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7 Kitchen Garden Tasks for July

Jul 01, 2013
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Whether you are a greenhorn or a greenthumb, there are always new things we can learn and do to get more out of our gardens. Here's a list of my must-do's for this time of year.  Don't stress out if you don't manage to get to  all of them.  Do what you can this week and try to tackle a few more next week. 


1. Mulching: It's at this time of the year that I'm trying to get my hands onto any organic matter I can -leaves, grass clippings, leaves, straw, seaweed, salt hay, etc- to mulch my pathways and around my plants.  Mulching does at least three things: it stops weeds from growing, adds nutrients to your soil and keeps your soil moist.  I find that 10 minutes spent mulching on average saves me 30-60 minutes of weeding down the road. 


2. Watering: Water accounts for roughly 90 percent of the weight for most fruits and vegetables. If Mother Nature isn't giving your crops the water they need to reach their full potential, you'll need to step in to help. During dry spells, I try to soak mine in the evening so that the water has a chance to sink in and reach the roots. 


3. Observing and recording: Observation is the first line of defense for the organic gardener. By tuning into your plants, the weather, your soil, the emergence of weeds, the arrival of pests and diseases in your area, you're poised to stop a small problem from becoming a big one and a big one from wiping out a whole crop. It may not seem unproductive to putter among your plants without a set agenda, but I assure you it is. It's also one of the things that elevates gardening from a chore to a therapeutic and, some might even say, spiritual activity.  "The only difference between science and screwing around is writing it down," quips Adam Savage of the TV show Mythbusters and he's right. This is a task that I need to do better. I love the theory of keeping a handsome garden journal, but I've found that in practice I end up writing on scraps of paper and on the back of empty seed packets when I write at all.  One recording tool that has certainly made me into a better gardener is the KGI garden planner. While I'm still not using all its features to their fullest extent, it's helping me keep track of what I planted where and when which is a very good start. 


4. Sowing:  Rookie gardeners need to get past the idea of "getting the garden in."  Seasoned gardeners know that the garden is never really "in" but but always in the process of "getting in" via succession planting.  July is an important month for removing plants that have stopped producing and sowing new ones in their place for a late summer or fall harvest. Don't worry to much about finding the perfect place to plant. With exception of root vegetables, most crops can be moved later. For now, it's all about getting things started while the days are still long and the soil is warm.  


5. Harvesting: It may sound like a no-brainer, but it's really important to keep up with your garden's production for at least three reasons. The first is that you've invested your time, money and energy and it's important to recoup your investment. A second is that some crops, for example cucumbers, will stop producing if there not harvested regularly. The last reason, of course, is that all great food is just waiting to be enjoyed.  


6. Cooking: There's only so much time in the day for food preparation (44 minutes per day for women and 17 for men, according to the latest American Time Use Survey).  Since we're not likely to invent a new 30 or 60 minute block of time, we need to be creative with the time and ingredients we have. July's a busy month with other demands on our time so look for those "most bang for you buck" projects at this time of year. One creative cooking task I have on my agenda for the coming couple of weeks is making garlic scape pesto which I freeze either in ice cube trays or in small canning jars. I love the idea of socking away the warm flavors of summer for cooler days.


7. Donating: If you've been following KGI's work over the years, you know that we're all about sowing gardens forward so that more people in society can enjoy the benefits of healthy, home-grown foods. Fortunately, there are more and more ways of doing this thanks to new local and national initiatives in place that are connecting gardeners with their local food pantries. These include groups like Ample Harvest, Plant a Row for the Hungry and, in Canada, Glow a Row. Take a moment this month to find a local food pantry or other worthy cause you can support with your garden goodness. You'll be pleasantly surprised to hear about the heroic work that's happening in your area and will feel all warm and fuzzy inside to be able to contribute to it.  


Must ask: Why is your record book in Dutch?
Very good question! While I'd like to be able say that I speak fluent Dutch and that I keep my garden journal in Dutch as a form of mental gymnastics, the truth is that it's the one and only photo I have of a garden journal. My sister and her Dutch husband took the picture about five years ago when they were visiting a gardening acquaintance in Holland. Do you speak Dutch yourself? I'm American, but am marries to a Belgian and happen to be in Belgium at the moment.

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