To grow your own food in a raised bed gardens requires good planning and consistent tending throughout the growing season. To make things easier and quicker, here’s a checklist on what to do in the raised bed garden in the summer – July, August, September. FYI, this is the third post in our series of raised bed gardens through the year.
Find Your Raised Bed Garden Zone
The frantic pressure of spring planting is gone and the harvest is just around the corner. Raised bed gardens can dehydrate quickly in the summer months, though, so keep your eye on them. A regular watering schedule and lots of mulch can help keep your raised bed garden producing through the summer.
Always bear in mind that I live in zone 5, the middle of the garden zones. If you live in a colder zone, add a few weeks to each of these suggestions; if you live in a warmer zone, subtract a few.
There’s a quick course you can take from Angi at Schneider Peeps on understanding your growing zone, if you’re new to gardening. It’s really important to “get it” when it comes to your growing zone. Check it out below:
The best book I’ve found for helping me plan my garden year round and for where I live is The Week by Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook. You can find it used online at Thrift Books.com.
Raise Bed Gardens Summer Checklist
I love lists and I make myself all kinds of lists for each month of the growing season. The following is a sample of what’s on my gardening list for these hot summer months.
My hope is that these lists will help you stay organized right along with me, especially if you’re new to vegetable gardening. We’ll get it all done together!
July Raised Bed Garden Tasks
- Plant another sowing of cilantro, carrots, green beans, beet, turnip, Chinese cabbage, and leaf lettuce in your raised bed gardens– watch for areas of the garden that open up for more planting as you harvest. Consider using the winter sowing method for these seedlings, and/or provide afternoon shade and keep moist.
- Nip off side shoots and base shoots of tomato plants; nip off tops of indeterminate (vining) tomato plants to slow upward growth. Tomatoes are perennials in their native habitat which is why they grow so fast and so much. You have to show them who’s boss with continual light pruning throughout the season. Creative Vegetable Gardener can help you learn about pruning tomato suckers.
- Harvest zukes/summer squash, shell peas, herbs, Brassicas, new potatoes, green beans. Don’t stop harvesting and be sure to put your food preservation on a schedule so you don’t drown!
- Plant a warm season cover crop in unused area of garden – as you rotate crops, leave some areas unplanted to rest or receive cover crops.
- If growing a fall garden, transplant Brussels sprout seedlings. Are you on track with starting your other fall garden veggies?
- Mulch tomatoes, melons, pumpkin, squash with straw. Never let the soil be bare! Bare soil = dry, hot soil under the summer sun.
- Fertilize garlic with compost tea. While you’re at it, give everything a good soak with compost tea in the garden around the soil and on the underside of leaves. Use a garden sprayer to spray in the evening after the sun descends unless the air is warm and damp all night. In which case, you can spray in the early, early morning.
- Hill leeks with more soil like you would potatoes to blanch their outer layers, keeping them pliable and white. You may also cover the aerial parts with paper towel or other paper tubes to accomplish the same thing. Tiny Garden Habit can teach you more about growing leeks, which should have an honored place in the veggie garden.
Continue to harvest basil and other herbs and dry for the winter months. Many herbs can be grown in pots as detailed in our user-friendly potted herb-growing book, The Potted Herb. Check it out below!
Seed Saving This Time of Year
If you’re new to the idea of saving your own seed, maybe this is your year to give it a go!
Remember, aim small/miss small. Pick on or two plants from which to save seed your first year.
- Try your hand at radishes (will cross pollinate) and/or beans (are self pollinating), both of which politely mature their seed in tight pods that only need to brown on the plant to tell you they’re ready to harvest for seed.
- Leeks are an easy seed save and so is lettuce.
- Tomatoes seeds are very fun, especially if you like science experiments.
>>To learn more about this topic, please read Seed Saving for the Easily Confused<<<
August Raised Bed Garden Tasks
If you survived July, you can make it through August, I promise! After this month, fall is officially on the way, so let’s make the most of these last days of summer in the garden.
- Make another round with the compost tea by either spraying it onto foliage or watering it into the soil. Especially for heavy feeder crops like corn, tomato, pepper, eggplant, and winter squash. This time of year, right before final harvests, all your veggie plants are like exhausted pregnant moms who need all the nutrition they can get to deliver healthy progeny! If you can, make a habit of applying compost tea every week during the growing season. I know that’s a lot of weeks, but just do your best.
- Keep harvesting herbs to promote quality growth. Most herb plants are “come and cut again”, meaning that, if you harvest regularly, they will continue to produce abundant crops before they finally set seed at the end of the season. Never harvest more than one third of the available leaves, stems, or flowers. Harvest herbs for their roots in the fall.
- Pinch new blossoms off of winter squash and melons to ripen what is already on vine if your growing season is coming to a close. The mother plant will only have so much energy and time left to complete the ripening process of the fruit that’s already there. Do you know when your first fall frost is? Put it on the calendar and then watch the weather for these frost sensitive crops!
- Sow cover crop of winter rye, oats and/or buckwheat in vacant spaces. Also be sure to turn under pea vines after you’ve harvest the peas to retain the nitrogen the vines have fixed on their roots.
- Sow kale for late season crop. Do you live where you can cover kale plants to protect from winter cold and continue to harvest it year round? You probably do if you’re in growing zone 5 or above.
- Put a flower pot or board under your ripening melons to prevent rot on the ground.
- As garlic tops begin to brown and die, and label; select best bulbs for replanting this fall.
- Dill, cilantro, parsley, and fennel will most likely self sow – allow some seed to fall to ground.
- Harvest onions as tops die back. Be sure to properly cure and hang them!
- Dig, divide, and replant mint and oregano. If you have extra, be sure to share with budding herb gardeners!
Tired of Canning Tomatoes by August?!
Consider dehydrating the bulk of your tomato crop if you use a lot of it to make tomato sauces, soups and pastes. Dehydrate any and all types of tomatoes and store in dry, cool place until needed.
Once dehydrated, grind tomatoes in good blender or food processor until powdered. Reconstitute as needed – see below.
- For paste, use 1 part powdered tomato to 1 part filtered water.
- For sauce, use 1 part powdered tomato to 3 parts filtered water.
For a great book on dehydrating the summer harvest, check out Shelle Wells of Rockin W Homestead’s Prepper’s Dehydrator Handbook.em>
September Raised Bed Garden Tasks
- Begin to pull finished tomatoes and eggplants, pinch off late season blossoms
- Pull weeds before they go to seed. If they haven’t set seed yet, lay them down to armor and feed the soil as they disintegrate in the last of the summer sun. If they do have seed, clip off the seed heads before you make use of them. Some people prefer not to have extra bio material in their garden beds for fear of attracting bad bugs that want to nest in it. I am NOT of that school of thought, FYI. I make use of every, single piece of nitrogen and carbon I can in the garden to feed my soil.
- Start planning out your fall garden by looking at what seeds you’ll need
- Start pulling up stakes, cleaning greenhouse plastic or glass, and equipment like shovels and pitch forks. You can’t do this too often and it’s a great garden chore for kids!
- Start sending the chickens through the garden bed areas to clean out bugs and weeds. You can repair the damage they do with their scratching later – their services are invaluable! You can likewise have them turn your compost pile for you.
- Cut up spent corn stalks or feed to livestock. In fact, start pulling all plants that are dead or dying to help control bad garden bugs for next season. Many of these will be edible like pumpkin, but others are toxic like tomato plants. Be sure you know which is which before you feed them to livestock!
- Start a late season crop of radish and even loose leaf lettuce, if you have time before your first frost.
- Harvest potatoes after tops have died down. Cure and store them. Harvest sweet potatoes and likewise cure them before storage.
- Harvest winter squash as soon as ripe and cure for a few weeks in warm location; pull vines and compost them or feed them to livestock.
- Try your hand at saving tomato seed – great experiment for the kiddos!
- Test your garden bed soil to locate weak areas that need your attention before frost comes. Consider these areas for cover crops and/or heavy mulch like leaves and straw.
- Look for ripening melons – they sneak up on you!
- Plant your garlic, one clove at a time, as weather cools.
Lost All Your Garden Notes?
Need to keep track of all these great plans for raised bed gardens but aren’t sure how?
May I suggest a little organization goes a long way. Try the always handy Gardening Notebook by Angi Schneider, advertised below.
I always think I’m going to remember what I’ve planted and planned in the garden but, alas, half the time my notes and maps end up at the mercy of the toddler, the free ranging chickens, or the elements. The Gardening Notebook can help you and me get better organized for this year and next! This is the one I use every year, FYI.
Our last installment on raised bed gardens in this series will cover October, November and December. Yes, there’s work to be done in those months, too. Never a dull moment when your grow your own food!