July 2013 To-Do List: Mid-Atlantic

Susan Wells

heirloom tomatoesTomatoes are America’s most popular vegetable for the home garden. But remember that when temperatures stay above 90 degrees F, tomatoes resist setting fruit. Be patient and eventually they will get back on track as temperatures cool down. Keep soil evenly moist and mulch well. This will help tomatoes resist disease and cracking.

Perennials

•    Spent flowers on a hosta stem will become a cascade of seed pods. After flowers have died, clip each stem at the base among the leaves.

•    Deadheading salvia takes time and patience. Clip each dead flower spike individually at the stem base. Look closely for small buds; clip that dead flower stem above a new stem with a bud.

•    If your mulch has become hard and dry on top, rainwater will flow right over it and not reach the soil, much less the deeper roots. Use a hoe or cultivator to break the crust and fluff up the mulch.

•    Renovate an overcrowded planting of bearded iris by cutting back the tops to 6 inches. Use a digging fork to loosen and lift the entire clump and cut the rhizomes into 3-4 inch sections. Replant so the rhizomes are just at the soil surface, spacing them 12 inches apart.

•    Deadheading or even shearing many of your perennials will keep them re-blooming throughout the garden season.

Annuals

•    Some container plantings may need watering more than once a day in the hottest weather. Keep plantings vigorous with regular feedings of a half-strength soluble fertilizer, such as fish emulsion. Make sure the soil is moist before you feed; don’t put fertilizer on dry plants.

•    Trim back plants like petunias that may have grown straggly, to promote a new flush of bloom.

Vegetables

•    Plant seeds of kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, bok choy, arugula, broccoli, radishes, carrots, cilantro, beets, spinach, and lettuce.

•    After you pick the first crops of cukes, beets, spinach, green, yellow, and pole beans, sow new seeds for a flush of fresh produce in five to seven weeks.

•    Summer squash, cucumbers, and eggplant are tastier and tender when picked small and immature, just before they ripen.

•    Pulling out weeds under and near wanted plants can disturb the soil around the wanted plants and leave their roots exposed to summer heat. Move soil back to cover roots and water weeded beds gently and deeply.

•    As the fruits on melon, squash, and pumpkin vines develop, make sure they are not resting on bare soil. Place a thick mat of straw under each fruit or set it on a support. Keep them picked clean to keep them producing.

•    Harvest herbs such as basil, dill, marjoram, and tarragon regularly to keep plants producing new growth. Dry what you don’t use fresh. Hang bunches in a dark, airy spot for a couple of weeks until dry and brittle.

Shrubs/Trees

•    Resist planting ornamentals in 90-degree weather, especially in sunny and dry locations. Wait till temperatures drop in mid- to late August or September.

•    Newly planted trees often escape notice in drought conditions. They need frequent, long, deep watering to keep them healthy. A general rule of thumb is approximately 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter at knee height per watering.

Lawn

•    Putting fertilizer on your lawn in the middle of the summer just feeds the weeds. Wait until September to give your grass its main feeding of the year.

•    When your lawn has “white tipping” on the leaf blades, it’s a good indication that the mower blade is getting dull. Carefully remove the mower blade and get it sharpened.

•    It’s fine to let your grass go dormant during drought. It’ll turn brown, but it’ll stay alive and then will go green and start growing again when the rains come again.

Image: Shutterstock/Candace Hartley

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