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With our 90+ degree days becoming more plentiful, paired with fewer inches of winter rains and more expensive water prices, I’ve reduced the amount of gardening I initiate during the summer.
Whereas I used to plant second or third batches of tomatoes and beans and cukes and squashes in late June, since our droughty weather for the last 6 or so years, I’ve given up adding anything new now that July is here.
The June-planted and sown veggies barely survived in the last several years, much less thrived. And last year’s couple of 116-degree days wiped out several tomato plants and fruit trees, despite my heavy irrigating and mulching.
So what to do in the garden, especially now that I don’t thrive in the heat or bright sun anymore, so my gardening time is an hour or two after 6pm when the sun has crested the hill to my south, and my garden is in shade. Very pleasant time to be outdoors! And this is just enough time to do any of a selection of activities before my arthritis decides that I’ve done enough for the evening.
Here’re some of my projects.
The first flush of blooms has finished, so I've trimmed the long branches back to an out-facing leaf to encourage more new shoots and flowers to develop.
Repotting My Succulent Collection.
I’ve loved cleaning off root zones of old potting soil (saving it for the compost pile layers on top of the green stuff before layering the brown stuff), matching colors and textures and sizes with decorative pots that I’ve collected over the years, and placing them back on my sunny concrete growing area where I can enjoy them from my computer.
As a side benefit, I’ve ended up with many babies that I’ve either included with the repotted mother plants or potted up separately for sharing later whenever we gardeners can gather again.
I must admit that this time around with repotting, I’ve gotten rid of almost all of the prickly ones – they’ve just grown too large to handle easily without getting stabbed, so I’ve passed them along to other gardeners.
It’ll be another five years or so before the collection grows too much like a jungle again and so I’ll have to repot them. In the meantime, the plants are enjoying their increased root space and new neighbors! And I'm loving seeing them thrive and as each comes into bloom.
Watering Tomato Plants
I water my tomatoes using two methods which keep plants happy even during a week or more of 95+ air temperatures before needing to be watered again:
1. Directly into the sunken basin where they were planted so the water sinks directly down around the root system which grows straight down following the water. I do have to pull out some of the soil mix that’s “melted” down next to the base of the plants every other time I water, to form a larger basin that will hold more water. Even when this reveals some of the roots, the next watering will "melt" more of the soil to cover those roots.
2. Into the 5-gallon plastic nursery pots that are buried almost up to their rims, allowing the water to release out at the bottom into the soil a good foot down, directly to the root system.
While the hose is placed in the nursery pots, I use the couple of minutes that it takes to fill them with water to tuck tomato branches under the rungs of the tomato cages. This is best done before watering, when the branches are somewhat limp and can be wrangled under the cage rungs. If I attempt to do this the next day, when the plants are again turgid from the day-before’s watering, the branches tend to break more, especially when they're long and don't bend easily.
And as of July 1, we’ve begun harvesting – 20 Sungold tomatoes and 3 Celebrity tomatoes. Finally!
Watering and Sowing More Squash Plants
We’ve been enjoying crookneck squashes for more than a month from the first batch of seeds that I’d sown back in March, with continued watering both at the soil level and in the buried 5-gallon nursery pots between plants that releases the water directly in the deep rootzone. But, now the harvest from this first planting is slowing down.
Coming into bearing just in time is the second batch of seeds that I’d sown when the first batch started bearing, so this seems to be good timing to have consecutive bearing without much overlap of too many squashes.
Now I’ll sow another batch of seeds. We’ll see whether they germinate and then thrive and bear in another couple months of this hot summer weather.
Watering Fig Trees
Following those extremely droughty years and loss of several stone-fruit trees, last year I concentrated on planting more varieties of fig trees. We now have Celeste, Conadria, Kadota, Mission, Panache/Tiger Stripe, Peter’s Honey, Texas Everbearing, Violette de Bordeaux, and an unknown variety from a cutting from a friend’s tree.
We love figs, they produce well even with minimal attention to watering, and each of the varieties bears at a slightly different time and with a distinct flavor, so we’re looking forward to a nice selection of yummies!
For other July garden task possibilities, see July.