July gardening chores run the gamut. If only July were more predictable in the garden. It doesn't matter how wet the spring was, rain can become very elusive in July. Humidity begins to peak. It's the beginning of the rainy season in Florida. And warmer zones are actually passing out of prime growing conditions into the lethargy of the dog days.
So there's no definitive list of gardening chores for the July garden. Gardeners just have to play it by ear. Most importantly, keep a close eye on pests and disease, then sit back and enjoy your garden and all the efforts you put in earlier in the year to get it where it is now.
July Gardening Chores for All Hardiness Zones
■ Slow down and give you and your plants a rest from the heat. It can be very stressful growing and setting flower buds for several months, let alone doing it in heat.
■ Give plants a mid-season feeding or side dressing of compost, to get them through to the fall.
■ Keep tabs on rainfall and water as needed. Most plants need at lest an inch of water per week, more if the weather is very hot and dry. Remember to water deeply.
■ Stay ahead of weeds. Pulling them before they flower could save you from thousands of new weeds.
■ Replace mulch as needed. It naturally decomposes and may need replenishing.
■ Check garden centers for mark downs on remaining plants. Be sure to check that they are healthy and not pot bound or full of weeds.
■ Keep lawns at about 3 inches, to protect from summer heat.
■ Keep bird feeders and baths clean.
Special Care for Ornamental Plants in July
■ Keep up on deadheading. The more you deadhead, the more your flowers will re-bloom.
■ Shear back spent annuals by one-third. The old foliage gets worn out by mid-summer and shearing it back will encourage fresh new growth to fill in.
■ Focus on heat and rain resistant flowers like: coleus, hibiscus, melampodium, pentas, plumbago, portulaca and zinnias.
■ Do a final pinching by mid-July, of fall blooming flowers like mums and asters.
■ Divide Iris.
Vegetable Garden Maintenance in July
■ Harvest daily. Some vegetables, like zucchini and cabbages, can mature in the blink of an eye. Don't let them get tough or split open.
■ Find a Plant a Row for the Hungry program to donate your surplus vegetables to.
■ Succession plant bush beans and lettuce, to replace fading plants.
■ Start fall crops of peas and cole crops. Keep them well watered, until temperatures cool down.
■ Time to dig the garlic, onions and early season potatoes. Onion tops will fall over when they are ready to harvest. Garlic and potato plants will start to decline as they mature underground. Dig a few to test.
■ If your potatoes are not quite ready to harvest, treat yourself to some new potatoes. Carefully loosen the soil under your plants to find a few small potatoes to harvest.
■ Plant a cover crop in bare spots in the vegetable garden. It will feed the soil and keep weeds from moving in.
July Fruit Care
■ Check your berry bushes regularly to harvest before the birds get them. Birds will start munching on berries such as raspberries and blackberries even before they are fully ripe.
■ Clean up fallen fruits under trees. Rotting fruits are an invitation for diseases, insects, and foraging animals.
■ Check fruit trees for water sprouts (branches growing straight up from limbs) and remove them while they are small. They will only draw energy from the fruiting branches of the trees.
July Tree and Shrub Care
■ Prune summer flowering shrubs as soon as the blossoms fade. The plants will look better and they can store their energy rather than spend it developing seed.
■ Hold off on planting until the fall. It is too hot and dry in July for most plants to handle the stress of transplanting. The exception is potted plants that are struggling in their containers. If you must transplant, keep them well watered.
Pests to Watch For in July
■ Thrips (distorted flowers)
■ Spider mites (undersides of leaves)
■ Tomato fruitworm
■ Tomato horn worm
■ Chinch bugs in lawns
■ Japanese beetles.
July Gardening in Warmer Areas (USDA Zones 8 and Above)
■ It can be too hot to grow vegetables this month in many areas. If that's the case, consider planting a quick cover crop, to feed the soil.
■ Your prime gardening season is coming up, especially in the vegetable garden. It time to start planning your fall garden.
■ Start seeds of heat loving vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, okra, eggplant, and cucumbers
■ It is still a good time of year to plant container grown citrus trees and tropical fruits.
■ Succession sow sunflowers (every 2 - 3 weeks) for a steady supply
till next time this is Becky Litterer, Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa firstname.lastname@example.org