July is a good month to plan for cooler weather. Start plants indoors you want for fall transplanting to the garden. Think about where you would like shade and plan for planting shade trees in the fall. If you can stand to be outside, build a raised bed or dig up a new perennial garden, but don’t put plants in until the heat breaks a bit. New plants will fry this month. In the established garden, there are chores that can be done to keep flowers blooming and vegetables producing.
• Give your vegetables a light feeding of compost or a balanced fertilizer, sprinkled 4 inches from the base of the plants. Compost will not burn the plants or the worms within the soil.
• Keep picking your tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers. Just one over ripe fruit left on the vine will cut back its productivity.
• Cut herbs in the early morning, rinse and hang to dry for use later. You can also finely chop the cleaned herbs and place in an ice cube tray, add water, then freeze. When needed for cooking, remove them from the tray and add frozen to your recipe.
• It is never too late, too hot or too cold to start composting. (Sometimes it can be too wet.) Visit your local Home Depot for a wide selection of compost bins to get yourself started. Those used coffee grounds will become a slow-released nitrogen source for the garden.
• Continue to deadhead your geraniums and snapdragons. You can leave your impatiens and begonias to self seed, if you like. Or collect the seed and plant them where you want them. They are beautiful planted in mass.
• During extremely high temps you may want to protect tender annuals with some shade. If they are in the ground, use shade cloth or row cover. If you have them planted in pots, relocate them to an area where the shade of a tree can help.
• Colored pots will provide a lovely accent and year ’round color for the garden. Many lightweight ‘faux’ pots are on the shelves at your neighborhood Home Depot.
• Continue to deadhead plumbago and ruellia (Mexican Petunia) and other perennials. You may enjoy them popping up through the lush leaves of a ‘Split Leaf’ philodendron. The ruellia is now available in a dwarf variety.
• Prune off the old blooms and faded leaves from your shrimp plants and shell gingers.
• Pinch to separate your portulaca (rock moss, purslane) and relocate into dry and hot areas of your garden. They can stand the heat.
• Cut heleconia blooms for your floral arrangements. Before bringing them into the house, rinse them thoroughly with a light soapy water to remove any insects hiding within.
• Keep your outdoor bromeliads in an airy, slightly moist environment with filtered light.
• Fertilize your Angel Trumpets, which are heavy feeders.
• Feed the gardenias with a slow-release fertilizer or compost. Prune after blooming.
• To maintain strong and healthy shrubs, remove approximately 10 percent of old growth when pruning.
• Prune bougainvillea to maintain safe walkways for foot traffic and mowers.
• Sea grapes enhance a floral arrangement. Use light, soapy and a double rinse before bringing into the house. The double rinse will remove the soap residue.
• Remove dead and diseased wood long before threat of tropical storms distracts you. That way you won’t have to worry as much about falling limbs.
• Examine your trees and identify problems before they become disastrous. It is easy to misdiagnose and then mistreat a problem. Make a free call to a specialist from your local County Extension Service.
• Examine lawns for grub infestation and treat with appropriate lawn products.
• If extra watering is needed, do a deep watering in the early morning. Check and adjust the timers for irrigation systems and shut them off when the threat of heavy rains exist.
• It is better to do a deep watering than a brief shallow one. Deep watering = deep roots = strong plants and grasses.