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Growing Your Own Groceries: July

by Dawn Oldfield, CCMGA Public Relations Chairperson

Cicadas sing their summer song, the rhythmic soundtrack of the south, their chorus echoing across the landscape. Air shimmers in the heat above the parched, cracked ground. In a cloudless blue sky, the relentless sun beats down. This is July in Texas.

It may sound crazy, but fall veggie season starts now. Even in the heat of July there are still some great vegetables that can be planted that will keep your garden producing well into the fall. Cold-sensitive crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and beans need time to mature and bear fruit before the first frost. If you plant vegetables in July and August, you can enjoy a cornucopia of homegrown goodness in late fall.

Stay on top of harvesting and removing non-performing vegetables currently in the garden. Be mindful of your watering strategy, too. When it's hot outside, plants can become stressed. Make time in the mornings to walk around the garden and observe your plants. Plants should not be wilted in the morning; this will be a sign if they need additional water. Wilting in the late afternoon is normal. It is your plant's way of conserving energy and moisture. 

Vegetable transplants should be available at local nurseries this month. Many have them in 4-inch pots, but if you can find larger transplants buy those. They'll establish faster. Transplant tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, squash, warm season greens, Irish potato seed pieces, okra and watermelon. To plant by seed, establish rows of cantaloupe, black-eyed peas, southern peas and small pumpkin varieties. Okra can also be established by seed if preferred.

Adequate watering is essential to summer gardening success. Water in the morning when the temperature is cooler. Just don't overwater, or their root system will die. Mulch your plants to hold in moisture. Summer veggies tend to be heavy feeders. After about a week of planting, use a slow-release fertilizer to provide the nutrients they need for a healthy, bountiful fall crop.  

Consider providing your tender plants some relief from the hot afternoon sun with shade cloth or protective row covers. Even a patio umbrella placed on the west side can give them relief from the sun.

Don't forget to support local farmers by purchasing Texas grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and produce stands – it makes a fun family outing! Shop at grocery stores that sell locally grown produce. Remember to provide water and food for birds and wildlife. It's hot for them too!

Now, sit back with a glass of cold iced tea and your favorite gardening book and look forward to your flavorful fall harvest.

Additional Resources:
CCMGA Vegetable resource page
CCMGA Vegetable Planting Guide

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