Q: What should I be doing in my garden during July? — Leo P.
Fireworks and socializing may dominate the calendar for July, but whether you plan to prepare for revelers or escape the hubbub, there are plenty of gardening chores.
Guests and plants are hungry during this festive month; feed warm-season annuals and lawns, sub-tropicals and summer vegetables at this time. Hold off on feeding tomatoes, however, because excess nitrogen impedes fruiting. Baby your melons by placing an aluminum pie tin underneath growing fruit. The reflected heat improves growth, while the tin keeps sensitive fruit off moist soil. Once three or four fruits have established themselves, remove new blossoms. You may have a smaller harvest, but fruit will taste more flavorful and grow larger. Similarly, wood chips or Styrofoam placed underneath pumpkins, squash and gourds prevents rotting.
Time to pinch and prune! Pinch leggy petunias and fuchsia seed pods. Fertilize and pinch Chrysanthemums for a final time. Prune wisteria for the last time and poinsettias by 15 percent. Deadheading flowering plants keeps them at their blooming best.
Hopefully your hard work has paid off and your harvest is bountiful this year. Pick fruit regularly and discard any that has fallen on the ground. Sanitary practices prevent a host of furry visitors. Gophers, always on the unwanted list, are best controlled by trapping. A weedfree strip or buffer around your garden deters voles (meadow mice) and moles. Prepare for the heat by covering the soil with mulch.
If you’re looking for summer color, verbena, zinnia and petunia don’t disappoint. Impatiens brightens shady areas. Divide bearded iris clumps every three years. It’s not too late to plant summer squash inland or corn on the coast.
Get a leg up on spring perennials. Biennial seeds should sprout by September. Plant seeds in pots and trans plant seedlings into the garden when they reach 4-5 inches. Canterbury bells, foxglove and hollyhocks are pretty garden choices.
Keep fire safety in mind by removing dead limbs and leaves. Long grass, weeds and shrubs, especially near the home, are hazardous. Finally, sit back with a snack and enjoy your efforts.