Summer Vegetable Garden: July
Well, spring has come and gone, and we are well into July now. And, I am pleasantly surprised at how much is still growing well in the garden!
Fingers crossed we are over the worst of summer… now that the monsoons have started, I think the biggest heat stress may be over for the poor little veggies. I figured now that I’ve seen how things do through hot June (110°F +), this may be a good time to give you an update on my successes (and failures) with our summer vegetable garden.
It is first important to note that my garden boxes get shade in the late afternoon/evening, which is the hottest part of our day, and the most blazing sun. I expect this has helped the plants to keep growing so well.
I am the most surprised that I still have some greens growing in the garden! I actually just harvested a large bunch of swiss chard and laccinato kale this weekend. Both continue to grow well. The leaves are a bit smaller than during the cooler spring months, but they seem otherwise unphased by the summer heat. Who knew you could keep greens in a Phoenix summer vegetable garden?
Aphids continue to plague the Kale, but with a little less vengeance. To read about how I have been treating this pest problem, check out this post on common pests and treatments.
The other crops that are doing particularly well are the armenian cucumber (it’s basically taking over the box), zucchini, and tomatoes. The eggplants (both black beauty and asian varieties) are finally growing well, but are not to the flowering/fruiting stage yet. They were very slow to start, even though I planted them as transplants back in May. I think they needed the heat to really get growing.
The one thing about the zucchini and yellow squash that has surprised me, is that I only have one fruit per plant. The zucchini kept trying to put out new fruits, but the flowers never opened, so they were never pollinated. I was even ready to cross-polinate manually (I did this for the first fruits) but the flowers never opened far enough for me to get the chance. I picked the first zucchinis this weekend, so I am curious to see how the plants develop now.
Warm Weather Greens
I also planted some warm weather greens – purslane and malabar spinach. Some of the spinach died back when it was still very small (maybe not enough water?), but I have plenty that has survived and is starting to grow well. The purslane is also doing fine – a little slow to get started, but definitely tolerating the heat. I think for next year, I would maybe started both of these a little earlier, so they could be in full growth swing by the heat of June.
I have also had a couple failures, or at least partial failures 🙁
- Carrots. My carrots grew from January/February through May/June. So 4 months. I finally pulled them out, because the green tops were languishing a bit, and I figured if I didn’t have grown carrots after 120 days, they probably weren’t going to grow more. My prize length was 2 1/2 inches 🙂 They look pretty, they just didn’t quite get there in size. From everything I’ve read, the best I can figure is that it was too hot for them. I will try again in the fall and we’ll see if that is any better. Some folks also suggested mulching the top of the dirt to help keep it evenly moist, so that is another trick I may employ. Fingers crossed for the next batch!
- Arugula. To be totally honest, I’ve been a bit disappointed by the arugula. From what I had read, I thought it was a good warm weather green, and that I should be able to grow it well year round. Which was very appealing, because we actually like arugula quite a bit. In my experience so far, however, it doesn’t do great with the heat. In the earlier spring months (April/May), it bolted very easily and the plant never got very large with many leaves to harvest. I tried planting another batch in May, and put it in one of the shadier spots of the garden, thinking this might help to keep it from bolting. I just planted one square of 4. By July, 2/4 are dead, and the remaining 2 are barely growing. We’ll see if they start to take off now that the rains are staring, or if arugula will be better suited for cool weather after all.
- Bush beans. From what I read, I thought that these would also be a good warm weather crop, so I planted them mid-May. The plants however are not doing that great. They are stubby and the leaves always look splotchy. Maybe they’ve caught a disease I am not aware of. While it has flowered a fair amount, I only have a few of the flowers that have started to grow beans. I was actually almost ready to pull these plants out this weekend, but then I saw a couple beans starting to grow, and figured I would give it a chance and see what happens with a little more time.
Recap on Planting Times and Crops
As a recap – by the middle of May, I had some crops that were over and done, some that were growing well, and some that I just started planting, to see if they would be successful in a “summer vegetable garden.”
Crops that were finished by May:
- Snap Peas. The Snap Peas did really well in the cooler months of January and February. They were the first to sprout, grew rapidly, and produced nice sweet pods. By April, with the warmer weather (80s), they had trouble filling out their pods. They were still producing lots of new ones, but they stayed flat and started to yellow really quickly. One other thing to note about these plants was that they didn’t produce very many pods per plant. So I think if you wanted a plentiful harvest, and not just a few pods for snacking on, you would want to plant quite a few. For the two of us, I would probably consider planting 15-20 and see how that goes. Have to decide if I have space for that or not though 🙂
- Radishes. I got a couple of nice little harvests of radishes early in the spring. I planted the last set mid-March, and harvested them in mid-May. Many of them only had green tops, with just a few radish bulbs that actually rounded out – and these were really small. So think by March it is time to wrap up the radish planting!
- Bloomsdale spinach. I didn’t have very good luck with the spinach this season, I think it may have gotten too warm too fast. The plants started bolting before they had gotten very big. We did harvest and enjoy what we had, but it wasn’t too much. Also, all the pictures I’ve seen of the Bloomsdale Spinach, are short bushy plants. Mine grew more tall and “gangly” – another reason why I think it was too warm. I’ll start off sooner next year (or even this fall!), and maybe think about keeping them under some shade.
Crops that were harvesting very well in May:
- Swiss chard
Crops that were growing well in May:
- Swiss chard
- Tomatoes! The tomatoes totally took off in May. They started to get quite tall, and very bushy. AND, the fruits started coming!
- Nasturium! These little guys did well through May, producing continuous colorful flowers. Such a fun addition to the garden. I know that you can eat the flowers and leaves of the nasturim, but they are so pretty… So I mostly just left them there for looks. (I did try adding the leaves to an avocado toast breakfast, and they were a yummy addition.)
What I planted in May (Heat-Tolerant Garden?):
- Malabar spinach
- Yellow squash
- Cucumber (standard and armenian)
- Eggplant (black beauty and asian, from transplants)
- Bush beans
If you want to go back even further, and get a refresher on what my initial spring planting calendar looked like, take a look back at this garden post.