July Garden Tips
from Al Krismer Plant Farm
July 2018 Dear Gardening Enthusiast,

A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. - James Dent

The lazy days of summer have arrived. Even if you have gardening chores to do, this is the time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. And don't overdo it when the weather is hot and steamy, which is to say, most of the time. Stay out of midday heat if possible, relax with a good beach read and a cool drink, and save any gardening tasks for the early morning or early evening.

Don't fret if you have some causalities due to the summer heat and humidity. We still have a wide range of annuals which you can use to add color to your garden. Try some of the heat lovers for full sun such as lantanas, blue or pink angelonias, vincas, and petunias. For the shady areas we still have both double and single flowering impatiens and the dependable wax begonias.


The Dog Days of summer officially begin on July 3rd and last till August 11th. They are linked with the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius, these are the hottest and unhealthiest days of the year (be careful gardening ... lots of fluids please!) Protect yourself when out in the garden. Wear a straw hat and apply sunscreen and insect repellant.

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Check July recipes at the bottom

Need gardening help? Having deer or snail problems or how to care for that hanging basket? click here for our tip sheet library.

Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs:

  • If you've been pinching back your mums throughout the spring, mid- to-late July is the last time to pinch. Flowers will begin to bloom about 6 to 8 weeks after the last pinching. If you haven't been pinching your mums all spring, here's an easy care trick: cut them back by half in early July and fertilize. This will help them to grow bushier and delay bloom until later in the summer. For more info click here
  • Add several inches of mulch to Asiatic lilies. This will keep the roots cool, protect them from heat and deter weed growth.
  • Cutting flowers is best done with sharp shears or a knife which will help avoid injury to the growing plant. A slanting cut will expose a larger absorbing surface to water and will prevent the base of the stem from resting on the bottom of the vase. It is best to carry a bucket of water to the garden for collecting flowers, rather than a cutting basket.
  • Cut back candytuft, snow-in-summer, rockcress, and other fine stemmed plants to half their height after flowering to promote a second flowering for the year.

Vegetables and Herbs:


  • If your tomatoes develop a rotten spot on the bottom, discard the affected tomatoes so your plant won't waste energy trying to ripen them. This problem, called blossom end rot, is the result of a calcium deficiency that's usually caused by uneven watering. Scratch a little lime into the soil around the plants and try to water deeply once a week if we don't get at least an inch of rain.
  • Plant a late season vegetable garden by mid  July. In the tri-state area our average date of first frost is around October 15. Vegetables that can be direct seeded in July for a fall harvest are beets, beans, collards, cucumbers, summer squash and cabbage. Be sure to supply moisture as seedlings grow during hot weather.
  • Watch for a couple of common vegetable problems. Tomatoes full of flowers, but no fruit. This is usually caused by high day time temperatures of 90F and above and night time temperatures above 70F. Once temperatures cool, the tomatoes will set fruit. Another common problem is very large tomato plants with no flowers or fruit. Gardeners who are fertilizing with a high nitrogen fertilizer on a weekly basis usually cause this. Tomatoes need a starter fertilizer when transplants are set out and an application of a general garden fertilizer such as 5-10-5 when the first fruits set.
  • Plant broccoli, carrots, turnips, lettuce and radishes now to enjoy a nice fall garden. Choose early varieties so that they will mature before the first frost.
  • In the vegetable garden, indeterminate tomato plants such as 'Better Boy' will produce many suckers. A sucker is that new growth that comes in where a branch connects with the main trunk. Removing suckers will decrease the number of fruits produced but will ensure that the remaining tomatoes will be larger and will ripen sooner.
  • July is pesto time. When harvesting basil, don't just remove individual leaves, but cut back whole stems. This will create a bushier plant that will produce more leaves and less flowers and scraggily growth. Pick basil in the morning for the best flavor. This is when the oil content in the leaves is highest. For more info on basil click here
  • Cucumbers develops a bitter taste if the soil is not kept consistently moist. Harvest for pickling whole when 2 to 4 inches; for table use, when longer than 5 inches. Remove any overripe cucumbers to encourage continuous production. For more information on vine crops such as squash,melons and gourds click here
  • Squash vine borer is a difficult-to-control pest of vine crops, particularly summer and winter squashes. Adults lay eggs for a three-week period starting in late June. Cover lower section of stems with floating row cover or even aluminum foil to prevent egg laying. Look for and remove by hand any brown egg masses seen on the lower stems. Spraying carbaryl (Sevin) is more effective than using the dust formulation.

Garden Maintenance:


  • Continue to deadhead annuals and perennials (cutting or pinching off dead flowers) for a longer bloom
  • Continue your spraying program on your roses. To control powdery mildew or black spot you may have to spray weekly. Be sure to spray after rainy periods.
  • Periodically wash your plants off with a forceful steam of water. This will help to remove any insects off your plants without the use of chemicals.
  • Salt deposits can build up in the soil of container plants. This will cause the foliage to burn. Flush out these deposits with water once during the summer.
  • Garden plants should be checked periodically for summer pests. Check the timing for last application in relation to the date of harvest for edible crops. Use organic control measures as available, check with your local garden center
  • Garden Maintenance: Don't worry if the size of your roses is smaller than usual. If heat is excessive this month, your flowers may be about half their usual size-they should recover to normal size when the weather cools. Cut fertilization to half strength to avoid stressing the plants further. Reduce problems with black spot by watering only in the morning and remove lower leaves of diseased plants to improve air circulation.

Shrubs and Trees:


  • Do not prune Azaleas and Rhododendrons after the second week of July for they soon will begin setting their buds for next year's blooms
  • Begin looking for webs of fall webworm on woody plants. Control by cutting out branches wrapped in webbing where possible. Spraying with the botanical insecticide Bt (Dipel, Thuricide and others) is very effective on very young larvae.
  • Water newly planted shrubs and young trees (planted within the last three to five years) during dry weather. Allow water to penetrate to a depth of 8-10" rather than sprinkling frequently and lightly.

Lawn Care:


  • The key is to only cut one third of the grass off at any mowing. Cutting too short, or cutting too much of the grass off at one time can reduce the ability of grass to withstand drought stress.
  • Keep the lawn mowed even though this is usually a time when grass growth slows. If the weather is dry, mow high, but less often.
  • Mow regularly to prevent weed seed spread. Don't mow your lawn in the same direction every time, but vary your path so that the turf and soil don't form compacted mower ruts.
  • Raise the lawn mower height of cut to keep lawn greener and put less stress on the grass. Don't remove clippings from the lawn unless grass is excessively tall or weedy. Clippings return nutrients to the soil and do not add to thatch buildup.

House Plant Care:


  • If needed, re-pot root bound houseplants to a larger pot. Use potting mix when repotting houseplants.
  • Feed houseplants with a good quality indoor plant food such Osmocote (slow-release granular).
  • Those attempting to re-bloom poinsettias should set the pot in a fairly sunny area and remove about one inch of the top growth as soon as the new growth is four inches long. Continue pinching to shape the plant until late August.
  • Fertilize Hibiscus and other blooming tropical plants with any flowering houseplant fertilizer. These fertilizers are higher in phosphorus (the middle number on the container) and promote flowering

Water Gardens:


  • Don't stress out your fish! Water evaporation rates are high this time of year, so remember to add water if the water level of your pond goes down. Before you add water use a dechlorinator if your water is chlorinated.
  • If you have a pond or water garden, remember to fertilize lilies and lotus twice monthly during the growing season.
  • Time to switch from spring fish food to summer fish food since water temperatures have risen above 70 degrees. At higher temperatures, fish metabolize at a faster rate, thus creating a need for a diet higher in protein, which the summer food contains
  • Do not worry about the tiny red worms that may appear in your pond filter. These harmless creatures are Blood Worms and they can be beneficial to the pond. Blood Worms are the larvae stage of chironomid midges - a very small fly that resembles a mosquito but does not bite.
    For more info on care of pond fish including koi click here
  • Remember to continue fertilizing your plants.
    Remove dead foliage from the pond.
    Feed your fish well.

Insect and Disease Control:


  • Avoid applying insecticides, fungicides or fertilizers when the temperature is above 85 degrees. Spray in the early morning , when the temperature is below 80 degrees and plants will have a chance to dry before the temperatures reach 85 degrees. Also, make sure plants are well watered before spraying - don't spray them when they're stressed by lack of water
  • mites are having a great year, which means your plants probably aren't. Mites are tiny sucking creatures, too small to be seen easily on the leaves. The best way to check for mites is to hold a piece of paper under the leaves of a plant you suspect and shake the leaves a little. If lots of little specks fall on the paper, you've probably got mites.
  • With the hotter weather tiny insects called thrips may become a problem. Thrips feed on pollen and plant tissue damaging blooms and causing new growth to become distorted. Worst yet they carry various viruses which can ruin plants particularly impatiens. Thrips like to feed in blooms so take a piece of white paper and shake a geranium or petunia bloom or any other bloom above the paper. Thrips will appear as tiny specs.
  • Start the annual watch for the dreaded Japanese beetle. These one-half inch long shiny green-headed beetles love roses and over 300 other plants. They are usually most active during the warmest part of the day from 10 a.m.  3 p.m. The beetle will skeletonize leaves in a short period of time. Advertised Japanese beetle traps are not recommended. These may actually attract more beetles and increase plant damage. The insecticide Sevin will offer some control, but use should be limited, since Sevin will kill bees. An alternative control is to pick them off by hand and drop them into soapy water.For more info on controlling Japanese beetle click on the Perdue University site
  • Spider mites can become a problem on ornamental plants, vegetables, and fruit plants during hot, dry weather. Watch for dusty-looking foliage, loss of color, presence of tiny mites. Wash infested areas with water or spray with appropriate pesticides.

Garden Critters:


  • If a honeybee sting, it is the only insect to leave its stinger behind. Don't squeeze the area to try to eject the stinger as this will only make more venom circulate. Rather, use a clean fingernail, nail file, sterilized (in alcohol) needle or knife blade to tease out the stinger. There are many remedies you might have around the house handy for stings:
    *commercial antihistamine lotions you can buy
    *ice on the sting for several minutes will help reduce swelling
    *apply a paste of meat tenderizer! Yes, it contains an enzyme from the papaya fruit that neutralizes bee stings. Or you can rub the area with fresh papaya.
    *apply a single drop of peppermint oil to the sting, 2 or 3 times a day
    For more info on treating insect bites click here
  • Continue attracting insect eating birds to the garden area by providing them with a fresh water source.
  • Butterflies have four life stages, two of which have needs for food-- the larvae or caterpillars, and the adults or butterflies. The larvae of many butterflies aren't particular, but some are. For instance, monarch larvae only eat milkweeds. Black swallowtail larvae eat the leaves of dill, parsley, carrot, and fennel. Painted lady larvae eat thistle leaves. You must provide food for such larvae, or you wont have the adults!
  • Early season nectar sources are important for butterflies that overwinter as adults. Examples are lupines, dames rocket, and lilacs. Late season nectar sources are important for species that end the season as adults. Asters, goldenrod, helen's flower, and butterfly bush are examples. Butterfly bush may not be winter hardy in the colder areas, in which it may either die to the ground in winter, or just be grown as an annual. Because late fall flowers have less nectar than those that bloom earlier, fall-feeding butterflies need to visit more flowers to satisfy their nutritional needs.
  • Butterflies are easy to please. They like to sunbathe, so a large flat rock exposed to the sun is a must. They also need mud baths, so set up "butterfly puddles" where they can get required salts and minerals. A dish of cut-up, overripe fruit always hits the spot, and pastel flowers are their favorites
  • Hummingbirds, for example, are attracted to red flowers, such as bee balm, although you also may wish to fill a hummingbird feeder with a sugar-water mixture. The food is available commercially, or you can make your own. Use only pure, white sugar and not honey, however, as the latter is lethal to these tiny birds.
    For more info click here for our hummingbird tip sheet
    Tired of dealing with deer. Download our tip sheet on controlling these pesky critters.

July Recipes:


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