It’s July, and that means our summer crops are bursting. This is the time of year when things start to look a bit chaotic in the garden, and that’s ok. In fact, that means your garden is thriving and you’re doing something right! I call it a loveable mess.
My loveable mess: containers and a raised bed overflowing with harvest-ready crops.
Want your own loveable mess? Here’s what you can be doing right now…
Harvest, harvest, harvest!
Our summer crops are ready for the pickin’ – tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers and more. Most of the summer crops will keep producing for the next couple months, so pick the veggies when they’re at the peak of ripeness – this will make space on the vines and channel the plant’s energy into producing more fruit. Some plants will need support as they grow, so use trellises and gently tie up the stems & vines – old stockings and strips of t-shirts work well.
Eat, eat, eat!
Did you know that produce is most nutritious when it’s at its peak of ripeness? So when you eat your produce right after you’ve picked it, not only is it at its most juicy and flavorful state, but you’re also getting the maximum nutritional benefit. And because it’s so fresh, now’s the time to eat produce raw – think tomato/basil/mozzarella with a drizzle of olive oil & balsamic vinegar, or a crisp salad of cucumbers & tri-color peppers. And you can never go wrong with a classic basil pesto – I add lemon zest to make it even fresher for the summer months.
• Water, water, water!
We’re now in the hottest days of the year, and our plants need more moisture to sustain them through long days of searing sun. Water deeply first thing in the morning, being sure to water the soil, not the plants! This will help prevent the growth of fungus and leaf-burn.
• Protect, protect, protect!
You’re not the only one excited about those juicy fruits in your garden – wildlife will do their best to beat you to the harvest. So check your plants regularly for signs of pilfering (insects will chew holes in the leaves, and squirrels are notorious for taking one bite out of a tomato and leaving the rest to spoil). There are natural ways to deter the critters: bird netting wrapped around plants will keep away the larger critters, and horticultural oil or insecticidal soap will deter insects. You can also make your own natural spray with dish soap, garlic, or pepper (check online for exact recipes – Rodales Organic Life is a trusted source for all-natural gardening).
You’ve worked long and hard to reach this season of harvest, so enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Happy (urban) farming!