Garden Tips Newsletter – July 2012


Learn about local resources and opportunities for gardening.

Long-time Master Gardener Romola Georgia offers up timely tips to keep your garden in top condition.

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Archived newsletter from July 2012. Click here to return to the Archive list.

Transition Palo Alto Garden Notes for July

Hot weather concerns

  • After the vegetable garden is well established, it’s best to water thoroughly once a week rather than giving it a light watering every day or two. Infrequent deep watering  encourages a deeper root system which will help the plant tolerate dry weather better.
  • Similarly, deep water your established trees. Apple, peach, pear and plum trees may be laden with fruit, so give the limbs some support.
  • Mulch your vegetable beds to protect the soil and roots from the sun.
  • Do you have any bare spots in your garden? I certainly do – weedy and dry. You can protect the soil from the sun by planting a cover or compost crop (buckwheat or edible cowpeas, for example) which may provide nitrogen or produce good carbon for the compost pile.

Garden planning

Have you been waiting impatiently through our long cool spring for that first delectable bite of tomato or the heavenly fragrance of basil in your salad?  I know I have.  Gardeners everywhere probably share that delightful expectation.  But our fantastic Mediterranean climate allows us to grow and eat fresh vegetables year-round – something no-one in Illinois or upstate New York can do.  Our cool wet winter is the perfect time to grow many highly nutritious crops that virtually take care of themselves, unlike some of the more fussy, disease-prone summer vegetables.

Right now, in the heat of high summer, is the time to start planning for your cool-season garden.  You will first need to know where the winter crops will live.  It may seem criminal to rip out a squash or tomato plant that still has some life in it.  But I’ve learned to bite the bullet and do it, if needed.  So plan ahead to have some space available in August and September.  Use the month of July to get some seeds started as your winter crops should be  close to maturity before the “dark time” of the year.

Then, of course, you must decide what you will grow.  Seeds to start in July include: lettuce, chard, spinach, collards, kale, Asian greens, brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts), herbs, and root crops.

Start now – You can still directly sow arugula, bush beans, beets, carrots, early varieties of corn, radishes, summer squash and turnips.  You can also set out seedlings of basil, chard, collards, leaf lettuce rutabagas, and zinnias.

More on tomatoes

A common tomato problem is the tomato russet mite which causes plants to get dead leaves starting at the bottom of the plant and moving upwards.  The stem takes on a bronzy appearance. It is controlled with an application of wettable sulfur mixed in a pump sprayer with a spreader sticker and applied to the entire plant including the undersides of leaves and deep into the interior of the plant.  If you cannot treat the plant, it should be removed as the mite readily spreads to other tomato plants.

Summer pruning – the best way to keep fruit trees in the home garden to a manageable size is to switch over to summer pruning.  Pruning cuts made in the dormant season (winter, when the leaves are gone) actually stimulate vigorous vegetative growth which you do not want.  I now do most of my pruning just after harvest and am fairly successful in keeping the fruit within reach.  My goal is to avoid having to use a ladder (which is actually the gardener’s most dangerous tool!)



The purpose of this group is to share information, resources, questions, and events about vegetable gardening. Our wonderful Mediterranean climate permits us to grow and eat from our own gardens in every month of the year.


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