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- To prolong blooming and to keep a neat appearance, remove the dead flowers from your annuals and perennials.
Year-Round Kitchen Garden:
- Mid-July is the time to start a some of your fall transplants, including cabbage, collards, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and celeriac. Begin starting brassicas (Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards and kale) in flats or mini-pots for transplanting out 6-8 weeks after sowing. Remember to keep them cool and well watered as they grow.
- Plant a late crop of basil, cucumbers, beans, melons, okra, summer squash, winter squash and Southern peas before the 15th. For tomatoes and peppers, select early varieties (about 80 days) so they will begin producing in mid-September. Tomato varieties like 'Celebrity', tend to produce a big crop all at once - great for marinara.
- For Halloween jack-o-lanterns, plant your pumpkins on or before the week of July 4. Plant in rich soil with lots of compost, and plan to give them plenty of water.
- Wrap strips of reflective metallic ribbon around fruit trees and hang strips above berry canes just before fruits start to ripen. This should scare off all but the most persistent birds. Remove the ribbons promptly after harvest so the birds don't get accustomed to them.
- Producing blueberry bushes need a gallon of water a day. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems can be placed under hose under the mulch around the driplines of the bushes. Or recycle old hoses by poking holes in them for the same effect.
- Harvest regularly, 2 or 3 days each week, to keep your vegetable garden producing well. Pick everything that is ready on each harvest day. For longer storage, lower the temperature of the vegetables quickly with a dunk in cool water. Take any excess produce to the food bank.
- Trim off suckers, shoots growing where the branches meet the main stems, to keep tomatoes in line. Tie new growth to stakes or keep stems within their cages. At mid-month, minimize watering the plants that have set fruit - this will trigger ripening and improve flavor.
- When the garlic plants begin to develop one or two brown leaves, they are ready, or nearly ready, for harvest. Check by pulling or gently digging up a plant. When they are close to the right size, stop watering and harvest them a few weeks later. Plants of one variety usually ripen together but each variety ripens at different times. If the bulbs are splitting, harvest immediately. To harvest, pull the plants up gently, leaving the leaves intact, shake off the dirt and let them cure about a month in a dry, shady area off the ground.
- When raspberries finish producing (and later, blackberries), remove all the canes that just bore fruit. Trim this year's new canes to about 6 feet tall, or the maximum height you want to reach when harvesting them next year.
- Remember to leave space for fall garden crops. Instead of planting more warm season crops every time a bed opens up, pick a section to solarize or plant cover crops that can be dug before planting fall crops.
- A dark rotten spot at the bottom of your tomatoes means blossom end rot. Remove the fruit and toss it in the compost. Blossom end rot is caused by calcium displacement often brought on by inconsistent watering and/or acid soil. Try to water deeply once a week if it hasn't rained an inch, and check frequently to be sure the ground stays consistently moist. Mulch certainly helps accomplish this. Next year, adjust the soil Ph in your tomato beds closer to neutral and try spraying your tomatoes with a calcium solution.
- Protect your berries and grapes with bird mesh, if needed. Give your strawberries a top dressing of compost and organic fertilizer. Prune a few of the older branches that didn't produce well from your blueberry bushes when they are finished producing.
Woody and Ornamental:
- Water religiously. As a general rule, water containers daily, vegetable gardens and first season landscape plants two times a week, and everything else water about once a week. An even level of moisture in the top 15-30 cm (6 " - 1') of soil is especially important for fast growing plants like vegetables and shallow-rooted plants like azaleas and blueberries. The rule of thumb is about one inch of water per week.
- Use a drip system or soaker hose to conserve water. Check mulches to make sure water is getting through. To tell if water is penetrating the soil, dig down to make sure that the soil is moist at least 4 inches deep. This is absolutely essential, since shallow irrigation wastes water and encourages shallow rooting that leaves plants even more susceptible to drought.
- Water your young fruit trees carefully, especially during the first season after planting. Water young and established fruit trees through October.
- This is the time for propagating woody plants (including roses) by rooting cuttings. You can take semi-hardwood cuttings of azalea, camellia, holly and other shrubs this month. Select new green-brown stems that "crack" when you snap them.
- Prune your old fashioned and climbing roses after they've finished blooming. Secure climbing roses to their trellises as they grow. Remove diseased vegetation and spent flowers. Keep fresh mulch in place (remember splashing contributes to black spot).
- Summer pruning is useful for fruit trees and summer blooming landscape plants because it discourages growth. However, don't cut your azaleas, hollies, camellias and other plants that flower in the spring or make berries in the fall - you'll lop off their future flowers and fruits.
- A midsummer feeding with a top dressing of compost or an application of organic fertilizer benefits most landscape plants.
Soil and Maintenance:
- Turn your compost at least once this month. Most weeds are fine to add to compost, so long as they haven't set seed and they don't have the vile habit of growing from a pieces of stem or root. (Oxalis is one that comes to mind.) Most of your yard trimmings can also head for the compost pile.
- Remember to keep your compost pile moist during the dry season.
- Mulch all bare soil areas with 2-4" of mulch to keep moisture in and weeds out.
- This is the time for "solarizing" your soil. This practice can be very beneficial for weed and pathogen control. After harvesting the last of your spring crops, dig in the remains along with 2" or more of compost. Water well, cover with a sheet of clear plastic (not black!) and leave for 6 weeks. Keep the plastic clear of rain water and debris.
- As cool climate lawns begin to brown, learn to appreciate the seasonal variations of grass as it enters its summer dormancy.
- Keep your tall fescue tall, 3.5 inches or more to shade out weeds. Mow often enough that you never cut off more than one-third of the growing blade. Established fescue lawns naturally go semi-dormant in the heat of July. Fescue can tolerate up to three weeks without water. Water only when grass shows sign of wilt. If you planted your fescue lawn last year, however, you still need to water about one inch every week. You absolutely do not want to fertilize your fescue now, since that will encourage diseases.
- If you have warm season grass such as Bermuda grass, centipede, St. Augustine and zoysia, you can make a fertilizer application, but be careful not to overdo it.
- Make sure your lawn mower blades are sharp. A sharp mower blade cuts the grass blades cleanly, ensuring rapid healing. Grass wounded by a dull blade is weakened and less able to ward off pests, and diseases or to cope with dry spells.
Critters Good and Otherwise
- If you have a pest problem, be sure to identify the problem accurately before you begin treatment. Use the least toxic and most focused solution and keep in mind that broad-spectrum products, even organic ones, can harm beneficial organisms that are the best long-term strategy for pest management.
- Handpick bagworm bags on evergreens. Pesticides are useless once the larvae are in their cocoons.
- Keep clean water out for the birds. They get thirsty too. And while you're at it, make sure you have water out for the bees. They may drown in the birdbath, so need something more shallow with rocks they can rest on while drinking.
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