July 4th, 2012
July usually brings a slow but steady pace to the garden. Here are some July hints, tips, and ideas to help you keep your garden in top shape.
Revive tired annuals. Many exhausted annuals — such as coleus, dusty miller, impatiens, and petunias — respond well to being cut back, fed, and watered this month. A good rule of thumb is to cut plants back by half, or locate little bulges — called secondary buds — low on plant stems and prune 1/2 inch above these secondary buds. They will produce new stems. Apply an organic or controlled-release fertilizer, allowing plants to recover over several weeks.
Don’t feed dry plants. If your plants get dried out, don’t fertilize them when you water them. The nutrient salts in the fertilizer could burn the plants’ already-stressed roots. Instead, water first, then fertilize after the plants have recovered.
Wear gloves at all times. Bacteria and fungus live in the soil, and a small irritation or cut can develop into a major hand infection. Thick, leather, or suede gloves help protect your hands from thorns, cuts, and scrapes.
Let your lawn grow a bit taller in summer than in spring and autumn — taller grass tolerates the heat better.
Check the view. The heat of summer is a good time to evaluate your garden view from inside your home. Plan gardens so they’re visible from the windows you look out most often.
Use cages, stakes, or trellises to keep tomato plants upright. Tie plant stems to their supports with soft materials. Fruit-laden tomato plants are heavy, so use sturdy supports. If using cages, anchor them with a stake.
Remove pests. Use a water stream to force aphids from plants. Plant annuals to attract beneficial aphid-eating insects such as ladybugs.
Keep the caterpillars. Don’t kill caterpillars in butterfly gardens because they will soon turn into butterflies. To attract certain kinds of butterflies, research the caterpillars’ preferred host plants and place them in an out-of-the-way corner of the garden. That way, the caterpillars can snack on the plants without damaging the look of your garden.
Water wisely. Water your lawn in the evening or early in the morning so water is absorbed by the soil, rather than evaporated by the sun. Set your sprinklers carefully to avoid wasting water on pavement.
Continue to plant seeds throughout the month for late crops of beets, bush beans, carrots, chard, and cucumbers.