July Gardening Tips by Neal Sanders
In the vegetable garden, early hard work is finally paying off with more than lettuce and radishes. Peas and swiss chard should be ready for your 4th of July dinner, early beets can be pulled along with baby carrots (a good way to thin the bed, if you haven’t already). High heat will cause spring crops to bolt so pick now and share the bounty.
Empty water from saucers under plants after rains. It’s never a good idea to allow a plant to sit in even a small amount of water. Clean and refill birdbaths every two or three days. Empty anything else that may have sat out in the rain and collected water. Mosquitoes take just a week to go from egg to hungry biter
If you missed your Father’s Day pruning of plants such as chrysanthemum and asters, do it now and then again a week or so after the 4th of July. This leads to later flowers, but bushier plants with more blooms and a tidier habit. You can cut back balloon flower (Plactycodon) and bee balm (Monarda), dianthus, coneflower (Echinacea), foxglove (Digitalis), Helenium, and veronica. By pinching or trimming back one or two leaf sets of the plants at the front. You’ll get an early bloom from the untouched stems at the rear and a later, bushier bloom from the remainder. It will your garden blooming stronger, longer.
Columbines are many gardeners favorite early summer plants. They are not long-lived plants, but they are generous with their seed. When the flowers are done, cut back most, but not all of the seed heads. That way you’ll know that you will have more next year, and if they don’t always appear exactly where you want them, they transplant easily.
Your tomatoes, squash and melons will take off with the heat of July. Remember that corn uses a lot of nitrogen. Give it an application of nitrogen fertilizer (urea, fish emulsion, not milorganite on vegetables) after it reaches knee-high. Keep up with the weeds: they deprive your plants of everything they need—sun, space, water and nutrients.
June’s rains have washed nutrients out of the containers you planted in May. Adding a diluted liquid fertilizer will ensure that your plants keep growing/blooming into the fall. The more recently planted the container, the less likely you will need additional feedings. Many gardeners prefer weekly doses of diluted liquid fertilizer to the long-term pellets. That way you get to base the amount of food you give the containerized plants on the recent growing conditions.
If you are planning to go away for any period of time this summer, remember new trees, shrubs and perennials will need regular, deep watering throughout the summer and fall months to establish good root systems. Consider setting up drip hoses on timers or use ‘tree gators’ to ensuring the water continues to get where it is needed. Use rain gauges attached to the system to prevent wasting water (and overwatering plants) if we continue to get regular rains.