July is here, and summer has certainly arrived in full force with the hot temperatures and humidity. Your garden is in full production mode; flowers and hopefully small green produce on your vegetable plants, flowers and shrubs blooming like crazy, and it is a delight to be outside in the garden, as long as there’s a gentle breeze…
The word of the month is water! Water water water, but concentrate on the mornings or late afternoons. A good long soak in the morning will make sure your plants make it through the hottest part of the day with probably only a little bit of flagging. Apply a mid-day syringe of good cool water for plants like largeleaf hydrangea and tall, leafy perennials will help them recover quicker in the afternoon. During the heat of the day, water at the base of the plants; water on leaves when the sun is most intense can cause sunburn.
The vegetable garden should be going strong! Harvest the last of the cool-season crops while you can; lettuce has bolted, for the most part, and will be bitter to taste. Peas are still going strong, and beans are just starting to produce. Squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes should have plenty of flowers, and hopefully some juvenile fruits on them! The end of this month is the time to start seeds for a fall crop of lettuce, broccoli and other cool-crops, and peas. The seedlings will be strong enough to go outside by the end of August! Make sure to water down low and minimize splashing in the veggie garden; it’s more difficult for fungi and other diseases to get a start if the foliage is dry.
New garden pests have also arrived; Japanese beetles, red lily beetles, and aphids are crawling all over the garden, making a mess of our hard work. Sprays help somewhat, especially with aphids and the red beetle, but Japanese beetles will come in from everywhere, spray or no. Hand-picking these little pests in the morning, while they are still moving slowly, is the best way to keep your roses clean. A cup of soapy water will ensure they do not escape into the garden while you’re taking care of the rest of it.
Annual bedding plants and hanging baskets should continue to be fertilized and well watered. During the hottest days, they will probably need a second helping from the hose in the mid-afternoon. Plants that are getting leggy can be cut back at this point, and fed well, which will promote all kinds of new, full growth, and you can continue to enjoy your windowboxes and hangers for a few more months. Perennials should be deadheaded both to keep the garden neat and to promote reblooming.
Perennials can also be started from seeds this time of year. Giving the crowns and roots a chance to develop before the coming bloom season will often times cut down on the length of time it takes for a seed-grown perennial to flower. Start the seeds in a bed of fine soil, richly amended with compost. Water thoroughly, then sow your seeds and cover them lightly with soil. Straw or hay will help keep the soil moist, and will break down into the soil again after the seeds have sprouted and grown, or you can remove it. Make sure you keep a close eye on the soil so it does not dry out and bake your tender new seedlings, and you’ll have a blooming bed of perennials before you know it!