July Gardening Guide

Hopefully, by now you’re harvesting bountiful crops from your veggie gardens.  Snip fresh herbs regularly, to keep the plants vigorous, as they don’t just sit around waiting for you to decide that they’d spice up a summer salad or iced tea.  Make some basil mojitos if pesto has worn out its welcome already at your place. 

While it's best to continuously harvest herbs before they set flowers, some produce seeds of culinary value.

While it’s best to continuously harvest herbs before they set flowers, some produce seeds of culinary value and attract beneficial insects, butterflies, and sometimes hummingbirds.

If you’re growing potatoes and the tops of the plants are already dying, harvest those little beauties.  Don’t wash them, but allow them to dry outdoors, brushing off any large clumps of dirt that haven’t fallen off by then. There’s a link below with information on harvesting, curing, and storing potatoes.

When harvesting potatoes, don't wash them. Just knock off the biggest chunks of dirt, and let them air dry outdoors until the dirt on them dries.

When harvesting potatoes, don’t wash them. Just knock off the biggest chunks of dirt, and let them air dry outdoors for about an hour. The remaining clumps will fall off, and they can be brushed gently to remove any remaining dirt before curing and storing. Or you can just take them right into the house, give them a quick rinse, and drop them into that pot of boiling water you made ready just for the occasion.

The most important job you have this month (besides enjoying all your homegrown veggies and those basil mojitos) is watering (if it ever stops raining).  Containers will need to be watered at least once daily, and multiple times if they’re located in particularly hot and sunny or windy spots.  Veggie gardens, and all the shrubs and other stuff you planted this year need a nice, long drink twice a week, and just about everything else, only once a week.  Check your plants daily, and if some are wilting, give them a nice long drink.  Be sure to abide by the watering rules we provided in our blog on how to make the most of watering, entitled When It Rains, It Pours.

Get a head start on fall veggies and biennial/perennial flowers and herbs by starting seeds now, for transplanting into your fall gardens later.  There’s still time to sow quick growing annuals directly into the garden for fall color.

There's still time to direct sow quick growing annuals such as zinnia and cosmos in the empty spaces of your garden for fall color.

There’s still time to direct sow quick growing annuals such as zinnia and cosmos in the empty spaces of your garden for fall color.

If you practice soil solarizing (see the link below for details on how to), this is a good time to do it in the spaces where this year’s veggies have already played out.  You can also be planting cover crops now that will be turned under when you transplant all those fall veggies you’re starting now.  If your tomato plants are unruly, cut them back by a third, making sure to leave plenty of leaves behind to shield the tomatoes from the scorching sun.

When pruning out of control tomato plants, remember to leave sufficient leaves to shade the developing fruits remaining.

When pruning out of control tomato plants, remember to leave sufficient leaves to shade the developing fruits remaining.

Prune roses if they’ve finished blooming, keep deadheading them continuously, except for varieties that produce hips in the fall, and remove and discard all the dead and diseased bits.  It’s too late to prune azaleas, lilacs, and forsythia because they’re already setting buds for next spring.

Weeding is one of the most unrewarding jobs in gardening.  They’re probably already out of control, but you still have to go after them.  Whether to pull them or decapitate them is a matter of preference, firstly, but if they’re the only thing stabilizing a slope or loosening up heavy clay, you may want to leave the roots intact, and do the “Off with their heads!” thingie.  Depending on how you compost, you can either throw the weeds into the compost pile if it generates enough heat to render the seeds unviable, or make compost tea out of them (there’s link for a how to below).   You’re getting all hot and sweaty just thinking about dealing with them weeds, ain’tcha?

Here's a virtual escape from the hot, sticky summer heat.

Here’s a virtual escape from thinking about all that weeding in the hot, sticky summer heat. Don’t you feel much cooler now that you’ve skied down this snowy slope near Dienten am Hochkönig, Austria?

Controlling bugs is another seemingly unrewarding, but necessary task.  In short, handpick and drown them in a soapy solution when possible.  Remove spider mites by spraying the tops and undersides of leaves with a water nozzle.  The trick is to use a fairly high pressure (but don’t go crazy, you’re not pressure washing the driveway after all), but keep the stream moving so that you’re not destroying the leaves themselves.  If all else fails, resort to insecticidal soap to combat those pesty bugs.

Summer is the season of powdery mildew, which usually just impacts the appearance of plants.  Options to avoid or treat the condition include planting cultivars that are not susceptible to it, choosing locations and watering carefully, and spraying impacted plants.  There’s a link below with more information on how to spray.

How best to feed plants during the hottest part of summer depends on whether their growth drastically decelerates as temperatures rise.  If that is the case, it’s probably safer to lightly feed those plants less frequently than when they were growing rapidly.  Container plantings should be lightly fed every two weeks, preferably with a liquid fertilizer solution.  It’s time for the second feeding of your lawn, if it hasn’t been done already, and be sure to water for at least 30 minutes after applying the fertilizer.

Good luck out there, and be sure to protect yourself from the heat and the sun.  Remember to drink plenty of water to stay properly hydrated.  And don’t forget to have some fun while you’re at it, like the kid up at the top, playing in the sprinkler.

 

Sources and Resources:

Here are some gardening calendars for our region.  They’ll provide additional information and links to related topics as well.

https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/monthly-garden-calendar-southeast-united-states

http://www.southernliving.com/garden/july-garden-checklist-summer-phlox

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/what-to-plant-now-july-southern-interior-gardening-region

For tips on harvesting, cleaning, curing, and storing potatoes, take a look here.

https://garden.org/learn/articles/view/574/

For how to’s on solarizing soil, check out this link.

https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/soil-solarization

Here’s a recipe and instructions for making fertilizer tea from your weeds.

https://permaculturenews.org/2013/12/06/simple-recipe-fertiliser-tea/

Here are some tips on dealing with powdery mildew.

http://www.finegardening.com/coping-powdery-mildew

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