Lee Valley & Veritas Gardening
Lee Valley 40 Years  
  Volume 14, Issue 7 - July 2019    
How to Grow a Vegetable Garden – Part Six
July is my favorite month to spend time in my vegetable garden. The birds are active, butterflies are making the rounds and honeybees are pollen drunk. Every plant you nurtured and worried about is grown and lush (or dead and forgotten), and there's an abundance of food that you can finally pick and eat. It's very, very exciting.

Welcome to July, the month you realize you've grown your own produce aisle where you can take anything you want for free. You don't even need a coupon.
Vegetable basket
What to Expect in July

If you followed my June gardening advice to keep everything watered, weeded and pest free, the only things you need do in July are pick vegetables and brag.
The author in her vegetable garden
That's the good news. The bad news is you still have to continue watering, weeding and keeping pests under control. The difference between June and July garden work is that in July you get rewarded for all the work with fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic.


  1. Keep weeding, watering and watching for pests.

  2. Keep everything tied and staked up neatly to reduce disease and increase production.

  3. Stop watering your garlic two weeks before it's ready to harvest. A good rule of thumb is that once the bottom leaves of the garlic start to get the slightest bit brown, stop watering.

  4. Formulate a plan for getting rid of your zucchini. If you grew more than one zucchini plant, you're going to need to give a lot away. By the end of July, neighbors, friends and family will no longer be pleased when you thrust a zucchini in their faces. Look for open car windows and just drop zucchini in as you walk past. Seriously. Getting rid of the abundance of zucchini will become a full-time job.
Pests and Solutions
Squash plant infested with vine borer
In July, the pests get bigger and grosser. This month they're attacking your vegetables as opposed to just the plants. It will make you angry, disheartened and vengeful. Direct all those emotions into eradicating them.

Bug Patrol

July is when the scary bugs come out. Vine borers and tomato hornworm (a terrifying caterpillar the size of a ketchup bottle with what amounts to a sword on its back end) are two pests that can kill your plants almost overnight. And you won't even see them coming unless you know what to look for.
Squash vine borer
Squash Vine Borers

If you've ever grown a beautiful tangled mess of squash vines only to find them completely wilted almost overnight, chances are you've had squash vine borer. You probably didn't know it because the pest doesn't crawl over or chew at any visible part of the plant. The larvae live inside of your squash plant's stem, eating the entire inside of it.

The life cycle is as follows. A red-and-green moth that looks more like a fly lands on your squash vine when it's young. The moth lays its eggs at the base, where the stem meets the soil. When the eggs hatch, the tiny larvae eat their way inside the middle of the stem where they live for the rest of their lives happily eating until there's nothing left. Finally, the plant has no stem left other than a thin skin, all the vines wilt and the plant dies without you suspecting a thing.

Squash Vine Borer Control

In July, start checking your squash and pumpkin stems for squash vine borer by inspecting where the stem meets the soil. If you see yellow frass or what looks like chewed up yellow gunk at the soil line, you know your plant is infected. Gently squeeze the stem and find where it is mushy or hollow feeling. A healthy stem feels perfectly solid and hard.

Using a sharp knife carefully cut into the stem where it feels hollow. Root around with the knife until you find the vine borer and kill it. If you can't see the vine borer, gently scrape the entire hollow portion of the stem with your knife. (You're trying to squish and kill the pest.)

Once you're satisfied the vine borer is dead, mound soil up around the injured stem, covering it completely. In most cases if you catch it early enough (before the vines start to wilt) you can save the plant.

Plants affected: squash and pumpkin

Tomato Hornworm

I wish I had a photo of this to share with you but any time I've encountered a tomato hornworm, I scream and run away. It's that big and grotesque. It very much looks like something that might take you hostage. Tomato hornworms can eat through an entire tomato plant, leaves and fruit, in a day or two. If you find a tomato that looks like a human has taken a big bite out of it, chances are you have a hornworm hiding in your garden. Even though they're huge (they can actually grow to about four inches long), they're difficult to see because they're the same color as a tomato leaf. Check your plants carefully if you see extreme damage to them in a short time period.

Tomato Hornworm Control

My top two options for dealing with tomato hornworms are as follows:
  1. Handpick the caterpillars off and drown them in water (or feed them to chickens, if you have them).

  2. Stop the hornworm before it becomes a nuisance by spraying your tomatoes with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), natural soil bacteria that destroy the gut of any caterpillar that consumes it. Keep in mind it works on all caterpillars, so keep it away from any butterfly host plants you have around such as milkweed or dill. Once ingested, the Bt won't harm birds or other animals that in turn eat the caterpillars.
Tomatoes with blight

Blight isn't a pest, but it is a problem. Early and late blight will also take out your tomato plants at a remarkable pace. You'll know you have it if your tomato leaves start to get spots on them, turn yellow and eventually dry up and fall off the plant. Your tomatoes will also get marred with dark spots and sometimes white furry bits.

You can reduce the risk of plants being infected by keeping your tomatoes' leaves off the soil. To do this, string them up (or tie or cage them) and make sure the lower leaves are stripped away from the stem. Mulching the soil underneath the plants also helps.

If you do the above and still get blight, you can try a product that I recently discovered called Natria®. It's a biofungicide with Bacillus subtilis – soil-dwelling bacteria that control leaf blight, black mold, powdery mildew and other diseases. This spring, I put tomato plants on my front porch to harden off and they almost immediately developed some sort of leaf spot. Over half the leaves went yellow and dropped off. My tomato plants were dying before I even planted them. In desperation, I sprayed them with Serenade without much hope for good results. It stopped the leaf spot and impending death in its tracks. If you're a new gardener, this is probably good news for you. If you're a veteran gardener, you have a better understanding of how remarkable this is and you're probably doing some sort of cartwheel or happy dance right now.
The author picking carrots

You'll use all the same standard tools I mentioned last month and the month before (Dutch hoe, clippers, trowel, shovel, gardening gloves, stakes/cages, row cover and compost bin).

Additional things you'll need in the garden for July are:
  1. Bags, buckets or baskets for harvesting produce. Keep them in the garden because even though you think you won't need them or figure you'll remember them, you won't. Keep a supply handy, otherwise you'll be leaving the garden like me in the photo above. Yes, there is a person behind all those carrots. If you look closely, you can see my eyes peeking out carefully scanning the world for tomato hornworms.

  2. A bottle of water. July is hot and gardening is fun. This is a bad combination if it means you spend a lot of time outside but forget to hydrate because you're having so much fun. Keep a bottle of water with you and remember to drink it if you're out gardening for any more than a half an hour.

  3. Scissors and a knife. You're actually harvesting this month, so you'll need something sharp to cut your broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and zucchini. Some vegetables can be simply pulled off. If they don't come off with only a slight tug, it's better to cut the vegetables so you don't disturb or break the plants.
What Can Be Planted This Month

You can start thinking about second plantings in July. Carrots, beets and lettuce can be planted for a later fall harvest, and even things like zucchini and squash should still have time to produce if you plant them now. Just in case, you know, they were eaten by squash vine borers or succumbed to disease. Because if you have a healthy zucchini plant, we've established you aren't going to need more than one of them.

Happy gardening. See you in August.

Text and photos by Karen Bertelsen

Karen Bertelsen is a Gemini Award nominated television host who has appeared on some of Canada's major networks including HGTV, W Network, Slice and MuchMoreMusic. Seven years ago she started the blog The Art of Doing Stuff (
www.theartofdoingstuff.com) as a creative outlet for her writing and endless home projects. The Art of Doing Stuff now receives over half a million views per month and has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Style at Home and Canadian Gardening magazines.
Lee Valley Tools on Facebook Lee Valley Tools on Twitter Lee Valley Tools on YouTube Lee Valley Tools on YouTube
Subscriber Services: Subscribe | Privacy Policy | Newsletter Archive