With the heat, humidity and occasional rains, many gardens have exploded this month. Fortunately, we gardeners can enjoy them with a streamlined list of chores. Basically, July involves weeding, watering and watching. Here’s what we mean:
I make a point of weeding casually almost every day. By this time of year, you probably know which weeds are in your garden and where to find them. Grab them when they are small, after a rain and when you first see them. The goal is to prevent them from going to seed.
- Deadheading isn’t exactly weeding, but removing spent blossoms will make your yard look neater and it encourages plants to keep on flowering. Focus on the plants with spent blooms that are most noticeable, such as geraniums, lilies and daylilies. Roses also do best with regular deadheading, cutting the blooms off just above a set of five leaves.
- You can also cutback some early summer blooming shrubs, such as spirea. Cutting off the blooms after they are finished gives the shrub a neat shape and you may get a second round of blooms in the fall.
- Speaking of plant hair cuts, if your container plants look messy, give them a trim. They’ll keep on flowering and look even better.
- If you are feeling especially active, now is a good time to prune or shape those shrubs that are starting to look straggly.
- To reduce disease, water early or late in the day. Keep the spray pointed toward the soil (not the leaves!).
- Be especially diligent about watering any trees or shrubs that were planted this year. Water deeply every few days unless there is a good rain.
- Are you watching your rain guage? We can get lots of rain or very little from the storms that are so common this time of year. Monitoring rain and making sure your vegetable gardens are getting at least an inch of rain will keep them productive.
By now, many gardeners have already spotted their first Japanese beetle. Ugh. We have lots of information on the blog about JBs, but the most environmentally safe way to control them is simply picking them off the plant and knocking them into a bucket of soapy water. Do it in the morning when they are slow. Get your kids involved! It’s a great job for little fingers.
- Watch your vegetable garden closely for signs of common summer problems, such as early blight or blossom end rot on tomatoes or powdery mildew on cucumbers.
- One of the best things to watch for in July is ripe fruits and vegetables! From the sour cherries that should be ripening now to green beans, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, zucchini and more. To avoid gargantuan vegetables, pick early and pick often.
- Keep on picking herbs, too. If you aren’t sure how to use them, consider freezing them. Some herbs freeze well in logs or in pestos. Or try this basil gelato!
A few other things . . .
- Have you set your mower up yet? During the hot time of the year, mow your grass at the highest setting. Longer grass blades will shade the roots and keep grass healthier.
- If you want to extend the season, plant quicker growing crops now. Lettuces and other greens should go in shadier spots (they really prefer cool weather!) but bush beans can be planted now and be ready to harvest in early September.