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Savor summer longer

By Katie Jackson

Ah July, the month when we can practically wallow in summer fruits and vegetables. Yet even as the supply becomes almost overwhelming, are you already lamenting the time when there will no longer be a summer tomato to slice or zucchini squash to roast?

There’s a perfect way to alleviate that premature sorrow: Plant a late summer/early fall garden.

One of the perks of living and gardening in Alabama is that we have a long growing season, which allows us to continue growing many summer crops well into the fall. Admittedly it may be hard to set aside time from harvesting, weeding, watering and maintaining your current garden. However, if you love the taste of summer, it’s worth taking time to install transplants of tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, eggplant, beans and cucumbers. Just make sure to choose varieties that mature before your area’s first typical fall frost date.

Another way to extend the taste of summer is to keep a fresh supply of annual summer herbs going by sowing basil and cilantro seeds every few weeks directly into the garden or into pots so a new crop is coming on regularly. I keep indoor pots of basil going year-round, reseeding the pots each month so I never have to do without a sprig of basil even in January and February.

Once you’ve got that late summer garden in, don’t forget that July is the month to start seeds for more traditional fall crops such as rutabagas, pumpkins, winter squash and the many “c” crops of fall—collards, cauliflower, cabbage and carrots. Come August you can keep planting seeds for many of these fall crops and begin seeds for kale, lettuces, turnips and other leafy greens as well as for the “b” crops—beets, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

Don’t know what to plant when? Check out the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s “Planting Guide for Home Gardening in Alabama” ( publication, which has a great year-round planting chart to guide you.

If you want to escape the heat this month, chill out with a cool drink and some seed and plant catalogues. It’s never too early to start planning next year’s garden and you can literally spend hours exploring the options.

Advice on variety selection or myriad other gardening issues is available through your local Extension office, Master Gardener groups and area garden shops, but don’t forget one of the best sources of help in the world—fellow gardeners, especially those who have gardened for years, who have hands-on knowledge of what works, or doesn’t work, in your area. They have likely already made all the mistakes, mistakes you can avoid simply by relying on their experience.

July Gardening Tips

  • Water lawns, landscapes, container plants and vegetable gardens deeply and avoid watering during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Mulch shrubs and trees and add mulch and compost to garden beds to help retain moisture in the soil, keep roots cooler and suppress weeds.
  • Plant heat-tolerant annual and perennial flowers.
  • Remove (deadhead) fading flowers from annuals, perennials and summer-blooming lilies.
  • Keep an eye out for insect and disease problems in the lawn, landscape, garden beds and on potted plants.
  • Keep birdbaths and hummingbird feeders filled with clean, fresh water or sugar solution, respectively.
  • Turn your compost.
  • Harvest fruits and vegetables early in the day for best flavor and quality.