Originally published in Between the Rows
July is the hottest and busiest month at the MGNV’s demonstration Organic Vegetable Garden (OVG). High summer means we are continually planting, harvesting, and maintaining. The weeding never ends.
This month, we’ve harvested bumper crops of turnips, Swiss chard, beets, carrots, and beans. Our beans are mostly bush varieties such as the reliable Provider and the beige and purple Deer Tongue, an OVG favorite. Both are hearty and flavorful. We also love the Roma II variety, which is long and flat, but not in taste. Last year we planted haricot vert and they were quite delicious, but not as plentiful as other types. When you produce most of your crops for food banks, that’s important.
We have planted Willow Leaf pole lima beans, but they will not be ready for harvesting for some time. Other crops we are beginning to harvest are zucchini, shishito peppers, cherry tomatoes, and eggplants. It’s so exciting to see the fruits of one’s labor.
By July, most of our summer crops have been planted. However, as we harvest the last spring and early summer crops, bed space opens up. In it, we mostly sow buckwheat. It’s a fabulous cover crop that grows quickly and thickly – so thickly that weeds are unable to gain a foothold in the beds. Another benefit of buckwheat is its delicate white flowers that attract pollinators, always a bonus. When we need a bed for fall planting, we cut down the buckwheat and use it as a green manure.
Care and Maintenance
Much of our work in July involves caring for our plants and beds. We stake and cage tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants and put in climbing apparatus for the pole beans and cucumbers. Without supports, these plants will not thrive. Another July task is weeding. Every work party, a group of volunteers devotes their time to weeding beds. It’s vital to make sure water and nutrients feed our crops, not uninvited guests. Weeds can also carry diseases that will attack plants. Watering plants regularly is another maintenance job of importance. It can be overwhelming in the OVG in July when the weather reaches 90+ degrees every day. If not watered routinely, seedlings and weaker plants will be stunted or die. Late afternoon thunderstorms can ease the watering regimen, but can’t be relied on.
Visit the Organic Vegetable Garden!
One of the best ways to learn about vegetable gardening is to see long established gardens in action. Make time this year to visit the Organic Vegetable Garden in north Arlington at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, one of the seven demonstration gardens operated by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.