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July Garden Tips

July, here in the Pittsburgh area, is the month to finish planting gardens, containers and hanging baskets. It's also the time for harvesting, planting a second crop of vegetables and filling in those empty spaces with a new attractive plants. Take time to spend time relaxing and to enjoy the beauty you have created.

The following are our gardening tips for July. It may be wise to do these gardening chores during the cool times of the day. Mornings are always glorious in the garden.

GENERAL GARDENING TIPS

  • A garden needs one inch of rain or water each week. Early morning is the best time to water. Evening watering is less desirable because plant leaves that remain wet through the night are more susceptible to fungus diseases.
  • Keep the weeds pulled, before they have a chance to flower and go to seed again. Otherwise, you will be fighting newly germinated weed seed for the next several years.
  •  Summer is here and it's a great time to add a fountain to your landscape, and be refreshed with the sound of flowing water...
  • We can help you with any landscape design solutions you may desire. Give us a call, we have several different programs.
  • Use mulch to retain water prevent weeds and keep plant roots cooler.
  • The primary rule of summer watering is to water thoroughly and deeply each time and to allow the soil dry out between watering. Deep watering will allow the plant's roots to grow deeper, where they are less likely to dry out, as well as the added benefit of anchoring the plant into the ground better. Light, surface watering actually wastes water, because the water never actually reaches the root zone of the plant, and the moisture rapidly evaporates from the top inch of soil.
  • The best way to tell if your plants are receiving enough water is to take a trowel or shovel and dig down a few inches. The soil should be moist to a depth of 3 or 4 inches.
  • As warmer weather arrives, your container plants may need daily watering, especially if the pots are exposed to the drying sunlight. Push your finger into the soil in your container plantings at least once a day (more often on hot, dry days) to feel for moisture and be certain that plants are getting enough water. Water until it runs out the drainage holes.
  • Control mosquitoes by eliminating all sources of stagnant water.

SHRUBS and TREES

  • Roses will need to be fertilized each month through the summer with Espoma Rose Tone.
  • Summer blooming shrub's such as spiraea, should be pruned for shape after they have finished flowering. Remove any dead or diseased branches.
  • Trees and Shrubs that provide color during the month of July include Spirea, Hydrangeas, Summersweet, Hypericum, Butterfly Bush, Stewartia, and Rose of Sharon.
  • Do not prune Azaleas and Rhododendrons after the second week of July because you could be removing buds for next year's blooms.
  •  Newly planted trees and shrubs are at greatest water stress risk and need good soakings each week. Trees and shrubs planted in the last 2 years still need extra water.
  • Both evergreen and deciduous shrubs may be shaped or informally sheared to keep plants full to the center and stay within available space.
  • During dry periods even established trees can suffer stress and will benefit from mulch and watering. Birch trees, sugar maples, and other trees native to cool forests suffer drought stress first, but all trees benefit from water during long hot, dry periods.
  • July is a good month to prune maples and birch and other trees that bleed when pruned in late winter or spring.
  • Remove the suckers from grafted fruit trees and crabapples. These are the vigorous shoots that arise from the base of the plant.
  • It's not too late to plant summer bloomers, but you do need to give them a little extra TLC. Plant in the evening or on a cloudy day when the temperatures are cooler and when the plant has a chance to settle in before being hit with the heat and light of a typical July day.
  • When shearing hedges, remember to shape them so that when you look at the hedge from the side, the bottom is wider than the top. This will ensure that the lower branches get plenty of light and there will be thick growth all the way to the ground.
  • Cut back Wisteria and other summer flowering shrubs to encourage next years bloom.

ANNUALS and BULBS

  • Cutting flowers is best done with sharp shears or a knife which will help avoid injury to the growing plant. A slanting cut will expose a larger absorbing surface to water and will prevent the base of the stem from resting on the bottom of the vase. It is best to carry a bucket of water to the garden for collecting flowers. Don’t be afraid to cut flowers for indoor bouquets and arrangements. Cutting flowers actually encourages re-bloom in some species.
  • Frequent rains leach fertilizer from the soil of container plantings, so they need to be fertilized more often than plants in the ground. Mix liquid fertilizer into the watering can and use it weekly. Don't fertilize when the soil is very dry or it can burn the roots. You may need to water plants first, then water with the fertilizer solution. Check the soil moisture of container grown flowers daily. As the temperature rises, some containers may need watered twice a day. Fertilize container gardens regularly with Garden Elements Bud & Bloom Fertilizer or the organic Neptune Fish and Seaweed.
  • Replant those bare spots. Larger plants are available this time of year to quickly solve the unsightly problem. Add compost or Bumper Crop Planting Mix to planting areas to help hold water and water new plants regularly until they are established.
  • Get a second bloom from faded annuals by cutting them back by one half their heights, and then fertilize them with weekly with Garden Elements Bud & Bloom Fertilizer or the organic Neptune Fish and Seaweed.
  • Spruce up your summer landscape with beautiful color in containers and hanging baskets. Be sure to use Gardner's Gold Container Mix when planting and a water-grabbing polymer such as Soil Moist to reduce the frequency of watering.
  • Give dahlias a complete plant food such as Bud & Bloom, Bonide Liquid Plant Food. or Monterey Fish Poop for an organic feed. They start blooming late this month and continue through September. Continue to water thoroughly about once a week—but don't wet the plants. Try to water at ground level. Apply insect controls about once a week. Remove all but one or two flower buds to encourage formation of a large, specimen bloom.

PERENNIALS

  • It's not too late to plant summer blooming perennials. Our benches are well stocked with perennials and new plants can be added to fill in bare spots or add color at any time. Add compost or Bumper Crop Planting Mix to planting areas to help hold water and water new plants regularly until they are established. Plant in the evening or on a cloudy day when the temperatures are cooler.
  • If you've been pinching back your mums throughout the spring, mid-July is the last time to pinch. Flowers will begin to bloom about 5 or 6 weeks after the last pinching. If you haven't been pinching your mums all spring, here's an easy care trick: cut them back by half in early July and fertilize. This will help them to grow bushier and delay bloom to later in the season.
  • Now through the end of summer is a good time to divide bearded iris if they've gotten too large, flower less, or have been overrun by weeds. When lifting the swollen roots (actually underground stems called "rhizomes") cut off any rotten parts, especially if they contain white "worms" (iris borer larvae). Separate the sections naturally by pulling apart, not cutting. Cut leaves back to six inches to help offset the loss of roots. Replant in full sun, in well-drained soil. Make sure the rhizome is planted near the soil surface with part of the rhizome being visible. Keep watered after dividing (careful, not too much). Discard all shriveled and diseased parts. Irises should be dug up and divided once every three years.
  • Sow seeds of Hollyhocks, English daisies, Foxgloves, Violas, Canterbury bells, and Sweet William into the garden now for next year's bloom.
    Perennials that provide interest in the month of July include Daylilies, Rudbeckia, Garden Phlox, Ligularia, Tickseed, Cone Flower, Monarda, Liatris, Russian Sage, and much more.
  • Catmint, Veronica, Salvia, and some other low-growing perennials will give rise to another flush of blooms if the flower stems are sheared just below the old flowers. The lower down on the stem you cut, the longer they will take to rebloom.

VEGGIES & HERBS

  • Continue to make successive plantings of crops like beans and sweet corn to provide a continuous harvest until fall. A small garden will produce a large quantity of vegetables if replanting is done throughout the summer.
  • Although planting may be slowing down, to ensure good yields you need to spend time in the garden to water, weed, and check for insect pests. Some crops will benefit from a modest side dressing of Espoma Garden Tone as they begin to set fruit or start to grow rapidly, such as when squash and pumpkins send out vines.
  • Piling on a thick layer of straw mulch around vegetable plants will help reduce the amount of weeding needed, and will help keep the soil moist during dry spells.
  • When watering plants, be sure to water deeply. Actively growing vegetable plants need at least one-inch application of water per week, either from natural rainfall or watering. To prevent foliar diseases, apply water directly to the soil and avoid wetting the leaves of plants if possible.
  • Empty areas of the garden, where the crops have finished, should be replanted with either a fall vegetable crop, or a cover crop of clover or rye to help control weeds. Cover crops can be tilled into the soil later, adding organic matter to the soil.
  • Pick vegetables when they are at optimal size and maturity for best eating quality. Green beans, cucumbers and summer squash are best before they get too large. Tomatoes will ripen off the vines but are best picked when fully colored but not overripe. Green peppers may be picked at any stage but some will turn red if left for several weeks.
  • In the vegetable garden, indeterminate (continual growing) tomato plants such as 'Better Boy' will produce many suckers. A sucker is that new growth that comes in where a branch connects with the main trunk. Removing suckers will decrease the number of fruits produced but will ensure that the remaining tomatoes will be larger and will ripen sooner.
  • July is pesto time. When harvesting basil, don't just remove individual leaves, but cut back whole stems. This will create a bushier plant that will produce more leaves and less flowers and scraggily growth. Pick basil in the morning for the best flavor. This is when the oil content in the leaves is highest.
  • Dark leathery spots on the blossom end of tomatoes are likely to be a condition called "blossom end rot" that's caused by uneven watering or the lack of soil calcium. Mulch will help moderate the fluctuating moisture levels that nature provides, and it's not too late to spread some around your plants.
  • Harvest vegetables, fruits and herbs frequently. Picking encourages the plants to produce more and it helps to decrease insects and diseases.
  • Now is also the time to plant more beans, beets, & carrots for fall harvest.

FRUITS

  • At this time of year, apple maggot adults are laying eggs on developing apple fruits. To control, place red, sticky spheres in trees to fool the adults into landing on these "fake apples" where they will get stuck and die. Place four spheres per dwarf tree, and check and clean them every few days as necessary. An alternative would be Bonide Citrus Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray.
  • Blueberries benefit from an acidic fertilizer each year. If the leaves are yellow and show green veins, they may have an iron deficiency which is caused by a high soil Ph. The application of sulfur will solve the problem.
  • Prune out and destroy old fruiting canes June bearing black and red raspberries after harvest.

THE LAWN

  • A brown or grayish cast over a lawn can be caused by dull or improperly adjusted mower blades that shred grass rather than cut it.
  • Keep the lawn mowed even though this is usually a time when grass growth slows. If the weather is dry, mow high, but less often. The key is to only cut one third of the grass off at any mowing. Cutting too short, or cutting too much of the grass off at one time can reduce the ability of grass to withstand drought stress.
  • Contrary to popular belief, a brown lawn isn't necessarily a dead lawn. Grasses go dormant in times of drought, but will quickly return to life with the fall rains. If a lush green lawn is important to you, and you don't mind mowing, water it regularly, and deeply. If a water shortage is expected, or you hate tending to grass, you may choose to just let your lawn go dormant.
  • Avoid using fertilizers in hot, dry weather. 

HOUSEPLANTS

  • Warmer and drier weather means it will be necessary to water and mist your house plants more often. Feed your house plants with 1/2 the recommended strength of a good soluble house plant fertilizer while they are actively growing. Feed houseplants with Shultz All Purpose Plant Food, or Fish & Poop Fish which is a natural fertilizer.
  • If needed, re-pot root bound houseplants to a larger pot. Use Gardeners Gold Container Mix. when repotting houseplants.

PEST CONTROL

  • If using chemical pesticides to control July pests, always follow label directions. Use only as much as you need and avoid applying in mid-day heat, on windy days, or when plants are in flower and bees are present. Even better try Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew which is an organic control.
  • Be alert to slug and snail damage. These creatures will be hiding during the heat of the day, but will come out of hiding in the cool morning and evening hours or after a rain. Seek and destroy ALL slugs and their eggs! Sluggo is the solution.
  • Change the water in your bird bath regularly, and keep it filled. Standing water may become a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.
  • If needed, set Japanese beetle traps up, but away from the garden. They tend to collect all the beetles in the neighborhood.
  • If your roses experience insect problems use Bonide Guard & Grow which is a combination of a systemic insecticide and fertilizer. Guard & Grow will help prevent insect infestation later in the summer, as it feeds your rose. If leaf diseases such as Black Spot or Powdery Mildew are the problem, use Bonide Rose Rx.
  • Fruit trees should be on a regular spray program using Bonide Citrus Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray.
  • Watch for fall webworms. Fall webworms will form large nests in trees. The nest will look like oversized cobwebs. Prune out or remove these nests from your trees. It is generally not necessary to spray for fall webworm. An alternative would be to take a long stick and remove the tent. Without their tent, the worms will nor survive.
  • Spider mites love hot, dry weather. Keep your eye out for these little critters. Forceful sprays of water and Safer’s Insecticidal Soap are effective controls.

 

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