July is here. Now you can really start to see the benefits of your hard work flourish as your plants blossom and grow. Don’t get complacent, however. There’s still plenty of work to do to get ready for fall and to keep your garden healthy and disease-free.
It’s important to stay on top of harvesting as veggies become ripe. Remember vegetables work on their own schedule, not yours, so it’s important to harvest them as soon as they’re ripe. Leaving them too long will let them go bad and can bring disease into the garden. Do a lot of small daily harvests instead of one big one.
If you harvest herbs now, one way to save them for later is to dry them. The most simple way to do this is to air dry them by hanging bunches upside down somewhere dark and dry. After the leaves dry up, you can crumble them into a container to preserve them. Make sure to bind them tightly with a rubber band as the stems will shrink as they dry.
You can also leave the herbs out on a rack in a similar environment. Both take around a week to complete and you’ll know the herbs are ready when the leaves crush easily.
If you’re in a real hurry, you can remove the leaves and microwave them between two paper towels for one minute, followed by thirty-second intervals. An oven on the lowest setting for 30 minutes also works, but be sure to line the tray to prevent sticking.
Also, make sure to harvest herbs in the morning while it’s still cool and their oils are most potent.
Seattle weather is fickle, but this may be your very last chance to plant in time for a fall harvest. Prioritize carrots, cucumbers, beets and parsnips, but you can still add cabbage, lettuce, peas, collards, broccoli and green onions.
You can also add flowers to the garden from nurseries. Summer perennials like asters and sunflowers look great.
With hot days here, it’s important to keep up with watering. That being said, it’s also important to water smarter, not harder. Water plants deeply, six inches deep to be exact, and at their base. Watering in the morning will help conserve water while giving plants enough hydration to make it through the heat of the day.
Keep in mind that hanging baskets and pots may need additional watering. Stick your finger in the soil to assess how wet it is or lift it up the pot if it’s small enough. Light and dry plants need a drink! Here’s a guide on smart watering from Oregon State University.
You can also reduce water usage by keeping up with weeding so unwanted plants don’t drink up water supplies. Keeping up with mulching helps both with suppressing weeds and conserving water as the rich mulch holds onto moisture better. You’ll want to keep a layer of mulch two to three inches thick around your plants, depending on the type of plants. Avoid bark which can drain the soil of nutrients and stick to a rich compost-based mulch instead.
In extreme heat, consider hanging a shade cloth on a frame over sensitive plants. Make sure there’s room for air to circulate by leaving space between the frame and plant.
Also, make sure to keep yourself hydrated while working outside! Plants need water and so do you.