July in the Garden
Please come visit us at The Natural Gardener for the most comprehensive advice, plants, and organic gardening supplies appropriate to our area and the current season.
Cut back tomatoes
Cut back spring-planted, indeterminate tomatoes leaving about 1/3 of the plant, and feed with a high-phosphorus fertilizer to rejuvenate them for fall season. Sometimes there are still flowers and green tomatoes on the plants, but it is better for the fall harvest to cut them back around mid July. You can use any unripe fruits to make fried green tomatoes! Pull any unhealthy looking plants and replace them, then set up 40% shade cloth to protect your plants from the hot afternoon sun. Once temperatures cool off, the flowers will begin to set fruit. If you’re successful in keeping your plants consistently watered and happy, you’ll enjoy a good fall harvest.
Last chance for jack-o-lanterns
If you want to grow pumpkins for Halloween, get your plants started by early July. Read our guide on how to properly prepare a veggie, herb, or flower bed.
Feed non-native landscape plants
Fertilize non-native landscape plants, such as crepe myrtles, one last time before fall, then allow your plants to ‘rest’ until temperatures begin to cool off in the fall.
Look out for heat exhaustion
Hundreds of Americans die every year from heat-related illness. Remember to work during the cooler hours of morning and evening, use sun protection, and stay hydrated. Familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of heat exhaustion can help save a life! The symptoms of heat exhaustion include: thirst, headache, profuse sweating, muscle cramps, rapid heartbeat, nausea, irritability, dizziness, light-headedness, or loss of coordination. If you have any of these symptoms, immediately stop working and get to a cool place. Relax, loosen clothing, apply cold compresses to exposed skin, and slowly sip cool (not cold) water. Drink about a cup every 15 minutes. Water is usually sufficient, but if you have cramps, a sports drink with electrolytes may help. Heat exhaustion can quickly turn to heat stroke, which is life threatening. Get immediate medical attention if symptoms progress to: confusion, irrational behavior, reduced/no sweating, vomiting, convulsions, or collapse.
Spray all plants with seaweed
Continue applying seaweed to all plants on a regular basis, spraying it on both the surfaces and undersides. However only do this before sunrise or sunset: when temperatures are above 90°F, you shouldn’t spray anything, even plain water, on plant leaves during the day. Seaweed contains micronutrients, trace elements, and hormones, which makes great anti-stressor for plants and spraying it can also help dislodge spider mites and other plant-sucking pests.
Learn to water properly
Correct watering is the single most important thing you can do to keep your lawn healthy and to conserve this precious resource. Use our watering guide to establish how much weekly water your particular type of grass needs; then use our lawn care guide to help determine how long to run your sprinker/irrigation system. Remember to divide your lawn’s weekly water needs between two waterings, and to always water in the early morning, ideally an hour or two before sunrise. Consider investing in soaker hoses and/or drip irrigation, which put water right where it’s needed: in the soil, next to your plant’s roots. This saves water and money, is better for your plants, and it may even prevent the occurrence and spread of certain diseases.
How to solarize
The process of solarization takes at least a month, but it is a highly effective, completely non-toxic way to get rid of patches of grass, stubborn weeds, and even soil pathogens. Heat is necessary to cook the pathogens and weed seeds hiding in the soil, so July and August are the best times of year to solarize. If you’re getting rid of common weeds and grasses, water the area thoroughly. If you are dealing with Bermuda or nut grass spray the area with horticultural vinegar prior to solarization. After soaking with water or vinegar, cover the area with clear, heavy duty plastic (at least 4mm thick). Securely seal the edges with soil or rocks. The sun’s energy will be trapped under the clear plastic, baking the top layer of soil along with existing weeds and seeds. Leave this in place for at least two week, then remove the plastic, till the area to bring surviving roots up to the surface, then water and cover again. Wait two more weeks, remove the plastic and start watering again. Use vinegar to spray any stragglers. Repeat this process until you see a distinct lack of lawn or weeds.