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

Susan Wells

wateringOur most important tasks in July are controlling pests, cultivating, deadheading, weeding, watering, mulching and harvesting. Protect potted containers from sun.  Move them into any available shade. Use shade cloths when you can and move containers off pavement to keep them cooler. Use moisture retention potting soil or introduce moisture 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. Water the transplants in well and provide shade from the intense midday sun. Water enough to keep soil around transplants moist for at least a month until they’re well-established. Mulch transplants to lessen evaporation so your irrigation water lasts longer.

Vegetables, Herbs and Fruits

•    Pick vegetables when they are young and tender. Try to eat or preserve them the day they are picked. Keep plants cleanly picked to keep them productive.

•    If onion and garlic foliage has not yet dried and slumped, stop irrigating. Bend the stalks to the ground, and allow a month or so for bulbs to dry prior to harvest.

•    Drip irrigation is a water-wise approach for row crops.

•    If crops are yellowing, or you notice a slowing down of growth, use cottonseed meal and blood meal to provide extra nitrogen.

•    When planting in succession, work in a layer of aged compost into the top 6 inches of soil before planting the second crop.

•    Thin last month’s seedlings of Lima and snap beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, celeriac, celery, chard, corn, cucumbers, and eggplants, and heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant lettuces, melons (plant Crenshaw and honeydew melons early this month), okra, pumpkins, radishes, New Zealand spinach, summer and winter squash.

•    If you have planted your tomatoes deep enough, they can go a longer period of time between waterings. Keep their lower branches pruned off to keep foliage off the ground.

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

Flowers

•    Flush out the centers of your bromeliads to ward off mosquitoes, allowing the cups to dry out periodically. Fertilize them this month with a diluted fish emulsion.

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

•    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.

•    Remove berries from fuchsias.

•    Divide day lilies.

Trees

•    Keep your fruit trees and transplanted palms well watered this month.  Water deeply to encourage deep root formation.

•    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. Its white blooms followed by red berries on evergreen branches give us many reasons to work them into our landscapes. They can also be used in hedge forms. This drought tolerant native can grow 15 feet tall, and up to 5 feet wide.

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

•    Continue to plant bananas, papayas, and palms.

•    Prune water sprouts (tall shoots that grow straight up from the trunk of fruit trees) flush with the bark of the tree.

Lawns

•    A tough, evergreen lawn substitute, for interior and desert areas and near the beach, is ‘lippia.’ Its deep roots are great for erosion control, creating a thick mat. It does flower in early summer and fall, but then can be mowed in July to keep it green.  

•    Remember that an over-watered, over-fertilized lawn is prone to stress and disease and has to be mowed more often.  

•    Make sure to keep your mower blades sharpened.

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

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