July: Garden Checklist

We’ve made it to the dog days of summer! There are many essential tasks to keep your garden growing this time of year. Here’s a checklist of some of the key maintenance your garden needs during July.

Weed, mulch, and water perennials. 

It’s easy to forget about perennials when many annuals are at their height of production but don’t do it! Those perennials like rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries, and chives that you worked so hard to establish, need a bit of attention as we move into the hottest, driest part of the year. July is a good time to weed them well, water them, and mulch them in. 

Sow Last Chance Summer Crops

If you’re hoping for more summer crops, there’s still a bit of time to get a few in the garden in the Southeast. You can still sow cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, corn, and beans. Check out our previous post for more information on summer crops you can plant this July for a late summer or fall harvest.

Harvest and Store Potatoes, Garlic, and Root Vegetables

Potatoes should be harvested and cured when the plants die back. Harvest your garlic on a dry day when the bottom two sets of leaves have turned brown and cure them before storage. The last of your spring root vegetables like beets and carrots should be harvested and used or stored indoors. They can get woody in tough in the heat of summer.

Begin Sowing Fall Crops

Especially if you live in a northern or mountainous area, July is time to sow or transplant fall crops like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, beets, and more. You can set seed trays in your refrigerator for a couple of days to help plants that you’re starting indoors germinate in the heat. Direct sown seeds can be watered well and then covered with boards, cardboard, or burlap until they’ve just started to come up.

Ira’s book “Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast” is a great resource for learning about fall planting. You can also check out a guest post by Pam Dawling called, Last Chance Sowings.

If you’ve started them, it’s also time to plant out tomatoes for fall canning, storage, or in our case, the tomato taste tests. 

Pick Up Food Preservation Supplies

If you know that you’re going to have (or are having) large harvests, it’s good to begin thinking about food preservation. If you’re canning, you may want to ensure you’ve got items like lids, vinegar, and spices. You can also start collecting recipes to help you avoid being overwhelmed by your harvest.

Here are a few of our favorite posts on using and preserving produce:

Sow Heat Tolerant Greens

July and August can be a difficult time of year for fresh salads, but some greens are up to the challenge. Sow small batches of Swiss chard, collards, and Malabar spinach to use as baby greens. 

You can also sow small amounts of heat-resistant lettuce each week. To ensure success with your lettuce, refrigerate the seeds two days before planting and plant them in partial shade. You can use shade cloth, row cover, or plant them on the northern side of a taller crop like tomatoes, to provide some protection from the sun. You can also lightly water or mist your plants in the afternoon to keep them cool. Note, that’s not a substitute for regular watering.

Research and Order Fall Cover Crops

As a gardener, it’s important always to look ahead. Sowing cover crops this fall will protect your soil from erosion through the winter, encourage beneficial insects, and add organic matter. All of this adds up to a healthier and more productive garden next season.

You can find more resources on fall cover crops here. We generally recommend red clover, oats, Austrian winter peas, and rye as winter cover crops.

Think About Water Wise Gardening

Even if your area isn’t experiencing any droughts, it’s still good to consider how you’re watering. Drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water. It’s also best to water in the early morning or the evening when less water will be lost to evaporation. 

Another way to keep the soil moist is by mulching around plants and sowing summer cover crops in any empty beds. 

Select and Order Garlic, Shallot, and Perennial Onions

While you won’t plant these items until fall, you’ll have the best selection if you order early. It will also give you plenty of time to plan a spot in your garden for them and do any research you need to if you’re new to these.

Hill Peanuts

To get the best harvest, you want to hill your peanuts before they peg or drop runners. They should be about 12 inches when you do this. After hilling, mulch them in.

A Brief History of Peppers

Peppers are an excellent crop for gardens of the Southeast. They’re beautiful and incredibly productive. Peppers are available in various shapes, colors, and flavors, so every gardener can find a variety to fit their tastes.

We carry three species of peppers at Southern Exposure: Capsicum annuum, Capsicum chinense, and Capsicum baccatum. Most peppers easily found in the U.S., and almost all sweet peppers, fall under the species Capsicum annuum.

Worldwide, there are 26 known wild pepper species and five domesticated species. The domesticated species include the three we carry as well as Capsicum frutescens and Capsicum pubescens. 

Wild Peppers

Peppers originated in parts of South, Central, and southern North America. Scientists believe that C. annuum evolved in Mexico. C. frutescens probably evolved in the Amazon basin. Capsicum chinense is a misnomer; this species also originated in the Americas and is thought to have evolved from Capsicum frutescens. Capsicum pubescens is native to Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Capsicum baccatum is also believed to have originated in Peru and Bolivia, the Andean region of South America.

The first wild peppers probably produced small, red, pea-sized fruits, which attracted frugivorous birds. Unlike humans, birds don’t have the receptors in their mouths for capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their heat. Bird digestive systems also leave pepper seeds intact, making them ideal distributors for wild peppers. 


Pre-ceramic remains of C. annuum have been found in east-central Mexico in the Valley of Tehuacán. These remains date to 9000–7000 B.P. (before present) and are “the oldest macrobotanical evidence for pre-ceramic chili pepper in the New World.” Archeologists found them in association with other domesticated crops such as maize and squash, leading them to believe these may have been cultivated.

C. frutescens probably evolved and was domesticated in the Amazon Basin. Today it’s cultivated and grows wild in many regions across South and Central America. It’s also grown in India and Ethiopia and has become an essential part of Ethiopian cuisine. 

The exact origin of C. chinense is still unknown. It’s believed to have evolved from Capsicum frutescens and was cultivated in the Amazon Basin in what’s now Southern Brazil and Bolivia. Later it was brought to the Caribbean and Cuba, where it was given the name Habanero. 

Domestication of C. pubescens dates back to pre-Incan times. It was grown by ancient Peruvians of the Paracas, Nazca, Moche, and Chimu cultures. Records of this species can be seen in the textiles, ceramics, and domestic remains of these societies.

Using DNA analysis in combination with archeological evidence, scientists have determined that C. baccatum was most likely domesticated in the lowlands of Bolivia and inter-Andean valleys of Peru at least 4000 B.P. These peppers were most likely domesticated by pre-Incan peoples, including the Arawak and Guarani. 

Sweet Pickle (Christmas Tree) Pepper

Pepper Varieties

As with many crops, commercialized farming shifted away from heirloom and open-pollinated peppers starting at the beginning of the 20th century. Farmers began growing more and more hybrids that produced uniform, sturdy crops that were ideal for shipping. Thankfully, many heirloom and open-pollinated peppers are available for backyard gardeners and small farmers, including those listed below and more.

***If the name is listed in green, it’s a variety we carry. Others are listed for educational purposes, but you may be able to locate seeds from another source.***

Capsicum annum

This species is the most commonly found in the United States and is the most extensively cultivated. It includes a wide variety of pepper shapes and flavors. Almost all sweet pepper varieties are cultivars of C. annuum. They generally have thicker walls than C. chinense or C. baccatum making them ideal for sauces.

Capsicum chinense

These peppers are generally thin-walled and commonly known as “habanero-type” peppers. Their heat is relatively dispersed throughout all parts of the pepper, and they have a fruity flavor. Most of the world’s hottest peppers, including the “Carolina Reaper,” come from this species though not all varieties are that intense.

Capsicum baccatum

C. baccatum peppers are typically the best for drying. They have a spicy, fruity flavor and are generally disease-resistant. They’re an important ingredient in Bolivian and Peruvian cuisine and are sometimes exported as ornamental plants.

Capsicum frutescens

Often used as ornamental peppers, C. frutescens typically bear colorful, lance-shaped upright fruits. They are small and very pungent. They’re often cultivated and used in India and Ethiopia. 

  • Tabasco Pepper
  • Xiaomila Pepper
  • Malagueta Pepper
  • Piri Piri (African Devil Pepper)
  • Siling Labuyo

Capsicum pubescens

This species is probably the most unique. It typically produces meaty, juicy, apple-shaped fruit with black seeds. The plants also have notably hairy leaves and withstand cooler temperatures than other pepper species. They don’t dry well and are typically eaten fresh or made into a paste.

  • Rocoto Longo
  • Canário
  • Mexican Manzanos
  • Peruvian Rocotos
  • Bolivian Locotos
  • Perón

7 Crops You Can Plant in July

Spring and summer always seem to go so fast. There’s so much to get done in the garden. We’re headed into July, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still get some plants in. Here are a few summer crops you can sow this month.


Beans are a productive, quick-growing crop that’s perfect for sowing late in the season. You’ll need to water them thoroughly, especially as they get established, but they tolerate the midsummer heat with no problems. 

For late sowings, some of our favorites are bush snap beans like Provider, Royalty Purple Pod, Contender (Buff Valentine), and Blue Lake Bush (Blue Lake 274). These varieties are all ready to harvest in 48 to 55 days. 


The classic hot weather green, collards can be sowed right through summer. During the summer, they’re lovely shredded and added to stir-fries, salads, and slaws or blended into smoothies. As the weather cools in the fall, you can add them to soups and chili. They can also be fermented to make kraut or kimchi.

Some of our favorite varieties for summer planting include Georgia Green (Georgia Southern, Creole) Collards, Green Glaze Collards, Whaley’s Favorite Cabbage Collards, and Vates Collards. They’re ready to harvest in as little as 68 days. 


Corn thrives during the summer heat. It’s an excellent crop for succession planting to spread out your harvest. When selecting a variety, check the days to harvest to ensure that you choose a variety that will mature before your area’s first frost date. 

A few quick maturing varieties include Buhl Sweet Corn (81 days), Chires Baby Sweet Corn (75 days), Country Gentleman Sweet Corn (93 days), and Bodacious RM (75 days) which is one of the few hybrid corn varieties we carry. 

You may notice a few dent corn varieties, such as Reid’s Yellow Dent Corn, have two maturity dates listed. The first date is for roasting, and the second is for grinding and drying. If you’re interested in roasting, Reid’s (85/110 days), Hickory King (85/110 days), and Hickory Cane (85/110 days) are options.

Homemade Pickles Pickling Cucumber


Both pickling and slicing cucumbers are dependable summer crops. They can be sown in July and tolerate the heat well as long as they’re watered consistently. 

Some of our favorite options for pickling cucumbers include Arkansas Little Leaf (59 days) and Homemade Pickles (55 days). They’re both vigorous, productive, and disease resistant. 

If you’re want to sow slicing cucumbers, this July some of our favorites include White Wonder (58 days), which is very productive in hot weather, and Marketmore 76 (57 days) and Straight Eight (57 days), which are very dependable and productive. 

Southern Peas

Southern peas are also called cowpeas, crowder peas, field peas, or black-eyed peas. They’re an incredibly productive staple crop that can be grown when both days and nights are warm for a period of 60-90 days.

They’re drought-resistant and do well in warm soil. We still have some varieties available. However, the pandemic seed orders sales surge has especially affected our inventory for southern peas. New seed crops are being grown out – we’ll have more seed available again in Nov/Dec 2021!

Summer Squash and Zucchini

Summer squash and zucchini thrive in the summer heat. They’re quick to mature and are ready to harvest in between 48 and 68 days. 

Some of the varieties we recommend include Black Beauty Zucchini (48 days), Early Prolific Straightneck Summer Squash (48 days), Benning’s Green Tint Summer Squash (52 days). They’re vigorous and productive. 

Swiss Chard

Many greens don’t stand up to the summer heat, but Swiss chard will produce all summer and into fall. They can be harvested in as little as 25 days for baby greens or 50 to 60 days for mature leaves.

Perpetual Spinach (Leaf Beet Chard) is a great hot weather substitute for spinach in the southeast. Rainbow Swiss chard is a great way to add both beauty and flavor to the garden. Barese is sweeter than other chard varieties.

Add a few of these to your garden this July for delicious late summer and fall harvests. 

Saving the Past for the Future