July 2007
Featured Articles



PLANT

• Direct seed into the garden beans, field peas, short-season corn, cucumbers, pumpkins, rutabagas, Irish potatoes and summer squash.

• Start fall tomatoes and eggplants in containers. Water and protect from heat.

• Good time to fill in bare spots with heat-tolerant annuals such as cleome, celosia, cosmos, sunflowers, zinnia, verbenas, petunias, marigolds and gomphrena.

• This month is a great time to start next year’s perennials. Prepare a seed bed of finely worked, rich soil amended with loam, leaf mold and well-rotted manure. Water the soil thoroughly and allow it to drain. Sow seeds and cover lightly with soil. Mulch with straw to protect and keep the seeds moist. You’ll have to monitor the soil moisture. Make sure the soil doesn’t bake. Remove the mulch when the seeds sprout. Thin as the young plants develop. Transplant once to a temporary bed before setting in their final location. Transplant to final location later in the fall or early next spring.

• Pot bound houseplants can still be transplanted or divided.

• Plant more water lilies if less than half of the pond is covered with plants.

• Marginal plants for the water garden can still be installed.

• Divide and repot water lilies if needed.

FERTILIZE

• Fertilize your vegetable garden once a month with a balanced fertilizer such as 8-8-8, 10-10-10, etc.

• Feed roses monthly using Fertilome Rose Food during this peak time of growth.

• Yellow leaves with green veins usually mean iron deficiency. Treat with chelated iron.

• Fertilize after pinching or pruning perennials to speed recovery.

• Apply a slow-release fertilizer second application if used earlier.

• Use a fast-release fertilizer on annual ornamentals every 4 to 6 weeks throughout growing season if needed.

• If you’re trying your hand at growing banana plants or giant elephant ears remember that they are heavy feeders and require frequent watering to support their huge leaves. Foliar feeding with fish emulsion works great on these plants.

• Feed houseplants as needed. Do not over fertilize.

• Floating-leaved plants in the water garden should be fed with slow-release aquatic plant tablets.


PRUNE

• Dead or damaged limbs should be removed. These can be used in the compost pile for aeration.

• Remove faded flowers and cut back any weak canes on roses.

• Make sure your hybrid tea roses are getting pruned now in preparation for their big fall show in a couple of months.

• Pinch tips off non-blooming perennials to force more lush new growth, which later on will give you more flowers.

• Remove spent plants from vegetable garden and send them to the compost pile unless they have been diseased.

• The rule of thumb with chrysanthemums is to make your last pinch by the 15th of July in northern Alabama and no later than the 31st on the Gulf Coast.

• Harvest your herbs often to keep the plants bushy and healthy.

• Deadhead flowers at regular intervals to prevent setting seed pods and prolong bloom time.


WATER

• Keep an eye on the water needs of your plants during these dog days of summer.  Newly planted material is especially at risk since their roots have not spread to the surrounding soil.

• If outdoor water use is not restricted in your area, water consistently to avoid stressing the lawn.

• Water outdoor container plants daily, others as needed. Allow water to drain through the drainage holes in pots to prevent buildup of salts in medium. Consider using Soil Moist when potting plants to cut back on water usage.

• Water tomatoes from below to prevent fungal infections.

• After watering, probe the soil with a stiff wire or rod. It will move easily through wet soil and stop when it hits dry. You can also check water penetration by digging around with a shovel. Lawns should be watered to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Most annuals, perennials and vegetables should be watered at least 12 to 18 inches deep. Water shrubs to a depth 18 to 36 inches, depending on how tall they are. Trees should be watered to a depth of at least 3 to 4 feet. Deep watering leads to deep roots and plants that can better withstand heat and drought.

• Refill your water garden if water level has dropped. If pool has fish, water will need to be dechlorinated before adding.


PEST CONTROL

• Monitor garden plants for insect and disease problems. Early intervention brings best results.

• Check for spider mites on roses.

• Look for tomato hornworms early in the morning on your tomato plants. Hand pick and destroy.

• Be on the lookout for squash bugs on your squash, cucumber or melon plants!

• If you have diseases on your fruit trees get rid of the affected fruit.  Don’t let them sit under your tree as sources of infection next year.

• To help reduce the number of mosquitoes breeding in your yard, empty buckets and plant saucers. Areas of standing water, such as ditches and water gardens, can be treated for these pests. Easy products to use include Mosquito Bits (granular) and Mosquito Dunks (solid).

• Kill weeds that continue to erupt between stones, bricks or along gravel paths.

• Good soil culture is the best control for grub worms. Beneficial nematodes, Milky Spore, HY Kill-A-Grub, SP Grub Stop, Triazicide can be used for infestations.

• Neem, Sevin, Triazicide, Carbaryl can be used on adult Japanese beetles.

• When the weather gets hot and plants get stressed, you’ll see black ants and aphids arrive. You can get any number of treatments at the Co-op. Once the aphids leave and they’re not causing honeydew secretion on the plants, the ants will disappear.

• Webworms in pecans and persimmons can be controlled with Bt.

• Protect figs and other ripening fruit from birds with netting.

• Treat for mildews on crape myrtle and roses with Immunox Plus.

• Pick off and destroy water lily beetles or midges from infested leaves.


ODD JOBS

• Keep your garden journal updated with results of current activities and plans for future projects.

• Cutting your grass too short can stress your lawn in the summer. Elevate your mower blade 2 to 4 inches for St. Augustine, 2 to 3 inches for Centipede, 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches for Bermuda, 2 to 3 inches for Zoysia, 2 to 3 inches for Kentucky bluegrass and 2 to 3 inches for fescue.

• Harvest vegetables like beans, squash and cucumbers regularly. Most will stop producing altogether if over-mature fruit is allowed to stay on the plant. Share the excess with friends and neighbors. Replant bean and corn and squash for late-season harvest. Later in the month, plant cool-season crops for fall.

• Turn compost pile, add new ingredients and start new piles.

• Mulch all bare soil with partially completed compost or other coarse textured material.

• Fix leaky hoses, spigots and valves to prevent wasted water.

• Support any leaning tall plants.

• Pick watermelons when underside turns from whitish to creamy yellow and the stem starts to wither.

• Dig Irish potatoes when half their tops have dried down.

• Pick sweet corn just before cooking. It is ready when silks turn brown and pierced kernels release a milky juice.

• So you’ve got company coming and need flowers for a quick arrangement; visit your local farmers market. Look for these great seasonal favorites: zinnias, sunflowers, blazing stars, coxcombs, dahlias and tithonias. They all make beautiful bouquets.

• A trellis or arbor might be the perfect solution for plants that need extra support or a vertical path. Installing it this year might be problematic, but it’s a good time to make a plan and be ready to begin construction later in the fall or early next spring.

• Moss on sidewalks can be a hazard, but if you like the look of moss in the garden, try creating a moss garden.  Put live moss and some buttermilk or yogurt in a blender and puree it.  Spread the resulting mixture where you would like to grow your moss. Make sure it is shady and receives plenty of moisture.  Once you have some moss established, fertilize it twice per year with a mixture of water and buttermilk.

• Frogs, toads and most snakes are signs of a healthy eco-system.  Encourage these visitors to the garden to take up residence.  They don’t have a lot of needs, except a pool of water and a place to live.  You can make your own toad house by turning over a shallow clay pot with one side broken for a door.  Toads and frogs eat a tremendous amount of insects and snakes will eat rodents.

• Try to get your lawn work done either early in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid the blistering heat of the day.  No matter when you work, if you are in the sun, use some sun block.  Wear a long-sleeved shirt and a hat to protect your skin. Don’t forget your sunglasses. Too many lifelong gardeners find themselves with skin cancers due to repeated exposure to the bright sun.

• While on vacation, ask a neighbor or friend to do minimal maintenance on your garden. Even if you have a sprinkler system and a timer, it’s a good idea to have someone make sure it’s working properly as well as lightly deadheading and trimming to keep your garden looking neat. Also, an unkempt garden and unretrieved newspapers and mail is a sign that nobody’s home...a sure temptation to criminals.

• Don’t forget to feed the birds.