Q: What chores should I be doing in my garden during July?
Andrina Jensen, Los Osos
A:With your garden in full bloom, July is an excellent and easy month to get into the garden. Start with your shears and prune back wisteria and poinsettias by 15 percent and cut back vigorous shoots or unwanted branches in your fruit trees. Deadhead flowering plants to promote future blooms. While you’re trimming, pinch chrysanthemums, leggy petunias and fuchsia seed pods.
Before the fireworks begin, be alert to fire safety: remove dead limbs and leaves from trees and shrubs near the home. Cut weeds and tall grasses to ground level. Remove woody vegetation that grows against structures.
Your warm-season annuals and summer vegetables will enjoy a good fertilizing at this point, as will your warm-season lawns and subtropicals. Skip feeding your tomatoes; too much nitrogen encourages more vegetation and less fruit.
If you opted to grow melons, place those that are ripening on aluminum pie tins to separate them from moist soil. The tin will reflect the heat, allowing them to ripen sooner. Once the vines have three to four fruits, remove new blossoms. The remaining fruits will have a chance to grow larger and more flavorful. Pumpkins, squashes and gourds will have less chance of rotting if placed on dry wood chips or Styrofoam trays. Pick other fruit regularly and dispose of any that has fallen to the ground.
It’s never too late to plant! Add some fire to your yard in the form of color. Verbena, zinnia and petunia love the sun, while impatiens work well in the shade. Looking ahead, start spring perennials from seed. Sow seeds of biennials in flats or pots. In September, when seedlings are four to five inches tall, transplant to the garden. Canterbury bells, foxglove and hollyhocks are a few tempting examples. Bearded iris can be planted and established plants divided (about every 3 years). Are you hungry? Plant summer squash in inland areas and corn on the coast.
Keep your garden sustainable by preventing weeds and water loss; check and add mulch where needed. Control pesky gophers by trapping; continue this practice throughout the year. Keep voles (meadow mice) and mole damage to a minimum by keeping a weed-free strip around your garden. Look for well-traveled, above ground runways.
Whether you plan on entertaining guests or having a quiet Independence Day in your garden, a bit of attention will make it sparkle.