Stay cool. Make shade. Have a drink. Go to the beach. Harvest in the morning. Harvest in the evening.

It’s summer for all of us now — inland it’s felt like summer for a month already; but within a mile of the beach, it usually only starts feeling summery around the Fourth of July.

Take it easy in the yard this time of year. You should have planted and set up irrigation already, when it was cool. Your only job now is to reap and eat.

Make yourself a “Garden on a Pizza” pizza, like the one I made in the photo above. You can’t go wrong, just pick and chop and place. On that one I added basil, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes from my garden, plus nectarines that my mom brought me from her tree. Spicy and sweet.

While July is the zenith of summer harvest activity, it’s the nadir for planting. If you do plant — vegetables or fruit trees — the key is to thoroughly water the soil surrounding the planting hole. The moisture there from the winter rains is now all but dried up, and that dry soil will literally suck the water out of the hole where you put in a new plant. So, upon planting, water about six inches to either side of a new vegetable and two feet to either side of a new tree, and soak it so the water goes deeper than the plant’s roots. It’s vital. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, having lost plants or spotted them suffering because I was in a rush or lazy and didn’t do such watering.

In addition . . .

Sow and plant

– Sow or plant these vegetables any time in July (these produce before it cools down in the fall): basil, beans, corn

– Sow seeds of brassicas, the “cole crops”: brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower (see my post, “Starting brassicas in summer”)

– Continue sowing potatoes under fruit trees where the soil remains a bit cooler (“Growing vegetables under fruit trees”)

– Plant seedlings of these vegetables, preferably no later than mid-July: tomatoes (small-fruited types like cherry are safest, but see note below on “fall tomatoes”), tomatillo, pepper, squash (“summer” types like zucchini and yellow crookneck are sure bets for a fall harvest), sweet potato (slips); if you plant later than mid-July there’s a good chance you’ll get little harvestable fruit before it cools in the fall

– Plant “fall tomatoes” by mid-July; I find that early planted tomatoes (March) tend to become less productive toward the end of summer and into fall, so my habit is to plant a few new ones in early July in order to ensure fresh tomatoes off the vine throughout fall; I planted a handful of varieties on July 8, 2016 and got decent production from most, but the best were ‘Champion’ (photo above); an ideal site for fall tomatoes is one that will get low-angle, southern sun in the fall so the fruit continues to ripen well at that time

Harvest and eat

– Eat these vegetables (had you planted them): tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes, corn, greens, onion, garlic, lettuce, beets, carrots, peppers, eggplant, squash, basil, cucumber, melons, beans

– Eat these berries and fruits (had you planted them): blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, avocados (Hass, GEM, Gwen, Lamb, Reed), Valencia oranges, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, SpiceZee nectaplums

Lamb avocados finally ready for picking in late July.


– Give deciduous fruit trees a pruning if you want to keep them down in size; this lets more light onto lower branches throughout the rest of summer, which encourages those lower branches to be fruitful next year; see this post about why I keep my deciduous fruit trees pruned to about eight feet tall; and see this post about how to do the summer pruning

Just pruned the Blenheim apricot here in July

– Protect avocados from sunburn; if a branch is exposed to hot summer sun it will burn and the branch will decline in health, so apply a sunscreen of diluted white latex paint (as I wrote about in this post)

– Water deeply just before a heat wave hits; this is particularly helpful for vegetables and avocado trees (see this post for more about watering through a heat wave)

Powdery mildew on cantaloupe vine in Encinitas garden.

– Powdery mildew happens on squash leaves, tomato foliage, melon, cucumber and pumpkin leaves; but there is no magic bullet that will eliminate the disease; however, my experience dealing with powdery mildew in different gardens and watching others deal with it is that plants in dense gardens suffer from it more; plants in gardens closer to the ocean suffer from it more; plants in some shade suffer from it more than those in full sun; moreover, some years it’s worse than others, and some varieties of certain plants (such as tomatoes) get it worse than others; finally, as some kinds of plants get old, such as squash, they almost always get it; see this webpage from the University of California for photos of powdery mildew and details about its growth and methods of control

Leafminer track on lime leaf.

– Stress not about those squiggly tracks caused by leafminers on your citrus leaves; citrus trees usually flush new growth around this time and little insects called leafminers like this new growth, but fear not because they don’t do serious harm to a tree and they don’t do any harm to the fruit; the damage is basically cosmetic; see my post about leafminers on my lime tree a few years back

– Heat getting the best of you? Try night gardening

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