By Marielle Martin
It’s not too late to start your Midsummer Garden in the Santa Cruz Mountains. July’s warm weather is in full swing so ponder selection of your summer vegetables, herbs, and flowers accordingly.
This time of year can be more challenging to start plants from seeds directly in the garden. The heat can be stressful for seed germination and very young seedlings. Therefore, it’s generally recommended to start with plant starts that have been germinated and grown to a certain size, when planting in July. They’ll have a better chance of establishing and thriving in the garden during the summer months.
For seasonal produce bounty, we think of tomatoes. Varieties such as Early Girl can tolerate higher temps and moderate humidity. Celebrity is highly adaptable to hotter weather and a potentially shorter growing season. Sungold cherry tomatoes are prolific — tolerating a variety of soil conditions. Give them a wide berth, plenty of moisture, and sun, and your harvest will most certainly be abundant.
I spoke with Amanda Cattiver at Mountain Feed and Farm Supply in Ben Lomond. She offered up some additional suggestions for getting your vegetable garden primed. “Go with hot weather lovers like winter squash, eggplant, and peppers — choices that are going to be happy growing in hotter weather,” Amanda said. The best peppers to plant include bell peppers, chili peppers, and sweet peppers. Bush beans or pole beans, zucchini, and cucumbers can be planted this month as well.
“Herbs that do well in the heat of summer include basil which can be planted throughout the season,” said Amanda. “Go for Genovese or Thai basil, thyme, oregano, and marjoram. Herbs like dill, cilantro, and chives that are more temperature sensitive should be avoided as they will bolt and flower in the heat.” Bolting is a process that occurs when high temperatures become intolerable for the plant, causing them to flower prematurely and produce seed heads in an attempt to reproduce before dying.
Definitely start Zinnias now. These colorful low-maintenance flowers are perfect for midsummer gardens. Native Sunflowers planted now will bloom gloriously in fall. Amanda recommends California native Rudbeckia, or California Corn Flower, a member of the sunflower family that can withstand summer’s heat.
Remember to check the specific planting instructions for each plant, including spacing, sunlight requirements, and watering needs. Providing sufficient water and mulching the soil can help your plants withstand the heat during the summer. Enjoy your garden!
Marielle Martin is a Felton resident, writer, and gardener. Share photos of your garden and stories about your Santa Cruz Mountains gardening experiences at email@example.com
Featured photo by Axel Mellin