Welcome to July, the month you realize you’ve grown your very own produce aisle where you can take anything you want for free. You don’t even need a coupon.
July is my favourite month to spend time in the garden. The birds are active, butterflies are making the rounds and honeybees are pollen-drunk. Every plant you nurtured and worried about is grown and lush (or dead and forgotten about) and there’s an abundance of food that you can finally pick and eat. It’s very, very exciting.
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What to Expect In July
If you followed my June garden advice to keep everything watered, weeded and pest free, the only thing you need do in July is pick vegetables and brag.
And keep everything watered, weeded and pest free.
And maybe buy a nail brush.
The difference between June and July garden work is that in July you get rewarded for all the work with fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic.
You've also possibly been discouraged to the point of giving up by July.
DON'T DO THAT.
It takes a remarkably long time to get really good at gardening. Way longer than most hobbies. Why is that?
It's basic math.
Take baking for instance. Let's say you want to be a REALLY good baker, but you bake a cake and it sucks. It's awful. But you want to try again.
So next week you buy more ingredients and you bake another cake. It's a bit better. You continue trying. By the end of one year you'll have baked 52 cakes. That's 52 times you've been able to try again and fix your mistakes in one year.
But growing vegetables?
Take it from Eminem.
With gardening you only have one shot a year because it takes 3-4 months for your vegetables to "bake". If something screws up in that time your window of opportunity (daylight & heat) has passed and you have to wait an ENTIRE YEAR before you can try again.
That is why it takes a long time to get good at gardening. And why it's so disappointing when things go sideways on you.
You only have one (maybe 2) chances a year to try it.
Also the fact that Google gives a shit-ton of bad advice for gardening doesn't help.
Like I always say - to learn about gardening go to personal blogs where people ACTUALLY garden. Get advice from experienced gardeners - not The Spruce.
JULY GARDENING TASKS
- Keep weeding, watering and watching for pests.
- Keep everything tied and staked up neatly to reduce disease and increase production. It just makes things easier all around.
- Stop watering your garlic 2 weeks before it is ready to harvest. A good rule of thumb is that once the bottom leaves of the garlic start to get the slightest bit brown, STOP watering.
- Formulate a plan for getting rid of your zucchini. If you grew more than one zucchini plant you’re going to need to give a lot away. By the end of July neighbours, friends and family will no longer be pleased when you thrust a zucchini in their faces. Look for open car windows and just drop zucchini in as you walk past. Seriously. Getting rid of the abundance of zucchini will become a full time job. Maybe wear a disguise.
PESTS AND SOLUTIONS
In July the pests get bigger and grosser. This month they’re attacking your actual vegetables as opposed to just the plants. It will make you angry, disheartened and vengeful. Direct all those emotions into eradicating them.
July is when the scary bugs come out to play. Vine Borers and Tomato Hornworm are two pests that can kill you plants almost overnight. And you WON’T even see it coming – unless you know what to look for. I’m about to tell you what to look for.
SQUASH VINE BORERS
If you’ve ever grown a beautiful tangled mess of squash vines only to find them completely wilted almost overnight, chances are you had Squash Vine Borer. But you probably didn’t know it because the pest doesn’t crawl over the plant or chew at any visible part of the plant. The larvae lives inside the stem of your squash plant, eating the entire inside of it.
The life cycle is this: a red and green moth that looks more like a fly, lands on your squash vine when it’s young. It lays its eggs right at the base of where the stem meets the soil.
When the eggs hatch, the tiny larvae eat their way inside the middle the stem where the live for the rest of their life happily eating the stem until there’s nothing left. The plant finally has no stem left, other than a thin skin, all the vines wilt and the plant dies. Without you suspecting a thing.
Squash Vine Borer Control
In July start to check your squash and pumpkin stems for Squash Vine Borer by having a look where the stem meets the soil. If you see yellow frass or what looks like chewed up yellow gunk at the soil line, you know your plant is infected.
Gently squeeze the stem and if you find where it is mushy or hollow feeling that's where the squash vine borer is living. A healthy stem feels perfectly solid and hard.
Now you have to get that sucker out of there. When the time comes, read this post on how to Get Rid of Squash Vine Borer. You're going to cut the stem open and stab the grub. Seriously.
Plants affected: squash, pumpkin.
Definition: A terrifying caterpillar the size of a ketchup bottle with what amounts to a sword sticking out of its bum.
See proof below.
Any time I encounter a tomato hornworm I scream and run away. It’s that big and grotesque. It very much looks like something that might take you hostage.
Tomato hornworms can eat through an entire tomato plant in a day or two. They’ll eat all the leaves and the tomatoes. If you find a tomato that looks like a human has taken a big bite out of it, chances are you have a hornworm hiding in your garden.
Even though they’re huge, they’re difficult to see because they’re the same colour as a tomato leaf, so check your plants carefully if you see extreme damage to your plants in a very short period of time.
Tomato Hornworm Control
You have 2 main options for dealing with the tomato hornworm.
- Handpick the caterpillars off and drown them in water (or feed them to chickens if you have them).
- Stop the hornworm before it becomes a nuisance by spraying your tomatoes with B.T. (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural soil bacteria that destroys the gut of any caterpillar that eats something it has been sprayed on.
Keep in mind it works on all caterpillars so keep it away from any butterfly host plants you have around like milkweed or dill. Once ingested, the B.T. won’t harm birds or other animals that then eat the caterpillars.
Cover Your Peppers
If you're growing peppers you might be in an area that has pepper maggots. 🤢
I talk about them in this Gardening Tips post from a few years ago.
Blight isn’t a pest but it is a problem. Early and Late Blight will also take out your tomato plants at a remarkable pace.
You’ll know you have blight if your tomato leaves start to get spots on them, turn yellow and eventually dry up and fall off of the plant. Your tomatoes will also get marred with dark spots and sometimes white furry bits.
Ways to reduce the risk of it are to keep all your tomatoes leaves away from the soil by stringing them up (or tying or caging) and making sure the lower leaves are stripped away from the stem. Mulching the soil underneath the plants also helps.
Learn how to string AKA trellis training tomatoes here.
A few years ago I discovered that the biofungicide product Serenade can stop blight. It contains Bacillus subtilis which is scientifically proven to stop blight.
I tested it and it worked miraculously. It stopped the leaf spot and impending death of my tomatoes.
If you’re a new gardener this is probably good news for you. If you’re a veteran gardener you have a better understanding of how remarkable this is and you’re probably doing magnificent cartwheels right now.
Get ready to tuck and roll that cartwheel because they discontinued the product. Don't ask me why. I don't know why. Because they're stupid is my guess.
I've searched for products in Canada that contain the same biochemicals but haven't been successful.
In America, you can use Cease to control blight which also contains Bacillus subtilis (strain QST 713).
Additional things you’ll need in the garden for July are:
- Bags, buckets or baskets for bringing produce back to your house. Just keep them right there in the garden because even though you think you won’t need them or figure you’ll remember them – you won’t. Just keep a supply handy otherwise you’ll be leaving the garden like me in the photo above. Yes. There is a person behind all those carrots. If you look carefully you can see my eyes peeking out carefully scanning the world for tomato hornworms.
- A bottle of water. July is hot and gardening is fun. This is a bad combination if it means you spend a lot of time outside but forget to hydrate because you’re having so much fun. Keep a bottle of water with you and remember to drink it if you’re out gardening for any more than a half an hour.
- Scissors and a knife. You’re actually harvesting stuff this month! So you’ll need something sharp to cut your broccoli crowns, cauliflower, lettuce and zucchini with. Some vegetables can just be pulled off, but if they don’t come up with only a slight tug you’re safer to cut vegetables off the plants so you don’t disturb or break the plants.
WHAT CAN BE PLANTED THIS MONTH
You can start thinking about second plantings of things in July. In my zone (6b) Carrots, beets, lettuce can be planted for a later fall harvest and even things like zucchini and squash should still have time to produce if you plant them now.
Just in case they were eaten by squash vine borers or succumbed to disease. Because if you have a healthy zucchini plant, we’ve established you aren’t going to need more than one of them.
Happy July gardening.