July in the Garden

July is a “feeding, weeding, mulching and watering” month in the garden.  If you are growing vegetables, you are probably eating some things fresh from your garden now.  I’m still waiting for my tomatoes to ripen up, but there’s hope on the horizon! 

Garden Prep

Your roses need mulch this month.   The plants thrive on the heat but they don’t like their roots to get hot, so mulching helps them maintain a happy medium.  Mulching will also cut down on the water you would otherwise use unnecessarily.  Two to four inches is appropriate, keeping it away from the trunk of the plant.

Keep the weeds under control and watch your plants for pests.

Planting

Cymbidiums are actively growing but now it’s too late to divide and replant.  If you disturb their roots now they are less likely to bloom next year.

Transplant fibrous begonia, calendula, chrysanthemums, crape myrtles, dahlias, daylilies, delphiniums, dianthus, foxgloves, hibiscus, hydrangeas, impatiens, penstemons, petunias, rudbeckias and salvias. Keep them shaded during the hottest portion of the day and sprinkle the foliage several times a day for the first week after they’re transplanted.

Hibiscus: This is a good time to plant these tropical shrubs. Continue to prune, water and fertilize hibiscus. Add worm castings to the planting medium and wash plants off with Jungle Rain to control white fly. Use a hose end sprayer to wash off the white fly and aphids.

It’s still a good month for planting avocados. Being sub-tropical plants avocados prefer to be planted during the long warm part of the year.

Transplant basil, celery, chard, cucumbers, dill, kale, leeks, summer-maturing lettuce, okra, green onions, melons, white potatoes, pumpkins, summer savory, New Zealand spinach, and summer and winter squash.

Sow or transplant alyssum, celosia (cockscomb), cosmos, forget-me-nots, gazania, marigolds, nasturtiums, portulaca (moss and sun rose), salvias, statice (sea lavender), verbena, and zinnias. Keep garden soil moist and mulched until they’re established.

Annuals: You can still plant annuals thru July. Good choices are vinca, marigolds, zinnias and celosias. Keep newly planted annuals well watered until they are thoroughly rooted, Some choices include ageratum, begonias, coleus, cosmos, dahlias, gomphrena, impatiens, lobelia, lisianthus, marigold, petunias, portulaca, salvia, torenia, verbena and zinnias. Keep deadheading to keep them blooming.

Watering

Cantaloupes are a bit finicky about their water.  They like to be watered on a routine, but they don’t like to be over watered.   It dilutes their sugar content which causes them to taste bland.  Water them deeply once a week, with supplemental watering if we have a really hot spell.  This is good advice for a lot of fruits and veggies.  Tomatoes immediately come to mind.

Over watering can cause fruit to split.  Better to water less frequently, more deeply, and early in the morning for stronger, healthier plants.   Again, tomatoes.  This has been a chronic problem for me.   I’m going to be vigilant this year about picking all ripe tomatoes each time before I water.

Citrus and avocado trees need to be well-watered through the heat of summer. Build a basin for water to soak in deeply but start it one foot away from the trunk to prevent crown rot.

Pay attention to your roses.  As the weather heats up, it is critical to irrigate them thoroughly or the plants will become stressed, making them more susceptible to diseases.   Hopefully, your roses are mulched which will keep moisture and temperature regulated.   Irrigate your roses with an inch of water, two times a week.   Also, breaking from the usual practice of not watering roses overhead, this is a good month to wash down the plants.  Make sure to do this in the early morning so the leaves are dry by the evening.

Fertilizer

A good rule of thumb when applying fertilizer –  Always water thoroughly before and after feeding.  If you fertilizer when soil is dried out, you plants will suffer burn and won’t absorb the fertilizer.   I water one day, fertilize the next.

Tomatoes could use a dose of fertilizer now.  Use an all-purpose fertilizer and water thoroughly when you are done.  For best flavor, it is suggested not to pick tomatoes for at least 24-48 hours.  I’m assuming this is for the same reasons as the cantaloupes, i.e. diluting sugar content in the fruit.

It’s Ada Perry™  time for roses.   Walter Andersen Nursery is the only place in town that carries Ada Perry’s special mix.  Rose growers swear by it!

Avocados need fertilizing this month.   You can buy specific fertilizer for this purpose, typically a 7-4-2 mix, that will make your citrus, berries and grapes happy, too.

Check for chlorosis on your gardenias, camellias and azaleas.  Apply Ironite to bring iron levels back up to necessary levels.

Citrus trees are actively growing so they need feeding this month.   Even if your plant is looking healthy, citrus needs fertilizer during the blooming period until they set fruit.  They are using a lot of energy so they are hungry!  Citrus trees also like their soil a bit acidic, so some cottonseed meal is a good amendment, for your citrus. Water heavily, and deeply, before and after feeding.   This will be the last feeding for a while.

Fuchias need a dose of phosphorus, but they don’t like to be too heavily fertilized.  A fertilizer with equal parts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium will make them happy.

Cymbidiums are actively growing now, so they need fertilizer every two weeks.

Pest & Disease Control

Snails, slugs, pillbugs, and other pests are out in force now.  Sluggo Plus is a safe, effective weapon against the garden munchers.   Make sure to clean up dead leaves and fallen fruit so as not to encourage these pests to come in for a snack.

Keep an eye out for horn worms on your tomato plants, and caterpillars on your roses that can do major damage to the foliage on your bushes.  Take a proactive approach and spray with Bacillus Thuringensis or Spinosad every two weeks to keep the caterpillar population down, and damage to a minimum.  A word of caution regarding Spinosad.  It is toxic to bees when wet, so factor that information into where you spray.  I spray in the morning so it will dry out, and I won’t spray a plant that is a popular bee hangout; for instance, my African Blue Basil.

Spray off your bushes and trees to control whiteflies, aphids, ants and mites.   Watch hibiscus closely for whitefly because it spreads fast and can really weaken your plants, but if you take the proactive approach to feeding and watering, hopefully, your plants will be strong enough to fight off these invaders.

Ants, spiders, and aphids: When the weather gets hot and plants are stressed,  ants and aphids arrive. Any reputable nursery can help you with the proper insecticide to control the problem. Once the aphids leave, so will the ants.

Pruning

Continue deadheading your roses.  Don’t cut too far back because the plant is using its foliage to manufacture food.  A guideline for deadheading is to clip at the first set of five leaflets.  Also, it’s important to harvest your fruits and veggies when they are ripe to keep your plants in the producing mode.  If you leave ripe fruit or veggies on the vine too long, the plant starts to shut down production.

Thinning of your fruit will yield a more robust end result when you harvest.   (Do as I say, not as I do.  This seems to be a hard concept for me! It looks so pretty hanging from the foliage!)

Pinch back herbs to encourage branching and keep the plants from getting too leggy.  Use your clippings either fresh or dry. The flavor of herbs peaks just before they flower.

If your citrus trees have dead twigs on them, it’s time to do some light pruning.  Dead twigs might be indicative of a freeze last winter, but you might not have noticed because the first set of leaves came out on the trees in March.  Since the twigs were damaged, the leaves eventually drop off and you are now seeing the aftermath.  Trim to promote fresh growth from your tree.

Hydrangeas: After hydrangea flowers have faded dead-head blooms and feed with Dr Earth Azalea and Camellia food. New wood will spring from these to bloom next year. On young plants don’t cut back any green stems that haven’t bloomed yet as these will also bloom again. To maintain blue tint use Aluminum Sulfate (Hydrangea Blue) with each feeding.

Miscellaneous

Succulents – Repotting is best done in the warmer months, but if you must repot make sure to add plenty of porous material like perlite or pumous to your new soil which will help the pots drain and dry out faster providing some insurance against winter weather.

Ripen your melons on upside-down aluminum pie tins.  The reflected light and heat will ripen the melons more quickly and evenly, and the fruit is less likely to be gnawed on by slugs, snails, pill bugs and other pests.

Don’t forget: Hat, sunscreen, gloves!!!

 HAPPY GARDENING!!!

Credit where credit is due: This monthly garden chores compilation comes from a lot of resources, past and present, including: Sunset Magazine, Union-Tribune, San Diego Floral Association, San Diego Horticulture Society, San Diego Home & Garden, Anderson’s La Costa Nursery, miscellaneous tidbits found on the web, in the library, from fellow gardeners, and personal experience in the garden.