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 and Lily Leaf beetles to battle, veggies to preserve, and…well, just have a look at this list of essential chores:
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 roots of potted plants (like the fuchsia above) can’t forage for food and moisture like their garden-grown colleagues can. I feed and water my container-grown plants daily — 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.
Wanna make a sumptuous arrangement with with zinnias, roses, hydrangea, and other common garden flowers? This tutorial will help.
Geraniums. It’s not too early to start new plants for winter-bloom indoors. I propagate geraniums this way.
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. Mercifully this Popillia japonica disappears in August.
And speaking of dreadful insects, be on the look-out for…
The Lily Leaf Beetle. Last summer, 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? They did not return for weeks. 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.
Got Zucchini? Then you must make my Angelic Zucchini Fritters.
Got Chives? Turn ‘em into Chive Pesto! It’s delicious on almost everything, including crackers, fish, chicken, and pasta. The recipe.
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