|Lawn and Garden Maintenance Checklist|
|July Lawn and Garden Maintenance Checklist|
· Timing is very important for a successful fall vegetable garden. Heat-tolerant/cold-sensitive crops need to be planted in time to mature before cold weather slows and stops growth, while cool-season/heat-sensitive crops are planted late enough to avoid the heat, but early enough to take the first frosts of winter.
· Bonnie tomatoes and peppers need to be planted soon - by the first of August - if they are going to make a good crop before first frost. Grow fast-maturing tomato varieties for the fall harvest. Look for varieties with less than 75 days to maturity.
· In addition to tomatoes and peppers, you can also transplant eggplant in July. Other crops that can be started from seed this month include lima beans (7/15 - 8/1), cantaloupes (7/15 - 8/1), Southern peas (7/1 - 8/1), pumpkin (7/1 - 8/1), summer squash (7/15 - 8/15), winter squash (7/1 - 7/15) and watermelon (7/1 – 7/15) [dates in parentheses ( ) indicate optimum planting window for best results].
· Later in the month, plant more basil for combining with those September tomatoes and dill for late pickles.
· If you are still looking for summer color to plant, you are not out of luck. Marigolds, cosmos, vinca (periwinkle), gomphrena, cleome (spider flower), zinnias, purslane and portulaca all do well in the summer heat. As a matter of fact, marigolds planted in late summer and carried into fall tend to have brighter colors than spring-planted marigolds. Spider mites, the number one pest of marigolds, are not as prolific during the cooler days of fall as they are in the summertime.
· Consider digging and dividing any crowded spring-blooming bulbs. Crowded bulbs produce fewer and smaller blooms. They usually need thinning every three to four years.
· Replace dead annuals with hardy annual or perennial newcomers.
· Sow seeds of hollyhocks in the garden now for next year’s bloom.
· Give all tomato and pepper plants and potted flowers a drink of fish emulsion. Dilute in water according to label instructions.
· Except for roses, don’t feed your shrubs or trees now – wait until winter or early-spring.
· Fertilize container gardens and hanging baskets every two weeks with a liquid, all-purpose plant food. Never apply fertilizer to dry plants.
· Chrysanthemums should be lightly fertilized every two weeks.
· Check azaleas and camellias for iron chlorosis (pale green leaves, darker green veins). If necessary, use copper or iron chelate to correct iron deficiency.
· Fertilize zoysia lawns now with a 26-4-12 lawn fertilizer.
· Always be on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs, and prune as discovered.
· Summer-blooming shrubs should be pruned for shape after they have finished flowering. Deadhead seed pods from your rhododendrons and azaleas to improve next year’s bloom. Be careful not to damage developing buds which may be hidden just below the pod.
· Many shrubs and small trees like butterfly bushes, crape myrtles, roses, spireas and chase trees will rebloom when deadheaded.
· Many perennials (euphorbia, some true geraniums, ribbon grass or Phalaris) do better the second half of the season if cut back hard. Do some experiments. Sometimes a plant can’t look worse and you probably won’t kill it.
· Deadhead other faded perennials unless they have showy seedheads (same with bulbs) or you may want to collect seed later (non-hybrids only).
· Blackberries need to be pruned now harvest is over. Remove the dying fruiting canes and tip back the vigorous, new growth now and a couple more times before winter to form a dense hedge for greater fruit production.
· Trim periwinkle and other ground covers after they’ve finished blooming.
· To produce the largest dahlia flowers (especially dinner plate dahlias), the main stems should be kept free of side shoots, allowing only the main terminal bud to develop. Be sure to provide adequate support to prevent wind damage.
· Geranium cuttings may be made in late-July to start plants for setting into the garden next spring.
· The amount of supplemental water your garden will need is going to depend on the weather conditions in your area. The primary rule of summer watering is to water thoroughly and deeply each time, and to allow the soil to dry between waterings. Deep watering will allow the plant’s roots to grow deeper, where they are less likely to dry out, as well as the added benefit of anchoring the plant into the ground better. Light, surface watering actually wastes water, because the water never actually reaches the root zone of the plant and the moisture rapidly evaporates from the top inch of soil.
· Water early in the morning before the sun is at its hottest, so plants benefit before evaporation takes place.
· Adjustments to your automatic sprinkler system may be needed. Observe your system regularly. Aim sprinklers so their spray benefits life forms only.
· Container plants get extremely thirsty in summer months and may need water as often as once or twice a day.
· Tomatoes tend to crack when they receive irregular water. If your tomatoes have gone through a dry spell and you try to make up for it with frequent waterings, the inside of the tomato will plump up faster than the outside can stretch and grow. As a result the outer skin of the tomato splits open or cracks. Tomatoes that crack are still edible. They just won’t keep as long. You can prevent future tomatoes from cracking by making sure they receive water regularly, whether or not it rains. Mulching the area around the tomatoes will also help maintain ground moisture levels. Finally, look for varieties resistant to cracking.
· When using any pesticide or herbicide, remember to always read the product label and apply according to label directions. Store pesticides in a safe place in their original containers, away from children and pets.
· Immediately clean off harvested rows in the vegetable garden to prevent insect and disease buildup.
· Handpicking tomato hornworms from infested plants is a safe and effective method of dealing with these pests in small garden plantings. The problem with handpicking is the leaf-colored caterpillar blends with foliage so well you can easily overlook one or two caterpillars, which can do significant damage in a day or two. Bt insecticide works well against these caterpillars, especially when they are small. The Dipel 2X brand of Bt is available at your local Co-op. Tomato hornworm larvae are also parasitized by a small braconid wasp, Cotesia congregatus. Eggs are laid on the hornworm. As they hatch, they eat their way out, killing the hornworm in the process. The cocoons appear as white projections protruding from the hornworms body. If such projections are observed, the hornworms should be left to assure perpetuation of the wasp in your garden. Once they hatch, there’ll be enough braconid wasps to keep your garden hornworm free. Roto-tilling the soil after harvest will destroy many of the burrowing larvae which are attempting to pupate. Tillage has shown to cause up to 90% mortality.
· Hoe or hand-weed each garden bed at least every week. Weeds are not just unsightly, they steal moisture, nutrients and light from desired plants.
· This is definitely the season for diseases in the vegetable garden – early blight and late blight on tomatoes, mildews on squash and cucumbers, rust on beans. The best way to prevent these diseases is to maintain weekly fungicide sprays. The most commonly used garden product is chlorothalonil (Bravo, Daconil, etc.). Organic gardeners may want to try Serenade, a bacterial product. Copper or sulfur sprays are less effective, but offer a little help.
· Protect honeybees. If you must use an insecticide (even organic), spray late in the evening when few bees are active.
· Be alert for slug and snail damage. They’ll hide during the heat of the day and then come out in the cool mornings and evening hours or after a rain. Seek out and destroy all slugs, snails and their eggs!
· One way to find out what insects are crawling in your grass is to mix two tablespoons of dish soap in a gallon of water and pour over a small area. Bugs will come to the surface. Consult your Extension specialist, local Co-op staff, garden books or Internet sources if you need help with identification and what to do or not do.
· Solarization is one method to reduce weeds and other pests by using the sun’s energy to pasteurize the upper layer of soil. However, this takes time. Prepare the soil, removing garden debris and weeds, form your beds and then thoroughly water the soil. Cover the prepared area with clear polyethylene, sealing the edges with soil, to trap the sun’s heat. This doesn’t sterilize the soil, but reduces populations of harmful nematodes, weeds and other pests. It’s critical this is done during July and August, the hottest time of the year. Treat for at least six to eight weeks. You won’t get to plant tomatoes or peppers, but the garden site will be ready to till in time to plant cool-season vegetables. For future weed control, once you have your garden prepared, always maintain some sort of mulch covering the surface of the soil to prevent weeds from taking over again.
· Continue to protect your fruit from the birds with netting.
· Control mosquitoes by eliminating all sources of stagnant water.
· Evaluate your garden – do you have the right plant in the right spot? Make entries in your garden journal and check last year’s journal to compare to this year.
· Be sure to make arrangements for neighbors to harvest and water your garden while you are on vacation.
· So now it’s here, the dreaded heat beginning soon after sun-up and lasts until midnight! In the South, July and August are the "acid test" for you and your garden.
· If possible, harvest vegetables in the morning, before the heat of the day. Second best is late evening. Sometimes it just doesn’t work that way and you have to work in the heat. When this happens, dress coolly, take frequent breaks, have plenty of water on hand and drink frequently. If you do not have to go to the bathroom at least once an hour, you are not drinking enough. At the same time, do not drink more than 12 quarts in any 24 hour period. Water intoxication and hyponatremia result when a dehydrated person drinks too much water without accompanying electrolytes causing the dilution of sodium in the body.
· As disease-free annuals die off, pull them out and add them to the compost pile. Don’t let your compost heap dry out completely or it will not cook. Turning it to aerate will also hasten decomposition, but things will rot eventually even if not turned.
· Remember, there’s a big difference between aged and composted horse or cow manure. If you use straight-off-the-farm aged manures in your garden or beds, your property will soon be a jungle of pigweed, morning glory, Johnson grass and other noxious weeds. Properly decomposing manures in your compost pile or bin will destroy most viable weed seed.
· Continue to support your roses and climbing vines – they are still putting on new growth even if they aren’t blooming…this fall you will understand why you did this.
· Harvest vegetables regularly from your garden to keep it productive. Letting squash turn as big as baseball bats will cause production to go down. Harvest vegetables at their peak of maturity for maximum nutrition and quality.
· For peak flavor, harvest basil, sage, marjoram, oreganos, mint and tarragon just before they bloom. Harvest lavender, rosemary and chamomile as they flower, blossoms and all.
· Plan your fall garden. Add compost, cottonseed meal or other fertilizers to the garden spot before tilling. Remember not to plant the same vegetable type in the same spot season after season or year after year. Soil-borne diseases will build up and eventually cause major problems.
· Raise the cutting height of the mower. Taller grass cools the roots and helps to keep the moisture in the soil longer. When mowing, recycle nutrients by letting lawn clippings stay in place or spread them with a rake.
· Give wild birds another reason to stay in your garden; help them stay cool! Provide a bird bath filled with clean, fresh water for birds to drink and bathe. On the hottest days, this water may evaporate quickly, so check regularly to keep it filled. Also, by providing birds a nutritional food source through a clean, well-stocked feeder, they will not need to overheat themselves seeking food on hot summer days. Opt for seeds that will not spoil quickly and try avoiding suet and other fat-based bird foods that can quickly go rancid during the summer’s heat.