July is for weeding, watering and harvesting. Stay ahead of the weeds by hoeing or pulling them when they are small, then mulching well to keep them from reappearing. Mulching also keeps soil moist longer and saves on watering. Keep all vegetable and fruit plants picked clean to keep them productive.
• If you grow variegated plants, you may see some of the shoots revert to solid green. Clip these out when you notice them. The green shoots are more vigorous than the variegated ones, and, if left, will often overtake the plant.
• 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.
• 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.
• Onions are ready to harvest when their tops begin to bend over and are dry and brown. Cure onions in a warm, dry, well-ventilated spot out of direct sun for one to two weeks until the tops are completely dry and the outer skins are papery.
• Sow seeds of carrots, Chinese cabbage, kale, lettuce, onions, daikon radish, Swiss chard, and turnips for fall harvests.
• Put lettuce seeds in the refrigerator for a week or two prior to planting so the heat of the soil won’t send the seeds into dormancy.
• Check your squash and pumpkin plants for signs of the squash vine borer. Check stem bases for clusters of eggs and destroy them. Slit open infested stems and destroy the fat white larvae feeding inside, then cover the injured stems with soil to encourage rooting.
• For the sweetest pea harvest, pick regularly, which will also help increase the production from your vines. Pods at the bottom of the vines mature first.
• 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.
• 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.
• Continue to make small, successive plantings of dill and cilantro every 10 to 14 days so you have a continuous supply of fresh leaves throughout the summer.
• Don’t allow vegetables to rot on the vines, or fall off and decompose in the soil. Fallen fruit attracts pests and can harbor disease. Besides, a ripe-to-rotting fruit sends a message to the plant to stop producing.
• Check your spruce trees for the pineapple-shaped galls formed by spruce gall aphids. Prune out and destroy them now, before they open and turn brown later in the summer.
• Deadhead your hybrid tea and grandiflora roses by cutting back the faded blooms at least to the first leaf with five leaflets.
• More profusely blooming floribunda and polyantha roses can be deadheaded with hedge clippers when most of the flowers in a flush of blooms have faded.
• Finish up any pruning of spring flowering shrubs such as spirea, lilac, and forsythia soon, so you aren’t pruning off the wood that will produce the buds for next spring’s flowers.
• Remember to keep new plantings watered regularly throughout their first season. When you water, put down enough water to soak the entire root zone, then let the top few inches of soil dry out before watering well again.
• Give your roses their last feeding of the season with a dose of a complete soluble fertilizer by the end of July.
• 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 when the rains come again.
Image: Shutterstock/Iakor Filimonov