Garden Blog

July in the Garden: Harvesting, Watering and Looking Ahead

Shallow watering deters your plants from putting down deep roots, which would make them more resilient when drought hits.

Summer is officially here (!) and with it the heat and humidity that marks this season. For many of us our hard work is starting to pay off as we harvest and eat home-grown vegetables. After a winter of eating produce that was grown and shipped from hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away, my family sits around the dinner table, praising how much better the vegetables we grow taste. How could they be so different? In large part, it is owed to the fact that at home you can allow your veggies to fully ripen on the plant and harvest them at their peak (i.e., maximum flavor and nutrition).

July Garden Harvest

With so many different vegetables in your garden, knowing when to harvest is not as simple as reading the days to maturity on a seed packet, but requires gardeners to observe, smell, and even squeeze their veggies. Various agriculture extension agencies have published good information online about how to read the subtle cues for harvesting specific vegetables.You can also learn more about harvesting different veggies in our blog post.

As a general rule, all ripe vegetables are best when harvested in the morning. This is because plants are actively moving water and sugars throughout the day in response to changing light and temperatures. At night, water translocates into the fruits and starches convert into sugar. This results in a crispier, juicier, sweeter vegetable the following morning.

Once harvested, quickly get your veggies into a cool space to preserve their peak freshness! This part makes me long for my grandmother’s below-grade basement— always the same dry, cool environment year round—which was perfect for storing fresh vegetables until they were devoured or preserved.

As a general rule, all ripe vegetables are best when harvested in the morning.


The best time to water is while you are perusing your garden in the morning for ripe veggies. Generally, your garden needs one inch of water a week, whether it is from rain or irrigation. Over time, areas of the southeastern U.S. have transitioned from a relatively wet winter into moderate to severe drought, depending on where you live. In my garden, I have needed to water young plants almost daily, and even then, my Black Beauty zucchini looks sad and wilted by evening.

My weakness when it comes to watering is impatience. My quick but frequent watering sessions irrigate only the top inch of soil, much of which evaporates during the day. Shallow watering like this also deters your plants from putting down deep roots, which would make them more resilient when drought hits. Our watering mantra should be water deeply, water deeply, water deeply. This means slow, low volume watering less frequently, but for longer periods of time. I use soaker hoses, designed especially for this, around my tomato plants to avoid getting the foliage wet, which encourages diseases like blight. When I have more time and patience, I will turn my hose on low and place it at the base of plants for a nice slow watering. Once the water starts to roll off the soil, I move the hose to another area and repeat.

Garden Woes: Pests and Diseases

One benefit of a dry summer is fewer incidences of fungal diseases like blight and powdery mildew. My tomatoes are rocking without the slightest hint of late blight (knock on wood). That said, blossom end rot becomes more of an issue during times of drought. Blossom end rot is not a disease, but a physiological disorder caused by inadequate calcium uptake by plants. Calcium is important to flower and fruit formation, so the symptoms of blossom end rot are flowers that never fully develop and dark sunken areas on the blossom end of fruits. At this point, the fruit basically begins to decay before ever ripening.

One way to avoid this is to keep fruiting plants evenly moist as dramatic fluctuations in water can lead to poor calcium uptake. Often, after the first round of fruit set plants will overcome the calcium deficiency and produce normal fruits. Otherwise, at the first sign of blossom end rot, spray the foliage with calcium chloride or calcium nitrate solution. Don’t add a calcium supplement to your soil, unless a soil test indicates a deficiency.

One benefit of a dry summer is fewer incidences of fungal diseases like blight and powdery mildew.

July Garden San Marzano Tomato Blossom End Rot 

Succession Planting and Looking Ahead to Fall

Now that the harvest is rolling, you will want to keep it going and that means succession planting. I sow more rounds of bush beans, cucumbers, and squash just as my first plantings are starting to produce. Depending on your first frost date, mid-late July is time to start seeds for slower maturing fall crops such as Brussels sprouts and rutabagas. To determine when to start fall crops in your area, check the days to maturity for a particular crop and count backwards from your first average frost date.

The trick in the south is getting cool season crops to germinate and not bolt while temperatures are still hot. Lettuce seeds germinate better in the heat of summer when refrigerated for a couple of days prior to planting. Another trick of the trade is to start seeds indoors where it is cooler, then transplant seedlings outdoors. Keep these fall crop seedlings moist and shaded to prevent heat stress. Row covers, window screen, and shade cloth are all good options for keeping your fall veggie starts cool.

The trick to gardening in the south is to plant varieties with enough time to mature before they bolt from the heat.

Lolla Rossa Darkly Lettuce Flower Seed Bolting 

The source of pleasure that we derive from eating home-grown vegetables is not easily explained. The diversity of vegetables we can grow at home is incomparable to the meager offerings of a grocery store. This provides us with a cornucopia of flavors that excite the taste buds and keep us praising our veggies. And home-grown veggies are certainly more fresh and flavorful, but I also believe the joy they bring to our dinner tables is in part rooted in the pride of our achievements. There is no need to be humble my fellow gardeners; it is no easy task to grow your own food!


Article Written by: Angie Lavezzo

About the Author: Angie Lavezzo is the former general manager of Sow True Seed. Beyond her professional role at Sow True, Angie's passion for gardening extends into personal hands-on experience, fostering plants and reaping bountiful harvests.



Wallace, Ira. 2013. Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast. Timber Press, Inc.

Written by Sow True Seed Agricultural Manager, Renee Fortner