If you’re thinking that July is too late to plant food in the garden you are incorrect! Which in this case is a good thing because it means there is still time to maximize your harvest! There is even still time to plant some cold sensitive plants! As far as the frost hardy ones go there is still loads of time! So let’s jump in and take a look at what plants will work and some of the things you need to consider.
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Let me start by saying summer planting is not the same as spring planting. There are going to be some different challenges that you have to account for in order to be successful. That isn’t to say it is harder, it is just different. In the spring we worry about keeping plants warm enough and will there be a late frost? In the summer it is about keeping plants cool enough so that they can get established and then thrive!
Determine your first frost date
If you want to plant in July then knowing your first fall frost date is probably the most important piece of information. Regardless of what hardiness zone you live in, knowing this date will help you determine what varieties you can successfully plant and see to maturity. All you have to do is Google “What is the first frost date for XXX”, with XXX being wherever you call home. Once we know this we can move onto the next step which is figuring out how many frost free days there are left.
Figure out your remaining frost free days
To figure out how many frost free days you have left you are going to need an old school calendar OR your phone/computer and some help from Siri or Google. If you are set on the old school calendar just count the days from today until your frost free date. If you want the 2021 version then just type in Google or ask Siri “How many days until YYY” with YYY being your first fall frost date. For me, as I write this post I have 85 frost free days left. Which isn’t great but it also isn’t horrible! At this point you might think you are good to go but not quite. While we know the frost free days we don’t yet know the USABLE frost free days, and this is an important distinction my friend. So onto the next step.
Determine your usable frost free days
As we are after the Summer Solstice the days are starting (ever so slowly) to get shorter and the suns rays are packing a little bit less of a punch. Because of this we need to add 10-14 days to any “Days to Maturity”. Or the way I do it is subtract 10-14 days from my frost free days. This means I do the calculation once rather than doing it for every seed package I look at. This is key to make sure that the plans actually have enough frost free days left to reach maturity.
So for me, with my frost free days being 85. My actual usable frost free days are actually 71-75 days. So now armed with this information we can move on to how to best position our new plant babies for success in the garden.
Give them a head start
Especially when we are dealing with the frost hardy varieties it can be very beneficial to get them started inside under grow lights. They will do best if they are transplanted out when they are about 3-4 inches tall. Now, that’s not to say you should panic if you haven’t started them already. If you DO have grow lights, and as a micro homesteader I would strongly recommend you do (I use this one along with a few others). Honestly, grow lights are key when starting you seedlings even for in the spring! They are a worthwhile investment. Another option is if you have a hydroponic system like a Rise Garden or Aerogarden (I have the Aerogarden Farm Plus and two Aerogarden Sprouts). You can use them to jump start seedlings.
If you don’t have any of those then don’t fret, those are just best case scenarios. Nothing stops you from popping a seed in the ground and hoping for the best. But either way the next step is going to be key to giving them their best chance.
Know your micro climates
Microclimates just refer to the temperature variations that exist in your garden. It may seem small but it can make a HUGE difference. The temperatures you experience in your yard can vary greatly from those that are in your neighbour’s yard! If you have a tree then that portion of your yard may be cooler than other areas where the tree doesn’t cover. Even in your raised bed, if you have a giant zucchini the temperatures will be cooler under in than in open areas. So knowing this can make a difference when you are deciding where to plant. I use a digital infrared thermometer to determine the coolest points in my yard.
You will want to plant the cold-sensitive points in the warmers areas of your garden, usually those areas out in the open. For the frost hardy vegetables you will want to shelter them in the cooler areas, like under the giant zucchini. If you have said giant zucchini and are currently drowning in zucchinis, then here are 8 ideas for how you can use them.
Keep them cool
This just applies to the frost hardy plants and it’s very important. Frost hardy plants are not going to thrive in the heat of summer. As mentioned above you can leverage the micro climates in your yard OR you can essentially create some. To do this you will need to get your hands on a shade cloth. This will help the plants get established without succumbing to the heat. So that by the time the temperatures start to cool, they will be in a position to thrive.
Planning is everything!
So if you want to plant in July there is still more than enough time to get some more food in the ground. I can’t emphasis enough how much planning is key to maximizing your harvest. So much so that I made a Month to Month Garden Planner that helps you do just that. I made it to keep myself organized and then realized it could help other people as well. You can check it out in my Etsy shop TheMicroHomestead along with some t-shirts and stickers!
Cold-sensitive varieties you can plant in July
A lot of the time people don’t think to plant cold-sensitive plants in the middle of summer. They assume it is too late to plant them in July. I’m not saying you can plant anything and everything. But as long as you make sure you have enough usable frost free days for their days to maturity then you are good! So be sure to read your seed packages to see the days to maturity for that specific variety. If the seed package doesn’t have this information you should be able to find it with a quick Google search. Again, planing is the key to success (in the garden and in life).
- Summer squash
- Winter squash
- Bush beans
- Pole beans
Frost hardy varieties you can plant in July
These are the things that are going to grow well into the fall, and in some cases even into the winter. As long as you take the time to protect them in the heat of the summer when they are getting established they will reward you later. Honestly, especially when it comes to the brassicas this is probably the BEST time time to plant them. Why? Well let me tel you LOL. Brassicas actually take on a sweeter flavour when they have been touched by frost! So get this plant babies in the ground ASAP.
- Brussels Sprouts
- Bok Choy
- Chinese Cabbage
- Swiss Chard
Hopefully this encourages you to plant in July on your own micro homestead. It’s a great way to maximize the amount of food you can grow and don’t we all want that? So go out there and plant more food so you have loads of things to harvest in the fall.