July In The Garden
“If I had my way, I’d remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead” Roald Dahl
Well, welcome to July! An extra July sounds wonderful to me! And even better yet, drop January altogether. Roald Dahl ( a famous children’s book author) had the right idea. More time to vacation, play golf, enjoy warm nights and the best of all, time to enjoy your garden!
Gardening chores in July are hardly chores. Tending to your garden in summer is a privilege and it’s so satisfying watching your plants grow and spending time outdoors observing nature.
I’m going to get this over with right off the bat. Continue weeding! Weeds take away much needed soil nutrition and they can hog a lot of water too. Every time you go out to your garden spend just 10 minutes weeding ( ok - half an hour). Your plants will thank you!
During weeding time, be observant and look for garden pests such as aphids and slugs. Aphids can actually be hosed off most plants with water. There really is no need to bring out the chemical or biological sprays for just a few insects. Prune them off and throw them in the trash. If you see a bug you can’t identify, bring it to your nearest garden centre for identification or use an insect identifier app on your phone. The bug you found just might be a good guy!
Water in the early morning or late afternoon and fertilize. Ground level watering or using soaker hoses go a long way in preventing powdery mildew and fungal diseases. There is also less water lost to evaporation. Follow the directions on the fertilizer container and remember – more fertilizer than recommended is not a good idea. Less is more. When fertilizing, always water the plants first then again with a fertilizer/ water solution. On hot days, check containers and hanging baskets twice a day. Soak hangers in a tub of water for a half hour to make sure all parts of the root ball have had a good soak. Throw a few pinches of water soluble fertilizer in the tub water and do two jobs at once.
Give your lawn about an inch of water per week, or more, during very hot days. If we have a water restriction placed this summer, and your lawn becomes brown, do not worry. It is not dead; just dormant. As soon as we get a day’s worth of rain it will green up in no time.
Continue to compost. Turn the pile(s) once every two weeks and add a few shovelfuls of soil and dampen the pile with water as you turn it. If you don’t have your own compost pile, make good use of the green cart that the City of Saskatoon left on our front steps!
Continue to pinch out suckers from indeterminate tomato branch joints. These sucker shoots can take away moisture and nutrients from the mother plant. During July, check tomatoes daily for water needs. If growing tomatoes in containers be extra diligent about watering and fertilizing. Blossom end rot of tomatoes is due mainly to inconsistent watering and lack of calcium. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require veggie fertilizer every two weeks.
Do not forget to top up any fountains, bird baths and ponds. Regularly clean out debris. If you want to attract birds to your garden (in summer and in winter), having some sort of water feature is the answer. Also change nectar often in hummingbird feeders – be diligent about cleaning and rinsing the feeder as a soiled feeder can easily transfer disease to these amazing little birds.
Remove water sprouts from the trunk, branches and base of trees. Water sprouts are young growth shoots that are thin and grow rapidly; mainly from the more mature bark of a tree. Water sprouts at the base of a tree are often known as suckers. These can occur quite often on fruit trees, do not bear fruit, and take away nutrients and water from the tree. If quite tiny, you can rub them off with your thumbs or prune out larger sprouts.
Pinch back lanky annuals. Coordinate this with fertilizing and you will be amazed what a difference it makes! These plants have a lot of summer ahead of them and after pinching will become very bushy and continue to flower. Plants that benefit from this pinching are petunias, coleus, cosmos, zinnias, snapdragons, phlox, marigolds and salvia. Deadhead annuals and perennials as the summer passes. This encourages more blooms. Many annuals do not need deadheading though as they are self–cleaning (They drop spent flowers on their own time!)
Gather cut flowers during the morning. Immediately immerse each cut end in a bucket of water until you can arrange them.
If you haven’t done it already, you can stake or cage your perennial delphiniums.
Apply natural fungicides every seven to ten days to susceptible plant species such as roses, perennial phlox, bee balm, and zinnia. Never compost plants that have had a fungal disease – off to the trash they go! Read fungicide label directions carefully before application. Remember – fungicides are preventatives, not cures.
Do not mow your grass on a plus 30 C day. Leave your lawn longer on hot days. Water a lawn deeply and infrequently. The roots will follow the moisture down instead of staying near the surface and drying out.
Planting anything in July is usually not recommended but if you have a dead plant in a mixed container, cut the plants’ root ball out with a sharp knife. Add a small amount of new soil to the bottom of the hole. Replace the plant with a four inch pot annual – keeping it in its pot. Cut off the bottom of the pot, tease out some of the roots and place in the hole. Backfill in around the new plant with fresh soil. Water well.
Trees and shrubs should be kept on a shaded part of the property and watered daily until the weather cools and can be planted early in the morning. Make sure to add Mykes to the planting hole. Place the root ball in the hole, backfill halfway with soil, water, and backfill with the remaining soil. Water again. Do not be surprised if your tree leaves ‘flag’ or droop for a few days after planting. Hot weather pulls a lot of water out of the leaves of trees and shrubs (transpiration). The newly planted root ball is busy making new roots and cannot meet the moisture demands of the tree canopy. Give the tree or shrub time to root and bounce back. This may take a few weeks.
There are some really tough Zone 3 perennials that you can plant in July. Perennials such as Bee Balm (Monarda), Helianthus, Rudbeckia, Liatrus, Blue Fescue grasses, Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass, Perennial Geraniums, Catmint, Lamb’s Ears, Gaillardia, Russian Sage, Yarrow, and Baby’s Breath.
Tough Shade Perennials – Hosta, Bergenia, Sweet Woodruff, Goat’s Beard, Lady’s Mantle, Leopard’s Bane and Ajuga.
And last, but certainly not least, take time to sit outside and enjoy your garden. We only get one July a year!