I USUALLY LET UP A LITTLE IN JULY, when soaring temperatures and oppressive humidity make most gardening jobs unbearable. The main focus now is weeding, watering, butterfly-watching (do you do this too?) and tending to vegetable crops:
Watering. Most plants require an inch of moisture per week. If Nature doesn’t provide this moisture, your garden hose will. Early morning is the best time to water; then the air is calm, and evaporation minimal.
Weeding. Keep up with this the best you can. Around here, weed-pulling is accomplished at dawn. I find it very easy to murder the weeds in the gravel paths, stone patio and brick walkways here with this easy vinegar treatment.
Container-Grown Plants. 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 Gomphrena (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 bachelor buttons, zinnias, and scented trailing petunias for splendid house-bouquets. Flowers indoors do wonders for our emotional well-being.
Potted Geraniums. If you want these to bloom indoors in winter, remember to pinch flower buds off during summer.
Impatiens & Others. Some cool morning in July, cut stems from your impatiens, wax begonias and petunias, and root them in pots of good soil. These, if brought indoors in September, will bloom in your window garden all winter long. More details.
Roses. Deadhead regularly, cutting just above a set of five leaves. It is from this point that new flowering growth will emerge.
Japanese Beetles. Who else loathes these chewing insects that skeletonize the flowers of roses and other ornamentals? I pluck them off my plants and immediately drop them into a jar of soapy water.
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. I use three simple techniques for freezing herbs. Would you like to see them?
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