July Gardening

Our pumpkins (planted last month), backed with sunflowers, fronted by weeds.
Our pumpkins (planted last month), backed with sunflowers, fronted by weeds.

You can still plant pumpkins in July, from seed, for a fall harvest of home grown Jack o’ Lanterns.  I think this is an excellent gardening activity with children over time: the seeds come up quickly, the plants grow dramatically, and the pumpkins are then harvested and cure in September for an October carving.

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Pumpkin planting instructions: We plant our pumpkins directly in the ground in early June, and in the past they have been ready to pick in September, well before Halloween.  Pumpkins also can be planted in early to mid July, for a later harvest.  We plant in hills, three plants per hill (this spacing is far more crowded than the instructions generally given, but it works for us).  The leaves shade out weeds once the plants are established.  The vines will grow and spread quite a bit; you can direct where they grow to some degree (we point vines towards the wood pile, away from other crops).  We do not pinch or trim in any way, we simply let the vines do what they will until the pumpkins are orange.  Once picked, the stem and the skin cure a bit, and the pumpkins hold well (even for a month) in a dry sunny spot until carving time.

As for the rest of the vegetable garden, July gardening is more relaxed and happens at a more leisurely pace compared to June’s hard work. June is the busiest garden month here, beginning with finishing up planting, followed by a series of marathon weeding sessions as everything races to grow.  In July, we keep on top of necessary weeding, but the pace is a little less frantic.  In July, the garden plants we have weeded around last month are more established, larger and less needy.

Early in July, we replant anything that didn’t come up, or fill in planting gaps: this year we had to replant stretches of beans and corn and chard where a munching rabbit and an eager to weed three-year old worked over the plants.  I’ve discovered I much prefer weeding and replanting to the initial big planting on.  It does help make weeding more fun when the chickens love to eat weeds from the garden, it makes for a bit more excitement and interest in a simple wheel barrow full of weeds.  We may put up a garden fence at some point to keep rabbits out, and chickens (so far the chickens haven’t ventured much into the garden, it’s at the other end of the property from their coop).

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A chard the rabbits didn’t munch

July is also for thinking seriously about putting in a hoop house or cold frames to extend the season.  If Eliot Coleman can harvest greens all winter in an unheated greenhouse in Maine, then we should be able to as well…  Do some planning, preferably in a shady hammock.

On the flower and landscaping side of things, July is for taking notes of blooming gaps and planning ahead for next year and longer term.  Perennials, shrubs and trees often go on sale in August, and some planning in July will allow you to take advantage of those sales:  you will know what is needed, and where the gaps are for next year’s perennial garden, or to plant a hedge or screening line of mixed trees and shrubs.

Harvest: Early in July we pick the first cherries, and note the apples filling out on the trees (not ready, but growing bigger).  July is when we expect green beans and chard, and hopefully cucumbers and plums.  The corn should be “knee-high by the fourth of July” and it is, and then some this year.

July is also when the chanterelle mushrooms in our woods ripen for harvest.

Happy July gardening, and pleasant July garden dreaming.

growing tomato plant
Tomato plant, growing.
pumpkins, backed with sunflower plants

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6 thoughts on “July Gardening

  1. Everything looks like it’s coming in nicely! Have ever done any soil testing? Do you know what your pH level is? I’m working with a very alkaline soil so I’m having a hell of a time getting blueberries to grow.

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  2. Here in Washington State, I think we’re not quite as far north as you. Our early harvest is about done, lettuce, peas, that sort of thing. My squash are loving the extra heat we’ve had, though.

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    1. I think if you plant within the next few days, with a little luck and a later frost, you could pick pumpkins in October. We plant in June and pick in September, and they cure for about a month, so I think they can be planted in July, and seed packet indicates same. Good luck!

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