Garden Calendar for July
- Tools and Equipment
- Growing Food
- Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs
- Trees, Shrubs and Ground Covers
- Indoor Gardening
Tools and Equipment July Upkeep
- Keep a sharp edge on spades, hoes, and other cutting tools. This makes cutting through weed roots and sod much easier.
- A piece of corrugated cardboard, such as the side from a box, forms an effective and portable barrier to use when spraying an insecticidal soap or vinegar next to sensitive plants you don’t want to over spray. By changing the angle of the cardboard, it’s easy to spray weeds growing right up to the base of a desirable plant while shielding the stems, branches, and leaves. Since some spray will get on the shield, the same side should always face the sprayer when moved from one location to another.
- Do you know how many ways you can use an old (or new) plastic laundry basket? When you’re going out the “North 40” to work, use your basket to carry your hand tools, gloves, seeds, and fertilizer, and when you’re finished gardening, haul all those weeds and clippings to the trash can or compost pile in your handy basket. When harvesting root crops such as beets, turnips, or carrots, leave your bounty in your basket while you wash it with a forceful squirt from the garden hose.
Growing Food in July
It may seem warm, but it’s time to prepare for the fall vegetable season.
Alternate plant choices in planting beds and prepare areas for cool-season vegetables by adding compost to soil and allow it to settle over several months.
Don’t add fertilizer to dry soil. Always water first, then apply fertilizers to moist soils, and then continue with the rest of the water.
- Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower transplants should be started now for your fall garden.
- Remove old raspberry canes after harvest.
- No fruit on your tomato plants? Side dress 1/2 cup to 1 cup of greensand at base of plant.
- Keep an eye on your corn for ear worms as silks emerge
- Harvest leaves from the outside of the chervil plant, so new leaves continue to grow from the center
- After you pick all your blackberries remove the fruiting canes. Prune new canes to 3 feet in height to encourage side branching
- Cut the first flowers of lavender to encourage a second crop. Also, try rubbing your hands with lavender leaves to remove strong odors, such as garlic or onion.
- Mulching herbs during hot weather protects the plant roots and helps keep them healthy. Perennial herbs also need mulch in the fall for protection from winter thaws and freezing.
- Harvest and dry herbs such as thyme, rosemary and lavender for potpourri and for cooking.
Dried thyme stored in plastic bags now will provide tea material this winter during cold seasons. Thyme kills germs.
- Plant a second round of tomatoes, melons, beans, corn, cucumbers, squash and peppers for fall garden.
Companion plant with herbs to deter pests.
Harvest comfrey to make an ointment for scrapes, insect bites and stings.
- Lightly rinse and chop the leaves and roots of the plant.
- Place them in a large glass container.
- Heat enough olive oil to cover plant material. Pour over comfrey. Cool completely and strain out solids.
- For every four ounces of oil, add 1/4 teaspoon each of Vitamin A and Vitamin E.
- Add a tablespoon of any essential oil for scent. Store in glass container. Refrigeration will prolong use.
Lawns and Landscaping in July
During hot, July weather, be sure to mow your lawn to the appropriate height. This reduces water loss and helps lower soil temperatures. Leave clippings on the lawn to decompose. Keep your tall fescue tall, 3.5 inches or more to shade out weeds. Mow often enough that you never cut off more than one-third of the growing grass. Established fescue lawns naturally go semi-dormant in the heat of July.
Fescue can tolerate up to three weeks without water. Water only when grass shows sign of wilt. If you planted your fescue lawn last year, however, you still need to water about one inch every week. You absolutely do not want to fertilize your fescue now, because it will encourage diseases.
- If you have warm season grass such as Bermuda grass, centipede, St. Augustine and zoysia, you can fertilize, but be careful not to overdo it.
- Clemson University recommends a sharp mower blade to cut the lawn cleanly, ensuring rapid healing and growth. Grass wounded by a dull blade is weakened and less able to ward off weeds, diseases and insect attacks, or cope with dry spells.
- For best growth of turf, water your lawn to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Then do not water the lawn for about one week.
- Observe the lawn area and the shade it receives. Plan to thin major shade trees next spring to increase light reaching patchy turf.
- Proper watering means deep soaking. Light sprinkling is often harmful, especially on lawns. Wet the soil to the bottom of the roots (5 to 6 inches deep).
- A brown or grayish cast over lawns can be caused by dull or improperly adjusted mower blades that shred grass rather than cut it.
- Tightly shaped hedges should be pruned after the second flush of growth in the summer, if needed.
Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs for July
- Sow seeds inside now of snapdragons, pansies, calendula, dianthus and other cool season flowers for outside fall planting.
- Edible flowers taste best when picked and eaten the same day. Harvest flowers in the morning, after the dew has dried or right before sundown. Excess moisture can cause discoloration and loss of flavor. Leave stems intact when picking and storing; remove them just before serving. Loosely pack flowers in an airtight container with a moist, paper towel folded in the bottom. Add them to the dish as the last step in preparation.
- If you have been pinching back your mums this summer, mid-July is the time to stop so they will be able to develop flower buds for the fall.
- Dig, divide, and replant crowded irises
- Hedera helix ‘Buttercup’ is an ivy with colorful foliage. It is an excellent ground cover, growing 6 to 8 inches tall, or can be trained to climb. New leaves are bright, yellow-green and later turn to a butter-yellow color. Older leaves are dark green with light veins. Buttercup tolerates a variety of soil conditions in full sun or heavy shade.
- To plant roses now, purchase plants in containers. Sprouted, packaged plants are difficult to handle and grow poorly if stored foods are exhausted.
- The dwarf sunflower variety, ‘Sunspot,’ grows only to two feet, but flower heads are full sized and have edible seeds. It is unusual in ornamental plantings and space saving in the garden.
- Snapdragons should be pinched back after blooming to promote a second flush of bloom.
- To produce the largest flowers, the main stems of dahlias should be kept free of side shoots, allowing only the terminal bud to develop. In larger varieties, a single stalk is the best. Adequate support must be provided to prevent wind damage. Water well.
- If sweet peas are heavily mulched, their roots will be kept cooler and their season prolonged. Use rough, plant litter or grass clippings for mulch. A little shade at mid-day will also help to maintain the quality of the flowers and prolong the blooming season.
- Cut back and fertilize delphinium and phlox to encourage a second show of bloom.
- Sometimes you run into a perennial about which little is known as to its hardiness and habit in your region. If you like the look of the plant, give it a try. Most perennials can be purchased at a reasonable cost, and experimenting with something new can be a lot of fun.
- Many plants are easily increased by layering. Verbenas, euonymus, pachysandra, ivy, daphne, and climbing roses are some of plants that will root if stems are fastened down on soft earth with a wire and covered with some soil.
- Cutting flowers is best done with sharp shears or a knife to avoid injury to the growing plant. A special pair of cutting scissors may be bought that holds the cut-off stem, allowing the removal to be a one-handed operation. A slanting cut will expose a larger absorbing surface to water and will prevent the base of
the stem from being sealed by resting upon the bottom of the vase. It is best to carry a bucket of water to the garden for collecting blooms, rather than the familiar cutting basket.
- Sow seeds of hollyhocks, English daisies, foxgloves, violas, Canterbury bells, and Sweet William now for next year’s bloom.
- Geranium cuttings should be made in late July to start plants for winter and spring indoor bloom. To get flowers in the winter months, you may need to install some fluorescent tubes over the bench or shelves where you grow your plants. To make cuttings, use the tips of branches about 4 inches long. Cut off the bottom
leaves and stick the cuttings about one third their length in a moist, sand-peat mixture. Roots will develop rapidly, and new plants should be ready for potting in about four weeks.
- Chrysanthemums should be lightly fertilized every two weeks with a water soluble fertilizer. To keep plants compact and full of blooms, pinch out new tip growth until eight weeks before they are to bloom, approximately mid-July. For large exhibition mums, allow only one or two shoots to develop. Stake these shoots, and remove side buds as they start to develop.
- Divide and transplant bearded iris using the vigorous ends of the rhizomes. Discard the old center portion. Cut the leaves back to about 8 inches.
- Propagate bleeding heart and California poppy when growth has stopped and foliage has disappeared, indicating a dormant condition. Dig up a root and cut it into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Plant root pieces in a mixture of sand and rich loam. Keep the soil fairly moist, and soon tiny leaves will shoot up. The new plants will be ready for permanent quarters in the spring.
- Gerbera flowers (African daisy) can last up to two weeks in a vase if the water is kept clean. Since gerbera stems are hairy and easily dirty the water, do not immerse them more than a few inches. Change the water every two days.
- If your annuals are dead, pull them out and add them to the compost pile. You can replant beds with hardy annuals or perennials, such as pansies, calendulas, globe thistles, or sea pinks.
- Root holly, azalea, and camellia cuttings in a sand and peat moss mixture set in a cool, shady location. Ivy and periwinkle can be rooted now to fill in any bare spots in your beds. Don’t allow cuttings to dry out.
- When drought hits, if you can’t water rose bushes, do nothing. Fertilizing, pruning, applying natural pesticides, or even cutting flowers can harm plants that are water-stressed.
- Protect plants in containers from very high heat caused by light reflection from pavement. Move them to a cooler spot, or shade them during the hottest part of the day. Plants may be moved to a more sheltered location during severe rain or wind storms or as protection from the first fall frosts.
- Get a second bloom from faded annuals by cutting them back to approximately half their height, then fertilize them with 1½ cups of compost tea per square yard of planted area and apply a generous layer of mulch.
- Tall flowers should be staked to prevent damage by wind. Use stakes that are large enough to support the plant, but not too conspicuous. Use soft twine or plastic twist-ties to secure.
- In planning a perennial bed, first assess the site of the garden. Is it shady? Sunny? Filtered shade? Is the soil acid or alkaline? Does the soil tend to be dry or moist? What climatic conditions are usual throughout the year? Is the soil well drained? Sandy? Full of clay? Once these things have been considered, you can develop a list of possible plants for such a location. Then the plan can be made. Time of bloom, height and size of mature plants, and flower and foliage colors and texture are important considerations in planning a perennial garden.
Choices of specific plant varieties are very personal. Perennial gardens might include only a number of varieties of the same plant or they might, for instance, include only plants that have gray foliage and white flowers. Choices are countless; the important thing is to know what effect you are trying to achieve.
- Container-grown vegetables and flowers can dry out quickly, especially on a concrete patio in full sun. Daily watering may be necessary; however, the soil should not be soggy or have water standing on top of it. Apply water until it runs out the drainage holes. Clay pots permit additional evaporation from the sides,
and watering must be done more often than when plastic pots are used. Small pots dry out faster than large planters. Feel the soil in containers at least once a day and twice on hot, dry days to be certain that plants are getting enough water.
Trees, Shrubs, and Ground Covers in July
- Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) commonly is affected by a number of diseases, including the fatal dogwood anthracnose. Protecting your dogwoods from drought stress can go a long way toward keeping them healthy. Make sure they have been mulched in a wide ring with organic material, about 3 inches deep (do not use dogwood leaves or wood as mulch, and pull back from trunk). During prolonged dry periods, water dogwoods thoroughly.
- Trees may lose up to 10 percent of their leaves during very dry conditions. This helps reduce water lost from the tree by transpiration.
- Remove sucker growth from the base of trees and along branches.
- Monitor trees and shrubs for Japanese beetles. Adults lay eggs in July and August and continually migrate to susceptible hosts. Your local Extension agent can give current organic control recommendations.
- Cornus sericea ‘Silver and gold’ is a variegated dogwood that withstands summer heat and humidity. It grows to about 7 feet. Silver and Gold has white-variegated leaves in summer and yellow twigs in winter.
- Many of the trees and shrubs popular in home landscapes can be started from cuttings during July and August. But remember, it may be three to five years before they reach the size you see in the nursery. If you are equipped with a large supply of patience, propagating your landscape plants can be challenging and fun. The most common rooting medium is washed builder’s sand. Other materials include peat moss, mixtures of equal parts peat and sand, vermiculite, or perlite. The exact medium is not important as long as it is well aerated and drains well, yet holds adequate moisture for the cuttings.
- Some tree-trimming companies shred their trimmings on site and give them away free-for-the-asking to anyone in the neighborhood. Don’t be shy! The cost of chipped wood mulch from the garden center adds up. Coarsely shredded material looks good on pathways and borders, while fine particles compost quickly. Also, your use of the chips keeps them out of the local landfill.
- Tip die-back of redbud (Cercis canadensis) may be caused by saturated soil. Redbuds are very intolerant of “wet feet” caused by prolonged wet soil and high humidity.
- Some woody ornamentals attractive to hummingbirds are crabapple, hawthorn, albizia, Siberian pea shrub, tulip poplar, buckeye, and horse chestnut.
- When you read recommendations to water newly transplanted shrubs frequently, pay attention! University of California research showed that shrubs watered every few days outgrew shrubs watered every 10 to 12 days by almost five times!
- When pruning away twiggy young growth from rose bushes, make use of the prunings by rooting them and producing new plants. Treat stem bases with rooting hormone, stick them in soil in a cold frame that is out of the sun and water them well. Keep them watered. If some die before rooting, it’s no great loss. Just toss them in the compost, which is where they would have ended up anyway.
- During dry spells, trees may shed up to 10 percent of their leaves. This leaf loss reduces water losses through transpiration and causes little or no harm to the tree.
- Inner leaves and twigs of trees normally drop from lack of sunlight, but falling clusters of leaves attached to short twigs may result from insect or squirrel activity. Girdling insects make shallow, encircling depressions, while twigs broken by squirrels have diagonally severed ends.
- Michigan State University reports that over a 50-year lifetime, a healthy tree can generate $31,250 worth of oxygen, and recycle $37,500 worth of water. It also provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control and $31,250 in soil erosion prevention.
Indoor Gardening July
- Many tropical houseplants love to spend at least part of the summer outdoors. All the watering in the summertime causes nutrients to wash out of pots, so feed your container plants every 2-3 weeks with a dilute organic liquid fertilizer or compost tea.
- In summer, indoor plants should be protected from strong sunlight that can cause foliage burn. Closing sheer curtains or partially shutting blinds will shield tender leaves.
- Monitor house plants spending the warm months outside. Make sure pest problems don’t get out of hand. Move to calmer spots if leaves are being wind damaged. If pots dry out rapidly, move plants into some protection from wind or shade, or re-pot if needed.
- Don’t chill tropical house plants by watering them with cold tap water. Let the water stand until it reaches room temperature so delicate root hairs aren’t harmed, or even killed, by low temperatures.
- Bromeliads are being promoted as excellent indoor plants. They are ideal in the home because they tolerate low light conditions.
- Be sure house plants are kept away from cold drafts caused by air conditioning vents.
- July is an excellent month to root cuttings of house plants such as coleus, fuchsia, geranium, poinsettia, shrimp plant, Swedish ivy, wandering jew, wax plant, and others with succulent (non-woody) stems.
Miscellaneous Gardening Reminders for July
- To reduce mosquito populations, make sure bird baths and pet bowls are changed frequently. Mosquito larvae in garden ponds can be controlled with cakes of Bacillus thuringensis or by introducing populations of damselfly and dragonfly.
- Many watering recommendations mention plants receiving one inch of water a week. Put a rain gauge in your garden to help measure this.
- Attractive pails or baskets placed around the garden make handy places to dispose of the results of quick deadheading, weeding, and cleaning sessions. These can be emptied when you have time.
- Daylily flower pods are edible – they can be stewed or added to stir-frys. They have a slightly bitter, but pleasant, flavor.
- Make a home for insect-eating toads in your garden.
- Look carefully at your garden. Is there a place for the whole family in your garden, including the kids? Are there any holes that are begging for something new? Take note, and then plant and transplant in the fall.
- If you know someone who is “turning over a new leaf” by starting an exercise program or going on a new diet, give them flowers or a houseplant as a visual reminder of your support for their effort.
- Fish add natural fertilizer to the water, so when you change the water in your aquarium, use it to water your plants.
- Remove the cloth or plastic cover from an old umbrella, open the frame, and place the handle in the soil near a plant for an instant trellis.
- Use an old pair of jeans to make a sack or carry-all. Cut below the knee, and sew the cut leg to form a small sack. Cut two, 18″ pieces of twill tape for ties. Sew ties to the open end of the sack. Tie the sack to your lawn mower handle for carrying sticks, cans, and other trash. For a large sack, sew at hip level and use a rope through the belt loops for carrying.
- When your soil tests “high” in a nutrient, it means that nutrient should not be included in the fertilizer you add. The soil already has enough of that nutrient to supply plant needs. For example, if your soil tests high in phosphorus, plant needs will be supplied by the phosphorus already in the soil. Adding phosphorus will not increase plant performance and is a waste of phosphorus. Excessive levels of some nutrients actually harm plants. Too much phosphorus in the soil can induce an iron deficiency in plants.
- The praying mantis is a generalist predator that eats both “good” and “bad” insects, non-selectively, so it is not particularly effective as a biological insect control. Other predators are better investments.
- Mushrooms or toadstools usually grow in decomposing organic matter, such as a buried root, stump, or board. These fungi are beneficial because they help to break down woody debris and add humus to the soil. But mushrooms in the lawn can be a nuisance, and the decayed organic material can result in depressions in the yard. There are no chemical controls for toadstools since the fungus often grows so deep that chemicals do not penetrate entirely. Sooner or later, the infestation exhausts its food supply and dies out.
- Fox lure, sold in sporting goods stores, is reported to keep raccoons out of corn. Wafers impregnated with fox scent are sold as rabbit repellents.
- Begin to cut and dry herbs and flowers.
- July is a good time to take cuttings from indoor plants, herbs, and ground covers.
- Organic mulch materials decompose rapidly in hot, moist weather. Add additional mulch where needed
- Pull and compost spent crops. Turn the compost pile and wet it down to hasten decomposition. Leave the pile with a depression in the center to catch rainwater.
- Train and trim plants on arbors. Take care to ensure ties do not girdle branches.
- Red or yellow lights attract fewer night-flying insects than white or blue bulbs. Use them on your deck or patio.
- While on vacation, visit a public garden, to make observations on pleasing planting schemes and the newest releases.
- A few buckets strategically placed in the garden will help you deal with garden refuse. Use one for compostables and another for things destined for the trash.
- Unlike other cut flowers, roses last longest when cut late in the day.
- The larvae of fireflies (lightning bugs) aid gardeners by eating mites, slugs, snails, soft-bodied insects, and larvae.
- Ouch! Thorny rose stems are a problem when arranging cut flowers, but leave the thorns on to get maximum life from cut blooms. Research in the Netherlands revealed that removing leaves and thorns from the bottom six to eight inches of rose stems decreased their vase life as compared to de-leafed, but not de-thorned blooms.
- Hot, dry weather brings out red spiders mites. Inspect roses, evergreens, and marigolds in particular for pale-green coloration. Hold a white sheet of paper underneath a leaf and briskly tap it. Tiny, crawling mites will drop onto the paper if they are present on the leaf. If infestation is light, discourage mites with a forceful, direct spray of water from the hose. Severely infested annual plants should be removed and destroyed. Mild infestations can be controlled with insecticidal soap.
- A non-toxic approach to Japanese beetles: remove all flower blossoms as soon as they begin to fade and all fruit as soon as it is ripe. Japanese beetles are especially fond of overripe fruit and deteriorating flower blossoms. After taking these preventive steps, go out to your garden daily and knock the insects off their perches and into a wide-mouthed jar of soapy water. That will gum them up and prevent them from flying away.
- July is a good time to begin looking for native and cultivated plants from which you can collect seed pods to use for decorating this fall and winter. Be on the lookout for such material as thistles, cattails, dried corn tassels, and seed pods from locust, red bud, and chaste tree (vitex).
- Check the soil moisture of container-grown vegetables and flowers daily. As the temperature rises, some plants may need watered twice daily.
- Water your plants several hours before applying natural insecticides, especially during dry weather. Drought-stressed plants have less water in their plant tissues; the chemicals that enter the leaves will consequently be more concentrated and may burn the leaves.
- Continue attracting insect-eating birds to the garden area by providing them a fresh water source.
- Dry flowers now for use in arrangements next winter. Early season blooms are better for this purpose than those that develop in late summer. Flowers for drying should be cut during midday,in the late-bud or early bloom stage.
- A cool basement will work for temporary cut flower storage. Remember to mist arrangements several times a day.
- High temperatures accelerate respiration and evaporation from cut flowers. Your refrigerator may be used to temporarily hold floral arrangements if the temperature is no less than 40° F, and if no fruit is stored in the cooler. Temperatures below 40° F and ethylene gas given off by ripening fruit can injure the petals of many flowers.
- Control mosquitoes by eliminating all sources of stagnant water.
- If you can’t water during hot, dry spells, then “do nothing.” Don’t prune or apply fertilizer or pest controls. Plants compensate for stress by relative inactivity. Cultural practices that encourage growth, instead of being beneficial, can induce further stress.
- Consider joining a garden club. Some of the best-informed people on horticultural subjects are those belonging to a garden club. There is a constant flow of ideas from fellow members and from “experts” who speak to members.
“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it!”
~ Russel Baker