July Gardening Tips
Regional Gardening Tips for Summer
July gardening chores run the gamut. If only July were more predictable in the garden. It doesn’t matter how wet the spring was, rain can become very elusive in July. Humidity begins to peak. It’s the beginning of the rainy season in Florida. And warmer zones are actually passing out of prime growing conditions into the lethargy of the dog days.
So there’s no definitive list of gardening chores for the July garden.
Gardeners just have to play it by ear. Most importantly, keep a close eye on pests and disease, then sit back and enjoy your garden and all the efforts you put in earlier in the year to get it where it is now.
July Gardening Chores for All Hardiness Zones
- Slow down and give you and your plants a rest from the heat. It can be very stressful growing and setting flower buds for several months, let alone doing it in heat.
- Give plants a mid-season feeding or side dressing of compost, to get them through to the fall.
- Keep tabs on rainfall and water as needed. Most plants need at lest an inch of water per week, more if the weather is very hot and dry. Remember to water deeply.
- Stay ahead of weeds. Pulling them before they flower could save you from thousands of new weeds.
- Replace mulch as needed. It naturally decomposes and may need replenishing.
- Check garden centers for mark downs on remaining plants. Be sure to check that they are healthy and not pot bound or full of weeds.
- Keep lawns at about 3 inches, to protect from summer heat.
- Keep bird feeders and baths clean.
Special Care for Ornamental Plants in July
- Keep up on deadheading. The more you deadhead, the more your flowers will re-bloom.
- Shear back spent annuals by one-third. The old foliage gets worn out by mid-summer and shearing it back will encourage fresh new growth to fill in.
- Focus on heat and rain resistant flowers like: coleus, hibiscus, melampodium, pentas, plumbago, portulaca and zinnias.
- Do a final pinching by mid-July, of fall blooming flowers like mums and asters.
- Divide Iris.
Vegetable Garden Maintenance in July
- Harvest daily. Some vegetables, like zucchini and cabbages, can mature in the blink of an eye. Don’t let them get tough or split open.
- Find a Plant a Row for the Hungry program to donate your surplus vegetables to.
- Succession plant bush beans and lettuce, to replace fading plants.
- Start fall crops of peas and cole crops. Keep them well watered, until temperatures cool down.
- Time to dig the garlic, onions and early season potatoes. Onion tops will fall over when they are ready to harvest. Garlic and potato plants will start to decline as they mature underground. Dig a few to test.
- If your potatoes are not quite ready to harvest, treat yourself to some new potatoes. Carefully loosen the soil under your plants to find a few small potatoes to harvest.
- Plant a cover crop in bare spots in the vegetable garden. It will feed the soil and keep weeds from moving in.
July Fruit Care
- Check your berry bushes regularly to harvest before the birds get them. Birds will start munching on berries such as raspberries and blackberries even before they are fully ripe.
- Clean up fallen fruits under trees. Rotting fruits are an invitation for diseases, insects, and foraging animals.
- Check fruit trees for water sprouts (branches growing straight up from limbs) and remove them while they are small. They will only draw energy from the fruiting branches of the trees.
July Tree and Shrub Care
- Prune summer flowering shrubs as soon as the blossoms fade. The plants will look better and they can store their energy rather than spend it developing seed.
- Hold off on planting until the fall. It is too hot and dry in July for most plants to handle the stress of transplanting. The exception is potted plants that are struggling in their containers. If you must transplant, keep them well watered.
Pests to Watch For in July
- Thrips (distorted flowers)
- Spider mites (undersides of leaves)
- Tomato fruitworm
- Tomato horn worm
- Chinch bugs in lawns
- Japanese beetles.
July Gardening in Warmer Areas (USDA Zones 8 and Above)
- It can be too hot to grow vegetables this month in many areas. If that’s the case, consider planting a quick cover crop, to feed the soil.
- Your prime gardening season is coming up, especially in the vegetable garden. It time to start planning your fall garden.
- Start seeds of heat loving vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, okra, eggplant, and cucumbers
- It is still a good time of year to plant container grown citrus trees and tropical fruits.
- Succession sow sunflowers (every 2 – 3 weeks) for a steady supply.
Special Garden Consideration for the Gulf Coast and Florida
- Prepare for hurricane season and keep dead limbs pruned
Nothing Says Welcome Like an Entry Garden
Now is the time to start planning your entry garden. This welcoming patch has the power to set a warm and friendly tone for those who pass through your garden on the way to your front door. It does take some planning to set the proper mood, however, and you need to consider architecture, setting, scale, boundaries and maintenance.
Architecture and Setting
First, it is critical that your garden style suits your architecture and setting to create a cohesive, uniform look. Try to match the hardscaping and plants to the style and feel of your house. A cottage or farmhouse would be accentuated by a friendly, loose informal garden with plants spilling onto the walkway and colors blending together at the edges of beds. A more formal and symmetrical building, however, should be paired with a more structured garden that includes well-groomed shrubbery, stately flowers and a well-defined path.
Pay attention to the scale of the plants you choose. Plants that will grow too tall or broad can overwhelm the house or crowd the walkway. Plants that are too small can make the house feel too large and unwelcoming. Investigate the mature sizes of plants and be sure they are positioned appropriately within your entry garden so they will not crowd one another or block key features of your home, such as house numbers or security lighting.
Consider setting boundaries for the garden using a fence, wall, hedge or gate. The boundary could encompass just the area around the front door, might include a flowerbed border or could frame the whole yard, but keep in mind the size and style of your home. A white picket fence around the entire yard is a quaint option for a cottage-esque home, but would look out of place with an elegant brick manor, which would be more suited to a wrought iron boundary or classic boxwood hedges.
Maintaining Your Entry Garden
Be realistic about the amount of time you have to maintain your entry garden. If you have limited time, choose native or easy to care for plants that will require little attention. Also consider using containers for some of the plants. They can be easily rearranged throughout the seasons to give a different look to the garden, and plants can be brought in over the winter months. Keep in mind essential tasks such as weeding, pruning and watering, and plan the garden to suit your abilities, time and budget so you can always keep it in perfect condition to welcome visitors.
With a little planning, you can create a welcoming entry garden to beautifully greet guests as they visit your home.
The garden is at its peak, and long days offer ample time for picking fresh flowers and sun-ripened produce.
Temperatures Soar and Color Sizzles
Some plants thrive as summer heats up. If your perennial beds lack color, try a few of these plants that flower through sweltering August afternoons. All are drought-tolerant once established.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) brightens the garden with cheery yellow blooms perfect for cutting. It’s a good choice for a wildlife garden. Flowers beckon butterflies; seed heads are a goldfinch favorite.
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) unfurls silvery foliage accented with lavender blooms. Plants are deer-resistant.
Threadleaf tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata) opens daisylike blooms in shades of yellow, white, or pink. Low-maintenance plants have fine foliage and open flowers steadily until frost.
Yarrow (Achillea) sounds a steady note of drought-resistant color in the summer garden. Look for flowers in many shades, from white, to red, to peach, to yellow.
Test Garden Tip: Even the most reliable summer bloomers stage a stronger show when you faithfully remove faded flowers.
August Watering Tips
Water plants a few hours before applying pesticides, especially during times of drought. In these conditions, plants have less water in tissues, and as pesticides enter cells, they may burn leaves.
Avoid watering during midday, when more water will evaporate than soak into soil.
It’s not uncommon for plants to wilt on hot afternoons even though soil has adequate moisture. The wilting occurs because plants are losing water faster than their roots can absorb it. Leaves should revive by early evening, after the sun is no longer directly on leaves. If not, water deeply.
Some shrubs need weekly deep watering now. Rhododendrons are beginning to form flower buds for next year’s show, and adequate water is vital. Fruiting plants, such as hollies and firethorn, need water to ensure berries mature and don’t drop.
Test Garden Tip: Water newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials — any plants you added to your yard last fall or spring. These plants need weekly irrigation to ensure roots establish deeply.
Garden-Fresh Flavors from the Herb and Vegetable Garden
Peppers: Pick peppers at any stage of development. The longer fruits stay on a plant, the more intense flavor becomes — sweet peppers grow sweeter, and hot peppers develop a stronger burn.
Herbs: It’s best to pick herbs before they flower. Harvest herbs on a dry morning, after dew has dried. The exception is mint, which you want to pick at midday, when essential oil concentrations in leaves are greatest. Avoid harvesting herbs following a rain, when foliage is wet.
Tomatoes: Even though tomatoes continue to ripen after picking, fruits develop greatest flavor when allowed to ripen on plants. The exception is cherry tomatoes, which are prone to splitting. Pick these tasty morsels as soon as fruits start showing color.
It’s Time to Stop…
Fertilizing roses. Stop feeding roses this month so that growth can harden sufficiently before killing frost arrives. This will help reduce the amount of winter kill.
Pruning evergreens. As August arrives, put away the pruners as far as evergreens are concerned. If you prune now, you risk plants pushing new growth, which won’t harden off and will be killed during winter’s chill.
Ignoring zucchini. Daily inspections of squash vines are a must. In August heat, small, tasty fruit can transform into inedible baseball bats overnight.
Composting weed seeds. Unless your compost pile gets hot enough to kill seeds, it’s best to destroy weeds with seed heads. If your town has a community composting facility, place seedy weeds at the curb. The community compost will be hot enough to kill seeds.
August Garden Chores for the Northeast
Pull annuals that are past their prime and aren’t likely to recover. Cover bare soil to deter weeds.
Take cuttings of plants you want to overwinter. Choices may include fuchsia, scented geranium, coleus, or wax begonia. Stick 3- to 4-inch green stem cuttings in soil. Place pots in a shaded spot, and keep soil moist.
Make sure mower height is raised so you’re cutting grass higher. When grass is taller, it shades soil beneath, which reduces water evaporation from soil. Taller grass generally has deeper roots, which helps it withstand drought better.
September is peony planting time. That means August is the month to order peony roots. You should have peonies in the ground about a month before the average first frost date.
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