July Garden Guide
watering season has arrived
Now begins the serious watering season. Water the vegetable garden in the morning to reduce evaporation. A drip system is ideal if you have more than a few tomato plants, and rather than run the drip every day, every other day or every third day for a longer period will persuade the plants to grow deeper roots. They will be able to tolerate the hot spells better and you will get sweeter fruits. If you have a hedge, I would encourage you to put a soaker hose on it. Young, recently planted hedges should probably get a good soaking (several hours) once a week, but even mature hedges will be grateful for a once a month deep drink.
Folks with sprinkler systems, set your lawn watering schedule to 2 or perhaps 3 times a week, but not every day. Watering every day just convinces your lawn to stay shallow rooted (all that easy water right at the top), and for a strong, drought tolerant lawn, we want deep roots.
Anything in a pot gets watered, almost without exception, every day. Pots in the shade maybe able to skip a day occasionally. That does not hold true for hanging baskets: the older and larger they get, the more water they need. Once a day is the rule, twice a day is not uncommon as we move into hotter days. Many hanging baskets are starting to look a bit tatty by now; dead head (remove old flowers) and cut back longer vines, especially petunias. I use my kitchen shears and cut back petunias by about one third to one half. It all looks much tidier and the plants should grow and flower with renewed vigor. You should be fertilizing hanging baskets about once a week, but if you haven’t been doing that, you should definitely do it now.
Vegetable Garden maintenance
Hill up around your potatoes one last time if they haven’t bloomed yet, stop hilling when the plants begin to bloom. When the blooms turn brown you can gently harvest a few new potatoes, but the real harvest happens after the entire top of the plant dies. Potatoes should get a good watering about once a week; they will survive being dry but won’t produce much.
It’s time to stake or cage the tall stuff: tomatoes, dahlias, delphiniums and so forth. You can also train vine-y vegetables, such as cukes and squash onto trellises. This will free up a lot of ground space as well as keep the fruits off the damp ground and away from slugs.
If you haven’t fertilized the vegetable garden since you planted, time to do it again.
It’s the last chance to fertilize rhododendrons, azaleas and other spring blooming shrubs. And again – water! Mature trees and shrubs (more than 5 years in the ground) at my place get watered once a month. The only exception is some rhodies under big Douglas firs, which are super good at sucking up water. I hand water any of those rhodies when they wilt. Of course, gardens with annuals and perennials will need more frequent watering, probably about once a week, twice when we get into the 80’s.
Yes, it seems like a lot of work. But you should be eating fresh peas, lettuce, greens, and strawberries right now and raspberries and tomatoes later in the month. Blueberries and the tree fruits are on their way, the annuals should be nicely grown and flowering madly, and the perennials are filled out and blooming, attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and honeybees left and right. It’s all worth it!
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