TRUE CONFESSION: I wish we could spend the month of July sipping cocktails by the pool. But alas, the garden beckons. There are weeds to pull, Japanese beetles to battle, veggies to preserve, and…well, just have a look at this list of essential chores:
Watering. If Nature doesn’t provide one inch of water per week, let your garden hose make up the difference. I accomplish my own watering chores early in the morning (before sunrise!), when the air is calm and evaporation is minimal.
Weeding. Keep up with this the best you can. I use common, white vinegar (5% acidity) to fry the weeds that emerge in my brick, gravel, and blue-stone walkways (details here.)
As pictured above, I use newspaper and cardboard (which I then cover with mulch) to keep my ornamental and vegetable beds weed-free for the entire season. See this post.
Where frying with vinegar or smothering with paper isn’t practical, my Hori Hori tool (above) comes to the rescue. I hope you have this serrated, trowel-shaped weeding-wonder in your own arsenal of garden-gadgets. It really works.
Container-Grown Plants. Keep in mind that the roots of potted plants (like the fuchsia above) can’t forage for food and moisture like their garden-grown colleagues can. I feed mine daily, high phosphorus for the patio flowers and an acidic formula for the Boston ferns on the front porch. Give water twice daily during periods of high heat.
Annuals. You can count on Bachelor Buttons (above) and others to explode with color this month. To ensure continued bloom, take care to remove flowers as they fade. Cut fresh stems of zinnias, gomphrena, and scented petunias for splendid house-bouquets.
And by the way, did you know that flowers indoors can do wonders for your emotional well-being? Have a look.
Potted Geraniums. If you want these to bloom indoors in winter, remember to pinch off flower buds during summer.
Propagating for Indoor Bloom. Late this month or early next, cut stems of impatiens, wax begonias and petunias, and root them in pots of good soil. Brought indoors in September, these annuals will bloom for you all winter long. More details.
Japanese Beetles. Who else loathes these chewing insects that skeletonize roses and other ornamentals? I pluck them off my plants and immediately drop them into a jar of soapy water. Thank heavens this Popillia japonica disappears in August.
And speaking of dreadful insects, be on the look-out for…
The Lily Leaf Beetle. On the advice of reader Diana, I sprinkled my beetle-battered ‘Star Gazer’ and ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies with cheap, ground black pepper. The moment the pepper touched the foliage, the scarlet-colored insects dropped to the ground. And guess what? In two weeks time they have not returned. Other organic control measures are covered in this post.
Salad Greens. After your spinach, lettuce, and other salad greens bolt, sow fresh crops in shady quarters. (And speaking of lettuce…have you tried my Lettuce & Lovage Soup yet?)
Plant Fall Crops. Certain crops can be planted now for autumn harvest. My own July sowing-schedule includes beets, beans, cucumbers, radish, and broccoli.
Tomatoes. You will achieve healthier plants and larger fruit if you remove suckers from vines.
Watch for Blossom End Rot, or “BER.” 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 your 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.
Herbs. Don’t wait until autumn to harvest your herbs. Snip them now, at their peak of perfection, and then freeze them.
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