Community Vegetable Garden – July

A tour of my community vegetable garden for July of 2021. Complete with drone video, more row cover than I’ve ever used and a turtle giving birth in my potato patch.

It’s currently July 20th as I write this post. These photos were taken just over a week ago. By the time this post is published a few more days will have passed. Why am I telling you this? Because by the time you see these photos everything in the garden will have doubled or even tripled in size. All in the span of 2 weeks.

In fact, if you take a look at the tall row covered structure in this photo you can see the cucumbers have grown almost halfway up the house. As of today, (a week and a half after taking these photos) the cucumbers are all the way to the top of the structure and making their way across.

In fact they got so big I had to make the tunnel taller by adding some hoops to it. Watch for the taller hoop house in this drone video that gives an overview of my garden.

If you spotted me sitting in my chair in the back of my garden YOU have just witnessed the longest sitting session in my garden to date. I do not know why I have those chairs there. I rarely use them. They’re there for when I get visitors to the garden, but since COVID is still a thing we aren’t allowed to have any visitors to the garden.

Which SUCKS. Half the reason you and I garden is so we can show our gardens off to other people. Just like we do with scabs and bruises.

Garden from Back to Front, Left to Right.

Back of garden:

Mesh hoop house with strawberries, carrots and luffah, birdhouse gourds (growing over tall arbour), raspberries and sweet potatoes in pots.

1st row:

DIY hinged hoop house with peppers and cauliflower, big compost pile under wire mesh hoop house, potting bench and chairs, hinged hoop house with broccoli and swiss chard.

2nd row:

Low tunnel with red, white and yellow onions, wheat, corn.

3rd row:

Tall hoop house with pickling cucumbers and green beans, rye, paste tomatoes.

4th row:

Squash, potatoes, zucchini, a mess of potatoes and Amaranth.

5th row:

Potatoes and beets under row cover on the left, cabbage under row cover on the right, watermelon.

6th row:

Potatoes (without any cover), dried black beans, chick peas, dried white beans.

The border running the length of the left side:

Garlic (which has since been pulled), dahlias, second planting of broccoli.

The border running the length of the right side:

Tomato alley! The tomatoes to the back of the garden are all heirloom varieties. The tomatoes in the first half towards the front of the garden are all heirloom varieties that I have grafted onto hybrid rootstock. More on grafting and the reasons behind it in a future post, but generally speaking:

Grafting Tomatoes

The reason for grafting tomatoes (literally chopping off the tops of tomato plants when they’re young and clipping them onto a strong rootstock) is to get the disease resistance and production characteristics from the hybrid rootstock while keeping the flavour and look of the heirlooms.

Grafting is one of this year’s experiment in my garden.

Another experiment was creating this arbour. You normally see these types of arbours in gardens made out of something called hog panel. Hog panel is very stiff, heavy, metal mesh. Strong enough that a 250 lb pig wouldn’t be able to break out of it.

They sell it at farm supply stores. The problem with hog panel is it’s heavy and big. You need a truck to ship it and even then it can be a pain to bend it into shape in the truck bed.

I do not have a truck. I have a Volvo.

So for years I’ve wanted to build one of these arbours but couldn’t figure out how to transport the hog panel. Then one day at my local feed store I found goat panel. It’s like hog panel but slightly more delicate. You can roll it up.

So I grabbed a roll, put it in my car last summer and couldn’t wait until spring to see if this would work. So far so good.

If it proves to be 100% successful (doesn’t come crashing down with the weight of the gourds that are going to grow over it) then I’ll do a post on how easy this was to do and how it did not require stealing a truck.

Here you can see the rye just before harvest. I planted it last fall as a cover crop on several of my beds, tilling the green plants into the soil at the beginning of the season as a green manure to nourish the soil.

This small section I left for seed for the cover crop next year and for making rye flour.

The most important thing for a garden is to keep feeding the soil.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is not taking care of the soil on an ongoing basis. You need to feed it whether you use a commercial fertilizer, compost or cover crops like this.

Why?

How Gardening Works

1. You plant your garden and the plants take up both water and nutrients that are in the soil. This gives the plant energy to grow. Certain crops are “heavier feeders” than others. For the most part, plants that grow ABOVE the soil are heavy feeders. Things like corn, tomatoes, and zucchini. Plants that grow BELOW the soil are light feeders. Things like beets, carrots and potatoes. This means beets and carrots will do fine in slightly depleted soil. Tomatoes, corn etc. will NOT do well in depleted soil.

2. At the end of the season you pull up your harvest, happy that everything did so well! You are a FANTASTIC gardener and should definitely consider starting a podcast about gardening.

3. You plant everything again the next spring and everything looks small and crappy. You cancel your podcast and cry. You don’t know why everything looks so terrible. I know why. It’s because last year’s plants used all the nutrients in the soil. This years plants want so badly to grow for you but are starving to death.

So feed your soil. At the very least at the end of every season cover your garden with a 3″ layer of compost. You can also feed your soil when fruit is forming to give an extra boost of nutrition during a time when the plants are expending a lot of energy.

People always ask me how I rotate my plants in the garden. I don’t. Some things I will rotate, but when people talk about rotating crops it’s really a concept meant for large farms that have acres in between crops. But in a backyard garden it just isn’t all that possible.

If you move your garlic 15 feet away from where you grew it last year it isn’t going to make any difference to the pest. Bugs have been known to travel 15 feet.

Now if this entire area was my garden, it might be beneficial to migrate crops from one corner to another. But not in a single plot.

Speaking of migration, the day I went to the garden to take pictures as soon as I walked in, I noticed a little something in the pathway into my potato patch.

A 4 year old painted turtle had just laid her eggs.

My garden is right smack dab in the middle of a turtle sanctuary and is monitored by turtle people. I happened to have the phone number of one of those turtle people on me so I texted her right away. She was at the garden within 15 minutes and collected the eggs to bring home to incubate. Once hatched in 11 weeks she’ll release them into a swamp/marsh so they’ll have 100% survival of making it to water when they’re born.

In other critter news, I had to cut my wheat down earlier than I wanted to because the rabbits took a liking to it. In fact seconds after spotting the turtle I took a few more steps and found a rabbit taking off from my wheat patch.

The other thing I did a bit differently this year was to really make use of row cover to keep pests off of my plants. Some covers will stay on the entire season, others I take off once the plant is big enough to withstand a rabbit or mouse attack.

Potatoes I grew both under cover and without. I’m testing whether the row cover does a good job of keeping out Colorado Potato Beetles. These things can decimate an entire potato crop. In fact they decimated mine last year which you can read about in this post on how to grow and harvest potatoes.

So far it does look like the under cover potatoes are doing better and even though there were a few potato beetles under there, it wasn’t nearly as much as the uncovered potatoes.

July really is the month your garden looks its best. Things are in tip top form, blight hasn’t yet set in, there aren’t big gaping holes where you’ve pulled out your failures (or successes!) But it isn’t the end of planting.

In the past week I’ve planted second crops and you can too.

Second Crop Plantings

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Cabbage

Carrots

Beets

Lettuce

Spinach

I’m sure there’s more, but those are the main crops I do a second planting of at this time of year. If you decide to try a second planting of something remember it takes longer the second half of the season than it does in the first because temperatures are lower and day lengths are shorter.

So for example if a seed packet says it takes 45 days to maturity, a fall season planting will take closer to 50 or 55 days to mature.

Questions? Ask away. I’ll just be over here showing my garden off to nobody for the second year in a row.

P.S. If anyone wants to see my latest bruise let me know.

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Community Vegetable Garden - July

45 Comments

  1. Karen I love your blog! This post is outstanding!! I especially love the drone shots. I have a little garden and each year have BIG plans to grow a 100 things. I get overwhelmed with where to place everything and what to cover, etc. This post is an excellent resource for me for future planning. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Karen says:

      You’re welcome! I love that feeling of seeing other gardens and being inspired and driven to do more. Very happy to inspire you! :) ~ karen

  2. Kristina says:

    Karen, I so enjoy these posts. I am a pretty good walnut farmer, but a horrible, neglectful gardener. Yours is so pretty and orderly and organized; mine is a weedy mess. Picking tomatoes is kind of like an Easter egg hunt here (I guess I can be fancy and call the weeds “forage” for beneficial insects, ditto the sunflowers popping up everywhere). It’s fun to see what you grow. So many things I put into my winter garden, you grow in summer. And turtles! So very, very cool.

  3. Garth Wunsch says:

    Good to hear another soul talking about feeding the soil, not the plant… and that crop rotation is really impractical in a home garden. Do you really add 3” of compost to your garden? That’s over 3 cubic yards on 40’ x’ 40’. There’s enough nutrients in most any spot on earth to ‘fertilize” it forever… as long as the soil biology is healthy. The microbes manufacture the nutrients from the mineral wealth of the soil to feed the plant. Tilling/digging and commercial fertilizers destroy the fungi and bacteria. If the garden shows a spike from adding commercial fertilizer, it means the biology is sick or dead. Garden on! You do good work and help many!

  4. Sarah says:

    Your garden is truly aspirational! Enjoyed this. :)

    RE: turtles. Decades ago, I was fortunate to be hired as a summer student working in the propagation department at the RBG (dream horticultural student job). The plant nursery is down at the edge of Coote’s Paradise in the Arboretum, and for a few days when we showed up for work, we found a large snapping turtle waiting at the gate to get inside the nursery to lay her eggs in the sandy soil. My unanswered question is – if the entire nursery was fenced off, how did she know to wait at the gate?? Turtles must be smarter than we think.

    • Mary C says:

      We have a momma snapper that comes through our backyard every year on the way to the nearby lake to lay eggs. She waits by the fence and then when we see her, I prop up the bottom of the fence with a couple flower pots. Once she’s through, we do the same thing at the back of the fence. A week or so later she comes back through. Repeated every year for the past ten years.

  5. Carol says:

    Hi Karen,
    Where do you buy all your row covers and screens?
    Also, Am I the only one who has problems with the animals chewing on my 1/4″ drip lines with emitters? I ended up caging most of the raised beds so they can’t get in but my panel beds with the cattle panel arbours are to large to cage. Lucky I had a spare bundle but I am going to need more for next year. :(

  6. Jody says:

    For me the best part was the saving of the turtle eggs. Well done to you and the Turtle Lady.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you ma’am! Every time I walk into the garden now I look in that spot expecting to see another turtle. Yesterday there was something there and I was shocked. Turned out to be a frog. Eating a baby toad.😳 ~ karen!

      • Sandy says:

        Let’s talk toads. I found out 2 years ago that when a dog licks a toad they foam at the mouth and their pupils dilate. Who knew? My one dog seems to seek the toads out. Always knew she was a wild child!

  7. Linda in Illinois says:

    Turtles and babies. Bruises, oh my. I love your garden and as I always say, thank you. You inspire me. Keep posting your garden updates they are terrific and help me believe my garden will one day be that nice.

    • Karen says:

      It will. And if you look, mine isn’t exactly in picture perfect condition, lol. But it’s productive and pretty much under control. Kind of. ~ karen!

  8. Tracy K says:

    Please, please, please, please, PLEASE get pics from the turtle lady of the baby turtles after they hatch!!!!

    Also, my garden is small, overrun 😅, but producing veg, flowers, and tons of Japanese beetles!!! 😑

    I’m gonna cover the whole damn thing next year.

  9. Dan Stoudt says:

    We use BT (Bacillus thuringuensis tenebrionis) for potato beetles. You still have to pick off the adults but the BT kills the larvae. Unfortunately, it’s not available in Canada. You’d have to import it from the USA.

  10. Lookin’ good over there. Happy gardening!

  11. Joyce says:

    Thank you. Just reread the bit on potatoes. I grew mine this year and last in perforated dog food sacks. Easier for me to come by than food grade plastic buckets ..and just because. I was thinking they were about ready to harvest but we have had sooooo much rain here.

    • Karen says:

      YOu can really harvest them any time. But if you wait until the plant is brown and dead you’ll get the optimal results. Potatoes that are as big as they can possibly be and their skins will have started to toughen up and cure. ~ karen!

  12. fairy says:

    When I go out into the garden (my back yard) I put on long stockings and tuck my long pants inside. I tuck my hair up in a hat. I spray my neck and arms. When I see your bare limbs, I’m flabbergasted. Don’t you have mosquitoes? We have ticks. I’m terrified of them. What do you do?

    • Karen says:

      I spray myself with Deet. Not the best choice, but I’ve already had 2 ticks this year, one of them being an immature deer tick – which is the most dangerous. It’s often close to 100 degrees F with 80%+ humidity here so putting on long pants and shirts just isn’t an option without expecting to faint from the heat, lol. If it’s cool enough that’s exactly what I do. Pants into socks with feet in boots. I still spray Deet all over my boots though. ~ karen!

  13. Jane says:

    What about peas in the second planting?

    Owing to one of your past post about growing sweet potatoes, I’m trying it this year. Silly me, didn’t realize it’s a vine! I still have more slips to put in, wonder if it’s already too late.

  14. Betty Sherman says:

    Are you still happy with the irrigation?

  15. Jennie says:

    Wish I lived closer. You could use my truck anytime you needed it.

  16. Allyson says:

    The garden is so bountiful and beautiful! What do you do with all the veggies other than eating, sharing with friends and family and preserving the ones you can? Seems to be so so many and then even a second crop of some. Love your posts…always get good info and a chuckle or outright belly laughs!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Allyson. That’s it. That’s what I do with all the food, lol. You have to remember other than meat and the odd bit of vegetables from the grocery store it’s my food for the entire year. In the past (though not this year) I’ll also give extra to Food banks. ~ karen!

  17. Debra Lancaster says:

    Did you do the second plantings by putting seeds directly in the ground?

    • Karen says:

      Some I planted directly in the ground and some I started earlier at home in pots. Carrots went directly in the ground for instance, but the beets I started in a pot and then transplanted when they were at the 1st true leaf stage. Broccoli were seedlings bought from a store. Lettuce and radishes will go in soon and they’ll be seeded directly into the soil. ~ karen!

  18. Irene says:

    Hi. Not your doing, so I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but, you know the annoying ad in front of the video you want to watch that you’re forced to wait through? Today there were five in a row, effectively putting paid to any desire to sit through all of them to get to the video. ☹️
    Not good for the person who went to all the trouble to create and post.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Irene. Sorry about that – it sounds like it was a glitch as opposed to something that’s normal around here. Thanks for letting me know. ~ karen!

  19. Jak says:

    WOW! – thanks for sharing; you’re an inspiration; loving your style too :)

  20. sandy says:

    I live in a room in a shared flat in london. I have lots of potplants in my room but that’s as good as it get’s for me at the moment. Thank you for letting me live vicariously through your garden and homely home. One day….oooone day, i miiiiight be able to do what you do with my own little place.

    • Karen says:

      You definitely can! ~ karen

    • Micki says:

      I am like Sandy in that I also live vicariously through your garden! I sit and dream and then head to the farmer’s market on Wednesdays. So thank you from all of us who, for some reason or other, cannot garden but appreciate those who do!
      P.S. although today the turtle was the BEST part!!! 🙃

  21. Hanna says:

    Karen,
    Could you clarify about this ‘days to maturity’, because mine always seem to take waaaay longer. Is this from the day you plant the seed until the day you can harvest, or from the day it emerges from the soil, or …….?

    • Paula says:

      If I may help…my understanding of days to maturity is: from the time the plant is planted into the garden.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Hanna. The number is meant to represent the days it should take from planting to harvest. But I agree, lol. It’s rarely accurate just because it’s based on everything being ideal. I tend to think it’s more accurate if you start the count once the seed has germinated and emerged. ~ karen!

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