Freshly harvested basil from the Central Texas garden in July.

What I’m doing in my Central Texas garden in July

The heat is here, y’all, and this is not a drill. As a result the Central Texas garden in July is the end of one growing season and the start of a relatively slow time before things pick back up again in the fall. With daytime highs around 100-105 Fahrenheit and nighttime lows in the high 70s, many things die off or go dormant in the heat. It’s a great time to plant cover crops on whatever exposed soil you have.

A large colander of fresh basil harvested in the Central Texas garden in July.
Harvesting in July: a few remaining tomatoes and lots and lots of basil.

What I’m up to in my Central Texas garden in July

Plants that are finishing up

  • Nasturtiums
  • Determinate tomatoes
  • Borage

Plants that are just hitting their stride

  • Peppers
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sunflowers
  • Zinnias
  • Native perennials such as Gregg’s Mistflower
  • Malabar spinach
  • Cucamelons
Moon and Stars watermelon have started flowering.
Melons started to flower in the Central Texas garden in July.

What To Plant In July

Plants I’m direct sowing in July

  • Pumpkins
  • Sunflowers
  • Cover crops

Plants I’m sowing indoors in July

  • Assorted greens for the grow lights
  • A second round of Tiny Tim and Orange Hat tomatoes

What about the tomatoes?

This year I have 12-15 indeterminate tomatoes on string trellises across two of my larger raised beds. Because of the heat they are under a large shade cloth. And this weekend I pruned them back pretty aggressively so that they aren’t trying to support a ton of foliage in the heat.

A few varietals are still producing tomatoes, but I expect most of them to slow down until daytime temps come back down again in August. I will water them deeply once or twice weekly and lower and lean them as needed.

Tomatoes under a shade cloth in my garden in July.
A view under the shade cloth at the tomatoes in July. The nasturtium is winding down, and the tomatoes will stop fruiting for a little bit. But peppers, basil, Malabar spinach, marigolds, and melons are still going strong!

What about the herbs?

I have about ten basil plants growing at the base of the tomato vines, mixing about half elephant ear basil and half traditional Genovese varietals. Both are doing great with the combination of shade cloth and sun protection from the tomatoes.

Freshly harvested basil from the Central Texas garden in July.
Freshly harvested basil from the Central Texas garden in July.

The Greek oregano and rosemary are effectively perennial in my garden. They love this heat and try to take over as much space as possible. Also thriving right now: thyme, sage, green onions, and lavender.

Early Girl Watermelons from Baker Creek have started setting fruit.
Baby watermelons! These are Early Girl Watermelons from Baker Creek.

Essential maintenance for July:

  • Mulching: Use a layer of mulch around your plants to help retain moisture in the soil and keep the temperature consistent. I use hardwood mulch in the garden beds and will experiment with garden straw in the raised beds. I have previously used pine straw mulch but find it cumbersome to manage.
  • Fertilizing: I use a slow-release organic fertilizer in my beds when planting, but in the heat of the summer, I use a gentle, water-soluble option like fish emulsion about once a month.
  • Cover cropping: Raised beds are pretty low till by design. I lean into that philosophy, especially during these slower summer months, by covering any exposed soil with a cover crop. Like hugelkultur, cover cropping uses some plants’ ability to collect essential nutrients from the sun and air and returns them to the soil as “green manure.” Buckwheat is my favorite for the summer.
  • Pest control: The squash vine borers and the stinkbugs are out in full force, and the hornworms won’t be far behind. I try to remove or relocate pests as manually as possible. When I resort to sprays, I use organic options like bt or neem oil. Even then, I only spray when it is dry in the evenings, so I don’t overly impact beneficial insect populations.

Here are some great additional resources related to specific challenges of Central Texas gardens in July:

July Gardening Tips for Texas — Texas A&M AgriLife Extension