Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July in the Garden

Vacation Time!  In July (and certainly in this heat) many of us head out on vacation and leave our gardens unattended.  If you are among this happy crew or even if the humidity is keeping you from many of your gardening activities, here are a few helpful tips to keep your garden growing beautifully through July.
Water, water, water – Supplemental water (not rainfall) is best applied by soaker or other ground level irrigation methods, which quickly gets the water where the plants need it – to the roots. Long infrequent watering, deep soakings once or twice a week are best for most established plants and plantings. While transplants or new installations may require daily watering to compensate for their less extensive root system. Ask a neighbor to check in on your yard if you plan to go away for more than a week, and reciprocate the kindness.  And remember don’t water in the middle of a hot, sunny day; most of the water will evaporate before it reaches the roots of your thirsty plants.  Only your kids will benefit from running the sprinkler at lunchtime. 
Mulching.  If you haven’t mulched your garden yet this year, you can still do so to good effect.  Proper mulching (about 2 to 3” deep) can help reduce water evaporation at the root level where plants need it the most, it helps keep down weed (which compete with your plants for sun, water and other nutrients; and it keeps the soil temperature up to 25’ cooler which promotes better root development.  Remember DO NOT mound mulch around the trunks of trees or shrubs!
Also mow and water your lawn before you leave town for an extended period of time.  When mowing your lawn follow the 1/3 rule.  Cut no more than 1/3 of the grass blade in a single mowing.  This reduces the stress to the remaining blade and ensures the clippings are small enough to be left in place for ‘mulching’ as they quickly decompose.  The best schedule I have found is to water your lawn in the early morning and then mow in the early evening.  This way cut blades are not exposed to the drying heat of the day.
Other garden chores for July:  Prune sucker growths on tomato plants, Apple trees and other fruit bearing trees for the best fruit production. Suckers are additional shoots, which form where a leaf connects to the main stem.
When harvesting blueberries, remember to leave them on the bush for several days after they have turned blue for the sweetest flavor.  Netting your bushes will help prevent the birds from eating your berries before you do.
Deadheading (removing spent blooms) of many annuals and perennials such, as Salvia, Marigolds, Nepeta, Zinnias and others will encourage repeat blooms.
And towards the end of this month, stop watering any Amaryllis you are trying to hold over from last winter (even if it has green leaves), and move them to a cool, dark spot (unfinished basement is what I use).  Leave the bulbs in their pots untended until October. A colleague of mine recommended turn the pots on their side so you don’t accidentally water them.