Winter solstice has passed and our July Garden Guides are here with all you need to know about what to do in your garden this time of year, depending on which climate zone you’re in.
Cool Temperate July Garden Guide
by Christina Giudici of FIMBY
What to plant?
It’s cold and frosty this month, even though we’ve passed the midwinter shortest day. Amazing how things still grow (even weeds like chickweed) and thrive in these conditions.
Brassicas and parsnips get sweeter after a good frost as some of their starches get converted to sugars to protect the plant cells from extreme cold.
It’s still great timing to source, or divide and share, perennials such as rhubarb, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, globe artichokes, chives, garlic chives, horseradish, potato onions and shallots.
And when you’re thinking about berries and fruit to plant, don’t forget that cane fruit like raspberries, currants, gooseberries and brambles (like silvan berries and logan berries) are easy peasy to propagate. If you know someone with any of these, chances are they’d be happy to share some cuttings, suckers or thinnings from their berry patch.
In the annual veg camp, the same guys as last month are still good to go: spring onions, radishes, broad beans, peas and English spinach. You can start preparing beds for potatoes too, and begin planting them towards the end of the month if your soil is reasonably well drained.
It’s a good time to clean and tidy your strawberry beds, and make an assessment about whether to keep your plants or get a new batch.
After around four years of growth, most strawberries get an aphid-bourne virus which doesn’t affect their leaf growth, but reduces their fruit productivity. So if your plants are just a few years old, by all means snip off the runners and give them to friends, family or the school garden.
But if your patch has been there for four years or more, it’s not a bad idea to remove all the plants completely, refresh the soil with some yummy compost, and plant new certified virus free plants that are sold quite cheaply bare rooted from nurseries at this time.
If you’re not quite ready to give up your plants just yet, you can give them a pretty brutal haircut (gather up and snip off all the big leaves). This will reveal hiding places of slugs and snails – a bonanza if you have chooks or ducks. Once the slimy buggers are dealt with, tuck your strawbs in for the rest of winter with a nice blanket of compost or straw mulch.
Don’t cover them too thickly with a heavy layer, or they may rot. But an airy blanket will keep them happy till they send out new leaves in spring, and you’ll be feasting on sweet fruit by Christmas.
Pests and disease
Check your brassicas, especially broccoli and brussels sprouts, for infestations of grey aphids. These yucky little creatures can explode in numbers very quickly in a few mild weather days, and often do so just as your about to harvest your precious winter food.
They often bide their time on the backs of leaves – if you find a small outbreak you can pick the leaf off, or squish and wash them off with a jet of water.
Quite often the aphids will attack one plant much more heavily than the rest, revealing a slightly weaker or more stressed individual. You can remove these weaklings, taking (hopefully) the source of an infestation with it. Chooks don’t mind a few aphids on their salad!
Harvest and preserve
All the brassicas and many ground-stored winter root veggies are spectacular at the moment. Many of these (eg. cabbage, radish, carrot) make wonderful companions in fermented preparations, such as kimchi or sauerkraut.
Citrus fruits also begin to shine in winter, with lemons beginning to make a good show on backyard trees. As your hens start to lay after their winter break, it becomes prime time for the delectable lemon curd – a perfect combo of lemons, eggs, butter and sugar!
Kiwi fruit are also ripening now… although they don’t get soft on the vine. To work out when to harvest them, pick a sample and cut them in half. If the seeds have gone black, or dark brown, they are ready to pick and will soften up after a few days on the kitchen bench. If the seeds are still pale, they should be left on the vine a bit longer.
Permaculture principle #7: Design from pattern to detail
Designing a new garden can be daunting, but this month’s permaculture principle gives a huge clue that makes things easier: design from pattern to detail.
You might have a list of plants you want: a lemon tree, apple tree, herbs, annual veggies like tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, etc, and perennial veggies like artichokes, rhubarb, asparagus, and a grapevine. But – how do these all go together?
Start with a map (even a rough sketch is okay) of the area you have to play with. Decide which areas have the best sun, access, aspect and so on. Then mark in really broad terms the areas, or zones, which will be used for different things. eg. fruit trees along the southern boundary so they don’t shade the rest of the space, annual veggies where it’s nice and sunny, composting and worm farm setup where it’s shadier and not so good for growing things.
Basing this concept layout on simple geometric shapes is handy. For example, a circular path in the middle of your space can help to simplify what would otherwise be a tricky irregular space.
The funny shaped corner bits that are outside the circle can be filled in with trees, shrubs or perennials. Square or linear shapes, or organic curves and paisley shapes can do the same job.
Always put things that you want to pick often, such as herbs and annual veggies, in places that are easy to get to (near pathways) and preferably close to your back (or front) door.
Mediterranean July Garden Guide
by Nadja Osterstock of Nadja’s Garden
Herbs such as parsley and coriander are doing well now. Beetroot, carrots and radishes are fattening up nicely, and celery and leafy greens are prolific. Warrigal greens (New Zealand spinach) are absolutely booming. Citrus fruits are well into their season, with limes finishing, lemons continuing to ripen, and emperor mandarins taking over from the earlier imperials as lunchbox fillers.
Various combinations of spinach/silverbeet/Warrigal greens with other leafies such as beetroot tops and purple mustard leaves are a staple here, combined with feta or other cheeses in spanakopita, savoury crumbles or salads served alongside soup and crusty bread.
To combat colds and flu, a daily juice of oranges, carrots, celery tops and a little ginger and beetroot packs a serious antioxidant punch.
If you’re direct seeding, go for broad beans, beetroot, carrots (although they’ll be slow now), coriander, potatoes (whole or segments with an “eye” – let the segments dry overnight after cutting), radish, spinach, rocket, parsley and peas.
Remember to sow at about twice the depth of the seed’s length. (So broad beans go in a deep hole, rocket almost at the surface). Spinach and beetroot seeds germinate better if they are soaked in lukewarm water first.
In seedlings, plant out broccoli, cabbage and most brassicas (with protection from cabbage moths), lettuces, endive, radiccio, swede, tatsoi, turnips and corn salad. Put out beer traps for slugs and snails, or don the gumboots for a snail stomp on wet nights.
Here’s a reminder of how to plant bare-rooted fruit and nut trees: prepare the hole wider than it is deep, loosen the soil below, add plenty of gypsum for drainage and do a drainage test – especially if you’re on clay soil, and even more so if you’re planting trees that are sensitive to wet feet.
Add good compost – but particularly to the backfill soil and around and beyond the drip-line of the tree, where most of the feeder roots will grow. Plant while they are still dormant (before buds burst).
Winter pruning of deciduous trees can be done as soon as their leaves have fallen, as long as there are a few days of fine weather to follow pruning and allow cuts to dry out.
Winter pruning is great for establishing the shape of fruit trees in their first three years, renovating old trees that need major branches removed, and stimulating new growth. But most fruit trees won’t fruit on that regrowth in its first summer.
If your aim is to generate more fruiting wood at a reachable height on a mature tree, then leaning towards more summer pruning might be your answer – although winter pruning provides a great view of the tree’s structure.
“Weeds” – add dandelion leaves to salads, nettles to compost or weed tea, and use soursob-pulling for, um, the health benefits of squatting, perhaps? Tender thistles and fresh grass are perfect chook food.
Permaculture principle #7: Design from pattern to detail
This principle is particularly relevant if you are starting a new garden or have just moved to a new property. The natural patterns of the landscape (eg. water and nutrient flows, wind tunnels, sun paths, natural seed banks, sheep tracks) provide useful starting points for considering a layout that works in harmony with the environment. Then the annual rhythm of the seasons provides a pattern for tasks in establishing and maintaining the garden.
Putting the two o f these together, we can come up with a series of basic steps that proceed season-by-season to get the access, infrastructure and initial planting (pioneer plants and slow-growing trees) in place.
Then come the details of annual plants, crop rotation, layering the garden and ongoing soil improvement. The details never end and the patterns increase in complexity over time, but those key patterns established from the start always have a strong influence on the functionality of the garden.
Subtropical July Garden Guide
by Morag Gamble of Our Permaculture Life
Edible garden everywhere are filled with citrus now – lime, lemon, orange, grapefruit, lemonade, mandarins… It’s a great idea to plan a variety of citrus that spreads the harvest throughout the growing season – early, mid and late season varieties are available.
I particularly love my Tahitian Lime here in the subtropics. It is an abundant tree, far more productive throughout the year than lemon. I use it all the time.
Use your citrus surplus
Even with spreading the harvest time, there always seems to be citrus surplus and it is great to know a range of ways to process this abundance – fresh juices, jams, cordials, preserves, dried citrus peel.
If you have a few trees, even dwarf, it’s difficult to consume it all as fresh fruit. We give a lot away, we take it to events and workshops, and the kids sell some too. They made fabulous lime and lemon marmalade recently and sold it at the local market. It even got the thumbs up from some English visitors who really know their marmalades! They were delighted. A good ratio for a traditional marmalade is 2:3:3 (limes: water: sugar).
Care for your citrus trees
July is a good time to think pruning citrus trees before spring’s new growth (in frosty areas, wait till after your last frost).
They key things to look for are dead and damaged branches. Take off shoots that sprout from below the graft. I also remove lower branches that drag on the soil when laden with fruit. While you’re there, check too for gall wasp attach (swellings on stems). If you find them, remove and burn them before spring.
Care for the soil
Typically winter is the time to replenish washed out soils, open them up and add lots more mulch. I am often walking around my garden with a fork open opening areas that feel compacted – gently lifting, but not turning.
It’s also a good idea to grow green manures and mulch crops (it’s still okay to plant out BQ mulch and subclover), compost your garden’s summer abundance, and gather your resources for the spring garden.
The benefits of biochar
Now is a good time to add biochar to your soil. Its porous structure helps to hold moisture and nutrients and provide habitat for soil life. It is available to purchase, and while it seems expensive, a little goes a long way. I like to add it to my compost and then it gets spread evenly throughout the garden.
Worm towers are a fabulous method for keeping fertility up in raised garden beds. Install some into your gardens at 2-3m spacing to take worm castings directly to the soil and plants.
One way to make them this is to drill 6mm holes all around half the length of a piece of pipe (150 mm diameter x approx 0.8 metre long). Simply dig this into the ground half in/half out, ensuring all the holes are underground. Put some coco-peat or compost in the bottom of the hole as worm bedding, add around 100 grams of compost worms and a mulch blanket. Finish it off with an upturned pot on top.
After a week or so, the worms will have settled into their new home and you can start to feed them. Remember that worms are slower when temperatures drop below 15 degrees.
What to grow in July
Even though we are mid-winter, there are still many things to be planting here in the subtropics. Amongst other things, you can be planting: salad greens (lettuce, coriander, rocket), peas (sugar snap peas, snow peas), onions, leeks, shallots, kales, beetroot, daikon, radish, kohl rabi, purple topped turnips and Asian greens (bok choy, choy sum, mizuna, mustard greens).
Plastic Free July
Have you joined the Plastic-Free July challenge to reduce the use of single-use plastic? Growing your own food is of course a big way to do this. Read our 64 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste at Home piece to help you get started.
Permaculture principle #7: Design from pattern to detail
Design from patterns to details. Step back and see the patterns in nature and society. Use these observations to discover the backbone of your design. The details can be filled as you develop the ideas and site further.
I separated my carpark and house with a meandering walk through the garden to enable me to remain engaged with the land, wildlife, chickens and garden on my way in and out each day.
This main pathway from my house to the street acts as the spine of my design – an extension of the zone 1 that connects each of the key features – the chickens, the compost, the nursery, the food forest, the vegetable terraces, my home office, the guest room.
This pathway runs down the ridge with pathways extending off along the contour. These act as water-harvesting features. With that pattern in place, it holds the rest of the design together and the whole site flows well.