July 2013 To-Do List: Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

Susan Wells

weedingWith more than 50 different planting zones in this region, match your landscape’s micro-climate as closely as possible when choosing plants and determining which gardening culture works best for you.  Coastal areas are, of course, much cooler and wetter than the inland areas, in which July is hot and dry. July’s big jobs include weeding, watering and harvesting. Inland, even drought tolerant and native plants will need to be watered this month. Protect potted containers from sun. Move them into any available shade and off concrete, if possible. Use shade cloths when you can. Use moisture control potting mixes in containers or introduce moisture-retaining crystals. Do your transplanting in the late afternoon or evening so plants have the whole night to begin to recover before they’re hit with a full day of sun and heat.

Vegetables, Herbs and Fruits

•    Thin last month’s seedlings of Lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celeriac, celery, chard, and corn, but leave some close enough to each other that the leaves of maturing plants will shade the soil between them, keeping plant roots cooler.

•    Mulch to reduce evaporation and help maintain even soil temperatures.

•    Cage up tomatoes and prune off lower branches to keep foliage off the ground. Remember that tomatoes will not set fruit in very high temperatures inland. You can prune them back to a foot high and let them regenerate for a late harvest.

•    In coastal gardens, long season tomatoes may have a hard time getting enough sun to ripen. Make sure they are planted in the sunniest location possible and choose early ripening types like ‘Early Girl’ and ‘Celebrity’.

•    Don’t let avocados and citrus dry out this month or they won’t set fruit.

•    Keep weeds under control. After weeding, water plants and mulch well.

Flowers

•    The month of July will bring the end for the blooms of the native Scarlet Larkspur. Larkspurs naturally go dormant in the summer, so save your water. Leave seeds on their stalks to self-sow next year’s plants. (They can be thinned out after germination.)

•    The 1-2 foot tall native Blue Flax blooms April through September. The dark lines of their petals are a “road map” for nectar seeking insects. Living for up to 2 years, Flax reseeds easily. Cut it back this month and give it extra water to encourage fall blooming.  

•    July brings us the bright yellow blooms of goldenrod. With 10 species native to California, choose your varieties carefully, as they can be aggressive in the home landscape. They are a wonderful background accent.  Planting them in mass assures a strong color impact since the bloom are somewhat short lived.

•    Feed your bromeliads with a diluted fish emulsion this month.

Trees and Shrubs

•    Look for inch long caterpillars attacking bougainvilleas. The bougainvillea looper is the larvae of the somber carpet moth. Handpicking is the best defense. The caterpillar can develop a resistance to Bt. Birds can be a natural predator.

•    Prune the lower limbs of the Toyon shrub to create a tree form that will give your home landscape year ‘round interest and offer a wonderful wildlife habitat. Toyon’s  white clusters of blooms in June and July, followed by red berries on evergreen branches are reasons to work them into our landscape. They can also be used in a hedge form. This drought tolerant native can grow 15 feet tall and up to 5 feet wide.

•    Native Mexican Elderberry is still in bloom through September, when it will bring super sweet berries for us to share with the birds.

•    Keep your fruit trees well watered this month.

•    Check all camellias and azaleas for yellowing leaves, which indicate an iron deficiency. Treat the soil around them with a chelated iron supplement with manganese and zinc.

Lawns

•    Remember that an over-watered , over-fertilized lawn is prone to stress and disease.  

•    Make sure to keep your mower blades sharpened. Get a mulching kit and leave the clippings on the ground to re-nourish the soil.

•    Every other mowing, alternate your mowing directions to assure clean, even cutting.

Image: Shutterstock/hans.sleger

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