Thursday, July 3, 2014

July in the North Florida Food Garden with Gardener Ed

July and August are the “vegetable gardening winter” in North Florida. It is the most challenging time to grow vegetables because of the heat, insects, and diseases that are rampant at this time. However it is a time to prepare for your fall garden.

Harvest: You might still be picking basil, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, green beans, southern peas, butter beans, and just maybe, summer squash and tomatoes.

Garden Maintenance:

Continue to keep crops picked to stimulate continued production.

We are entering the hot summer season and some vegetables do grow better under shade that reduces solar radiation by twenty percent. This is certainly true for seed starting to produce transplants for the fall garden.
When the temperature is over 75-80 degrees at night, while they still flower, tomatoes do not “set fruit.”

Currently we are drought free in North Florida, although some weeks it doesn’t seem like it. With July’s ninety degree temperatures, your crops will need irrigation if it doesn’t rain for a few days. So, water when necessary and use mulch to conserve soil moisture and reduce soil temperature.

For those weeds that haven’t been controlled by mulching, remove them by shallow cultivation before they get large, more fibrous, and consequently are harder to manage. This was true in June and especially in July and August. Get ‘em before they go to seed.

Monitor for pests and diseases. Pick off adult hard bodied insect pests. To control aphids and other soft bodied insects, spray with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Chewing insects can be controlled with BT or Spinosad. These are available as “wetable powders” and can be mixed with water and sprayed on plants. Spray in the evening as they are degraded by UV light.

Neem oil or diatomaceous earth may also be effective in controlling some insect pests.

What to Plant Now

Remove weeds and clear away finished crops to prepare the soil for succession plantings.
Plant okra, basil, sweet potatoes, and peppers. You might also plant green beans, cucumbers, and pumpkins but you’re success may not be as good as it was by planting earlier in the season.

Shade cloth will help improve your success. Light weight spun-bonded row-cover can provide shade and keep insects plants off your plants. Plant sunflowers and zinnias to attract pollinators.

In otherwise empty beds and plots, continue to plant cover crops such as iron clay peas, Sunn hemp,* buckwheat (cut buckwheat down before it flowers, plant again, and repeat to control weeds), annual summer grass like millet and sorghum-Sudan. In any case don’t leave your soil bare and exposed to the elements. At least cover unused plots with some kind of mulch.

*Sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea) is a legume that when grown as a summer annual can produce large amounts of biomass and nitrogen. Chopped up, it makes great compost.


Start planning now for your fall garden. Order seeds in July and start seeds in flats and small containers in late July and Early August, in a protected location. They will be ready planting out in September.

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