES OR PESTS TO WATCH FOR
- Spider mites thrive in dry, hot conditions and the warmer days will make aphids prevalent on stressed plants. Remove both with blasts of water to the underside of leaves. Remove any heavily infested plants from the garden.
- Powdery Mildew: a fungal disease that affects many plants in the garden and is especially prevalent during times of high humidity.
- Pull up any tomato plants that are infested with pest damage or disease. Whatever malady they are suffering from will get worse, not better, during the stress of summer heat. Use green tomatoes for roasted tomato salsa, chow-chow relish, fried green tomatoes, or chop and add to a vegetable sauté. Or place on your counter upside down near a banana or in a brown paper bag and let them ripen.
- Melons, peppers, and eggplant handle Texas heat better than tomatoes. Keep them watered and mulched. Even if they pause production during summer’s peak, they will power through and produce a bumper crop this fall.
- Your July vegetable garden checklist should also include tool maintenance. Get things in tip-top shape while things are slowing down.
Start Planning Your Fall Garden
Vegetables for the fall garden include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, kale, beets, Swiss chard, carrots and sugar-snap peas, as well as bush beans, cucumbers and summer squash. In choosing frost-tender varieties look for those that have a short ‘days to harvest’, generally less than 65 days, so that plants have enough time to mature and produce before the first anticipated frost in Central Texas, which typically comes the end of November or first week of December.
Check your seed inventory and peruse seed catalogs for varieties you want to plant. You can save money by growing your own transplants of fall crops indoors under grow lights. Start planting seeds of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and other falls crops later this month so they will be ready for setting in the garden by mid-September.
Sketch out a rotation plan for growing vegetables. Crops within the same family are often susceptible to the same pests or diseases. Moving or rotating them to a different location helps break the pest and disease cycle.
About Paula Wolfel
Paula Wolfel joined the Travis County Master Gardener program in 2022, but has been gardening in Austin, Texas since 2017. She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago learning how to garden from both her father—a Sicilian vegetable and fruit tree gardener—and both her grandmothers, and then spent years in Virginia gardening. Paula loves gardening because she finds it to be a grounding force- it gets her out of her head and into the present. She loves the pride that comes with cooking a meal for her family with every ingredient coming from her garden… and then the humility she feels when she loses an entire crop because of Mother Nature. She finds gardening to be wisdom, lessons, best practices passed down generation to generation, season to season and hopes to share that with you.