July Gardening Activities – Preparing for Fall Plantings

Yesterday started the first quarter to full moon cycle according to the Farmer’s Almanac. I recommend starting your seeds for plants that have seed contained inside the mature fruit, such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, and melons. The reason I’m suggesting starting these seeds a month earlier this year is in past years, we’ve seen some freezing in December/January. While we didn’t experience that much last year, I’m going to start one month earlier this year to get harvest before the potential of freeze.

starting seedsYou can make yousoil mixr own seed mix using one part peat moss, one part vermiculite (fine), and one part perlite. Moisten the mix in a bucket and sterilize.

To sterilize, heat up your oven to 200 degrees, place on an old cookie sheet, cover with tin foil, and bake until the mixture is around 180 degrees. I use a compost thermometer to test – a meat thermometer or something like that would work also. Do not let the mix get hotter than 200 degrees. This keeps the soil sterile and reduces seeding problems. (Photo to the right taken from Mother Earth News)

Remember to sterilize your planters too; clean them with a weak bleach/water solution to make sure there are no fungus/bacteria present that will threaten your seedlings.

Throughout July, continue cutting cover crops weekly and prepare to “kill them” the last week. This year, I’m going to spray my cut cover crops with white vinegar on a hot sunny day (hopefully we’ll see a dry one soon) instead of disturbing the soil by digging up roots. In our region, the soil and water tend to be high PH and the vinegar will not only kill the cover crops, allowing their nutrients to build the soil, but will aid in decreasing the soil PH. Plants in general enjoy a PH between 6.0 and 7.0 with some exceptions.

This is really the last month for heavy pruning of shrubs and trees. Otherwise, in my experience, the new growth will not be sturdy enough to weather a freeze in December/January. I also like to make sure everything is well fertilized if I didn’t get to that in June. With all this rain, it’s important to keep the nutrients available for fruit trees and other plants. Our sandy soil leaches nutrients quickly. While the composting and mulching schedule helps, quarterly fertilizing is very important. Since our property is so large, I use a combination of compost tea, manure, vermi-compost, and decomposed leaf materials; I have some assistance this year from Richard who owns www.freefertilizer.comsoil food web (see his ad on my resources page). Richard applies organic decomposed leaf material to my plants every quarter; his first application was April, he just completed another last week, then we schedule October and January. So far, I am very pleased with the results of this program. Using chemical fertilizers is counterproductive in my opinion; the chemicals do not assist the microbe culture for sustainable nutrients and the more chemical fertilizers applies, the more required. The theory behind organic fertilization is that eventually, very little fertilizer will be required because the microbes, good bacteria, worms, and other natural decomposing material will be present, multiply, and provide a constant source of nutrients for plants in most cases. Some areas that are landscaped with stones are difficult to fertilize this way but so far I’m having wonderful success using compost tea and Richard’s decomposed leaf mixture there.

I’m going to experiment with some direct seeding mid-august this year instead of waiting until September (melons, squash, beans, peas, carrots, radishes).

Happy Gardening!