Plant these vegetables no later than mid-July to allow time to mature before frost: tomatoes, peppers, okra, corn, cucumbers, squash, snap beans, pole beans and lima beans.
You can still plant new tomato plants or root cuttings for fall harvest.
Plant seed of marigolds, sunflowers, cosmos and zinnias now for fall blooms.
Don’t bag or rake clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return nitrogen to the soil.
Fertilize all container plants frequently because daily watering leaches out nutrients pretty quickly.
If any plants are showing an obvious nutritional deficiency, feed with iron/sulfur products to correct it. (Iron deficiency is common after periods of heavy rain.)
Now is a good time to take soil samples from your lawn. Soil boxes can be picked up at the county Extension office.
Stop feeding woody plants. They need to start moving toward the hardening-off phase of their cycle. No more eats till late winter or earliest spring.
Watch for blossom end rot. If you notice a dark, mushy patch at the blossom end of young zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and others, the culprit is usually blossom end rot. BER is not a disease but a physiological condition. It is caused by a calcium deficiency induced, more often than not, by improper watering (i.e., letting the soil get too dry and then flooding it with water). You can cure BER by providing the plants with steady moisture and a layer of mulch. Clean, crushed eggshells, if buried around plants (be careful not to injure roots), will provide extra calcium. Tums antacid tablets are not a fertilizer but have been used to help boost calcium in the soil. Some people dissolve Tums in water and then pour it around tomato plants. Who knows? Calcium nitrate for sure works and would be a lot cheaper!
Bleeder trees like maple, dogwood, birch and elm can be pruned this month.
Always be on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs, and prune them out as discovered. Ditto with suckers and water sprouts.
Check fruit trees for water sprouts (branches growing straight up from limbs) and remove.
Deadhead flowering annuals. Mid-month give them a haircut to renew their looks and vigor. Snip with scissors or pruning shears. Remember to stop pinching back aster and chrysanthemum tips by the second week in July. Autumn Joy sedum also benefits from this tipping back early in the month.
If you have healthy, well-established, fall-blooming perennials like asters, mums and Mexican bush sage, now is the time to shear them back 4 or 5 inches to encourage bushiness as they enter their blooming season. Don’t prune again until after their fall-blooming period is finished, except for light deadheading.
Prune rambler roses and once-blooming climbers now, after their flowering period.
Don’t forget to water newly planted trees and shrubs – weekly if needed.
Gardens need an inch of water a week from you or the heavens. Check your rain gauge to make sure they get it, and, remember, soak deeply in the root zone, don’t spritz things with a sprayer now and again like you’re washing the car.
During long dry periods, soak the garden thoroughly once a week; don’t just sprinkle daily.
The morning is the best time to water plants because it gives the plant foliage plenty of time to dry out and allows more of the water to soak in before the heat evaporates it (less water wasted). Use soaker hoses at the base of plants to avoid moisture on the leaves and because it puts the water right where it’s needed – near the roots. Leaf moisture can cause fungal diseases if the foliage doesn’t dry out fast enough.
Be sure to make arrangements for neighbors to harvest and water your garden while you are on vacation.
Consider drip irrigation and/or soaker hoses as efficient watering alternatives.
Use all chemicals – for insects, weeds or nematodes – according to directions on the label.
Empty any standing water to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
If brown patch fungus disease has developed in the lawn, the best steps to reduce the spread of the disease are to avoid mowing or even walking on the lawn when it is wet and do not irrigate.
If scale is apparent on hollies, camellias, euonymus, etc., use summer-weight horticultural oil only. Spray with the heavy-weight dormant oil in the winter months only.
If you must use insecticides, try to hold off spraying until late in the day when the bees are not out.
If you’ve had a Japanese beetle problem in the past, handpick in early morning and drown them in a container of water mixed with a drop or two of dish detergent. Plan to try to reduce Japanese beetle grub population with helpful advice from the folks at your local Co-op store. Getting rid of grubs will also help to cut back on moles, armadillo and skunk-related problems as grubs are what they’re usually after.
Removing weeds is crucial because they will compete with your crops for food, water, sunlight and space. Since they often grow much faster than your flowers and vegetables, they are capable of blocking out sunlight before your crops can match the weeds’ size and vigor. Additionally, some weeds give off toxins that will stunt or kill your crop. Pulling new weeds daily or weekly is the easiest way to deal with this chore. If you leave the weeding for later, you may find yourself looking at a large job that seems almost impossible.
To control weeds, use a mulch. Deep cultivation after plants are older will do more damage than good.
Keep asparagus well-weeded. Let their ferns grow till frost to feed the underlying crowns.
Check garden centers for markdowns on remaining plants.
Clean up fallen fruits under trees to avoid disease carry-over.
Maintain a 3- to 4-inch mulch layer around trees and shrubs to protect them from mower and weed whacker damage. Don’t place the mulch too close to the trunk.
Bats help control mosquitoes; attract these friendly mammals with bat houses.
Cutting flowers is best done with sharp shears or a knife that will help avoid injury to the growing plant. A slanting cut will expose a larger absorbing surface to water and will prevent the base of the stem from resting on the bottom of the vase. It is best to carry a bucket of water, rather than a cutting basket, to the garden for collecting flowers.
Don’t let the compost heap dry out completely or it won’t cook. Turning it to aerate will also hasten decomposition, but things will rot eventually even if not turned.
Add a sprinkling of blood meal to your compost as you turn it to speed up decomposition. Blood meal is about 12 percent nitrogen, the highest nitrogen content you will find in an organic amendment.
Edge beds to make a clean line and define them, and keep edges clean with regular fine-tuning with grass shears. A clean edge makes a big difference.
For peak flavor, basil, sage, marjoram, oreganos, mint and tarragon are best harvested just before bloom. Harvest lavender, rosemary and chamomile as they flower, blossoms and all.
Harvest vegetables frequently. The more you pick the more the plant produces – so pick away! This is especially true of squash.
If possible, harvest vegetables in the morning, before the heat of the day. Second best is late evening.
Mulch not only keeps down the weeds but also helps the soil retain more moisture and keeps the soil at a cooler temperature.
Order spring-flowering bulbs to get the varieties you want.
Prepare new beds for fall planting by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, then put mulch on top.
Remove plants that are no longer producing. Fill their space with either your fall veggie plantings, herbs, flowers or a green manure or cover crop.
Start planning your fall garden.
Try to change direction when mowing your lawn. This will help strengthen the root system and expose different sides of the plant to sunlight.
Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen to protect your skin and yourself from the heat. Drink lots of water and Gatorade to stay hydrated. Wear insect repellent as needed.
When temperatures rise, it is sometimes just too hot to garden. Don’t fret, but try to work with it and do most of the work in morning hours. Remember to not overdo it, hydrate well and protect yourself from the sun.
Continue attracting insect-eating birds to the garden area by providing them with a fresh water source. Keep feeders and baths clean.