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July Gardening Tips

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July Gardening Tips

Regional Gardening Tips for Summer

Harvested vegetables from the garden


Westend61/ Westend61/ Getty Images

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

Watering Lawns During The Summer

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Many homeowners wonder whether they should regularly water their dry lawns during a drought or essentially leave them alone. A Purdue Extension turfgrass specialist says each option has its pros and cons.

During a dry season, many lawns will show initial symptoms of drought stress, Aaron Patton said. As grass loses water, its leaves become less rigid and wilt; in this stage, grass stays flat after it is stepped on rather than “bouncing back.”

The most telltale signs of drought stress, however, are the crunchy tan or brown leaves of grass that has entered dormancy; the plant is still alive, but the leaves dry up and die. This helps the plant conserve water and survive a drought.

Drought stress is most noticeable on slopes and lawns established on shallow or poor soil, Patton said.

“In order to keep your lawn green during hot and dry periods, at least 1 inch of water will need to be applied weekly,” Patton said. “However, you can keep your lawn alive with far less water.”

Homeowners can water regularly enough to avoid drought stress altogether, or they can let their lawn go dormant and water only occasionally to help it survive.

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of each option:

Watering to keep lawn green

“Water turf two to three times weekly – deeply, a good soaking, so you don’t have to water daily,” Patton said. Watering in the early-morning hours is most effective; watering in the evening could encourage disease or pests.

* Advantages: Turf will stay green, aesthetically pleasing and actively growing; ground remains soft so it can be used for recreation; deep soaking will foster deep roots, which will help plants better survive a prolonged drought.

* Disadvantages: Higher water bill for those with city water; some increased risk of turf disease.

Letting turf go dormant

“Once the lawn turns brown and goes dormant, we can’t tell if a lawn is dying unless we water and wait to see the response,” Patton said. “That is why we advise to water once every two weeks with one-half inch of water once the turf goes dormant to keep plant crowns hydrated during drought. This amount of water will not green up the turf, but it will increase long-term survival during long dry spells.”

* Advantages: Avoid irrigation costs; most turf species are drought-tolerant and will survive typical Indiana droughts.

* Disadvantages: Difficult to tell when turf is getting too dry and needs water to stay alive; lawn is brown and has poor aesthetics; hard soil makes turf less usable for recreation; turf is more susceptible to injury and will not recover until rain returns; some thinning and turf death can occur if there is no rain for 4-6 weeks and no irrigation is applied.

Patton emphasized that when lawns are dry, it is important to stay off them. Mowers and other heavy equipment can cause substantial damage to vulnerable, stressed grass. Once rains return, the turf will begin to recover and grow new leaves within two weeks.