Things are heating up! Here’s a to-do list to keep the garden at its best this month.
Early in the month
It’s time for summer tomatoes! The fruits tend crack when watering is inconsistent, so keep the soil around tomatoes evenly moist.
Coleus’ beauty is in the foliage, so when it begins to bloom, pinch off the flower spikes to encourage the plant to grow fuller and bushier. Wax begonias also benefit from periodic pinching to keep them from becoming leggy.
For the best flavor, pick squash and cucumbers while they are still small and tender. You can plant a second crop of bush beans, zucchini and cucumber, summer veggies that grow quickly.
Watch for slugs and snails that may chew holes in the leaves of some plants. Slugs seek out the damp, cool areas in a shady garden. Hostas are particularly susceptible to slug dining. To trap them, set out a shallow dish filled with beer.
Run sprinklers in vegetable, perennial and annual beds in the morning. Better still, use soaker hoses for more efficient watering.
Cut the stems of mums before they begin to form flowers. Doing so now will encourage fuller plants and more flowers this fall, when they become the stars in the garden.
Mid-July is a good time to divide bearded irises. Cut the leaves to about five inches tall, and gently lift the rhizomes from the ground and separate them. Cut away any rotting or diseased parts, and replant them in a prepared bed right away and water well. Share extras with friends.
Make sure the trees and shrubs you planted in spring get plenty of water. The Nashville Tree Foundation advises that trees planted in the last three years should receive 10 gallons per week per inch of tree caliper. Water your trees slowly with a bucket, soaker hose, slow drip hose or watering bag. www.nashvilletreefoundation.org.
Compost is really “cooking” in this heat. Add dried leaves or other “brown” material along with your kitchen scraps. Turn the compost periodically to help it break down faster.
Later this month
Summer annuals and perennials such as daisies, glads, zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos and others make beautiful summer bouquets. Cut them early in the day when they’re at their freshest and put them in water in a vase right away. Change the water daily to keep them fresh longer. Continue to clip off spent flowers of annuals and perennials to keep them blooming longer.
Garden pests to watch for include tobacco hornworms on tomato plants and Japanese beetles on just about everything else. Pluck the worms off the tomato plants and dispose of them. (If you see one with its back covered with white eggs, leave it; it is being parasitized by a tiny wasp.) Knock Japanese beetles off plants into a bucket of soapy water.
Lawn growth (and lawn mowing) may slow down as the heat increases. Continue to mow as needed, but don’t cut the grass too short. Provide about an inch of water if it doesn’t rain.
Don’t let mosquitoes become a problem. Empty anything that can collect water. Refresh the water in bird baths every couple of days. Use mosquito dunks in rain barrels and other containers of standing water.
It’s hot, but you may still have to get out there and pull weeds. Pick your favorite tool and get to work. Mulch in the garden beds helps keep weeds at a minimum, and also keeps the soil moist longer.
Take a daily walk around the garden to enjoy the scenery, but also to spot problems with weeds or bugs before they get out of hand.