July is your prize after many months of gardening — from fall prep to spring planning — and you now get to reap your rewards with fresh fruits, vegetables and fragrant flowers.
It is a time of abundance.
July is not the best planting month for Southeast gardens, but it’s a good time to plan and prepare. The weeds will not let you rest, but they might slow down to a manageable pace during the dog days of summer. Rainfall will best determine how much time you’ll spend weeding. Little rain, fewer weeds. More rain, more weeds.
Cut back annuals: Cut back summer annuals so they don’t get leggy. A good time to do this is right before you go on vacation; this way, you will be gone as the plants get a fresh start. Petunias benefit from this kind of summer pinch. This cutback from the ends of the stems encourages branching, resulting in a bushier plant.
Practice wise watering methods: July can be a month with limited rainfall. When nature stops providing regular rain, you may need to supplement. Here are some tips to help your garden during a dry season:
- Chances are your container plants will need to be watered every day. Check by doing the finger test. If the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to water. Water thoroughly. Small pots will dry out faster than larger pots, and containers in the sun will dry out faster than those in the shade.
- Add mulch. A layer of mulch, 3 to 4 inches deep, will moderate soil temperature and reduce evaporation. Organic mulches include: composted leaves, shredded pine or hardwoods, and even nuggets. Mulches will also reduce weed production and keep the garden looking tidy.
- First season plants — those fall and spring additions — will need more frequent watering than established ones. Water new additions two or three times per week until the plants are established. Established plants typically require watering once a week.
- Conserve water by running a sprinkler during cooler hours, typically early in the morning. This will help reduce water loss due to evaporation. If possible, set up a drip irrigation system or a soaker hose to minimize waste. Watering in the morning hours also allows the water to dry on the foliage, minimizing fungal formation.
Deadhead and deadleaf spent flowers: Remove hosta flowers after the bloom is spent. They’re primarily decorative and not an energy source for the plant, so they don’t need to die back completely before removing.
Deadhead the spent flowers of daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.), Shasta daisies,(Leucanthemum spp.), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia, spp.) and bee balm (Monarda spp.) to extend the bloom time.
Do those yellow leaves of the daylily make you see red? They do to me. Not only do I deadhead my daylilies, but I also deadleaf. I don’t like the look of yellow or decaying daylily leaves.
Divide irises: Did you have success with your new iris planted this year or in the fall? If not, it could be due to several factors: too much shade, too much fertilizer, too deep a planting, or crowding. July is a good time to correct any of these problems by lifting and relocating or repositioning to a more favorable location.
Plant the iris high with the rhizomes along the surface of the dirt. They will be covered finely and lightly with mulch, but not soil. Make sure you can either see the rhizomes or have the ability to brush away the mulch exposing the bulb.With the exception of Louisiana variety, irises need six to eight hours of sunlight to bloom and require good drainage. If you have a damp, partial sun location in your garden, plant a Louisiana iris.
Harvest summer edibles: Harvest tomatoes when they are ripe. There is nothing better than sinking your teeth into a ripe tomato, warmed from the summer sun. Didn’t plant tomatoes? Visit your local farmers market for a selection of fresh, field-grown varieties.In your home garden, keep an eye out for early blight. Blight is a fungal disease that will cause spots to develop on the foliage. The leaves begin to yellow and then drop. Pinch off foliage at first indication. If too severe, there are several fungicides that can be used to reduce the symptoms.
After the blackberry and raspberry harvest, remove the old fruiting canes to make room for the new canes that will produce next year’s crop.
Manage pests: Do yourself a favor and never look into the “eye” of a bagworm. Bagworms have got to be the most disgusting looking thing ever — to me anyway.
Bagworms can be treated by removing them by hand and dropping into a bucket of soapy water. If the bagworm infestation isn’t within easy reach, they can be sprayed with Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.
Bt is a microbial insecticide that’s commonly used to control various caterpillars such as the red-headed azalea caterpillar along with many others, as well as bagworms.