July 1 to July 31
Discover what you should be doing right now. Our experts share gardening advice, techniques, news, and ideas to make your garden the best ever.
Here's what's happening in your gardening region:
You might be suffering through the drought on the west coast or getting the first storms of the rainy season along the Southeast coast, but the chances are pretty good that your garden is hot right now. This month we’re focusing on dealing with both drought and excessive rains by amending soil and planting in raised beds and containers. There isn’t a whole lot that can be planted in the vegetable garden right now, so focus on your existing vegetable plantings and plan for next season’s by using supports like cages, towers and trellises. If you’re mistaking that summer heat for a lingering case of spring fever, there are still ornamentals that you can plant and there’s much you can do to make the garden enjoyable for friends and family. Provided you do your gardening in the morning or evening hours and drink plenty of fluids, there are still lots of fun things you can do in the July garden.
Prepare the garden for entertaining
A well-grown garden is sure to be the life of any party, indoors or out. If it seems unbearable outside, then use a few garden design tips to make your garden absolutely unbeatable! First off, provide some daytime shade in the form of trees, awnings or patio umbrellas so that you and your guests won’t bake. Even without shade, the garden at night is a wonderful place and shouldn’t be overlooked. Make the nighttime garden even more enchanting with white, fragrant flowers like jasmines, moonflowers and gardenias that lend a magical ambience to evening gatherings. Lighting is also a must for evening entertaining - either via candles and torches, or floodlights and solar path lights. Be sure to also gather an arrangement of cut flowers or foliage to adorn your home when the party goes indoors, or harvest some vegetables for a gorgeous salad with a homemade herb vinaigrette dressing. With a little planning, the garden can be the life of any party.
Plant Sunflower Seeds
They can be enormous enough to stand tall overhead, or small enough to use in cut flower arrangements. They feed the birds with their oil-rich seeds and when roasted with a little salt, they’re tasty for us as well. Their flowers can be a simple and cheery yellow hue, or they can seem as if tie-dyed in rich hues of burgundy, orange and crimson. Sunflowers can look like the usual wide petal-fringed platters that always seem to sport smiley faces in children books, or they can be bizarre like the ‘Teddy Bear’, ‘Honey Bear’ and ‘Baby Bear’ cultivars, with plush poofballs of fine and velvety petals that beg to be petted. Come to think of it, maybe those belong in storybooks as well. Plant sunflowers directly in the soil in a moist, well-drained spot that receives full sun. In zones 9-10 they benefit from filtered sun as well.
Plant Summer Bulbs
Summer bulbs, rhizomes and tubers are easy to plant now and will take off in the ample heat and rainfall of July. Canna is the go-to bulb for summer color, sporting an array of colorful tropical blooms atop banana-like paddle shaped leaves. Though they can survive drought by going dormant, plant cannas where they’ll receive regular moisture for a continuous display of flowers and foliage. They can even grow along ditches and ponds! Daylilies are colorful perennials with something for everyone. They come in a multitude of colors and painterly patterns, and come as compact plants or large ones with blooms held high above the foliage to dance in the slightest breeze. Eucomis is an unusual, yet highly desirable bulb for the subtropical garden, and the tall spikes of fragrant lavender flowers do indeed resemble pineapples… if you use our imagination, anyways. Each of these bulbs looks right at home in the tropical garden and will return year after year.
Improve your soil
Experienced gardeners know that the key to a great garden isn’t the plants, but rather the soil. You may be going through a drought right now and struggling to keep as much moisture in your garden’s soil as possible, or you might be kicking off the month with a sopping mess of mud. Ideally your soil would be both well-drained and moisture retentive; ‘well drained’ so that water doesn’t collect and rot the roots; and ‘moisture retentive’ so that water stays in the soil long enough to be absorbed by the roots. This middle ground is easily met by adding lots of organic matter, and the best kind isn’t purchased in bags, but rather created over time by composting your produce scraps, lawn clippings, weeds and pruned branches. To get the best use out of that rich soil, put it in raised beds so that your plants no longer have to deal with tree roots, rocky dirt or puddling water. If you don’t have enough space for raised beds, containers filled with potting mix are an excellent solution. Either way, by bringing the garden higher up, it becomes easier to tend with less weeds and pests, not to mention backache
Learn about supports
The benefits of vegetable supports are many. For starters, bringing your veggies up off the ground prevents the spread of fungus, bacteria, pests and many other problems that typically ___ vegetable plants. By giving floppy vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, squashes and beans a helping hand, they become much easier to see up close; this means that you’ll be able to easily spot pests, harvest fruits, trim vines and pollinate flowers if necessary. Here in our hot and sunny climate, vegetables on supports can be grown where they get afternoon shade and can also shade other, more sensitive plants growing at their feet. Some vegetables, such as peppers, need nothing more than to be gently held against a bamboo stake with a flexible stretch tie. Squashes and cucumbers are best grown on A-frames so that the ripe fruits can hang freely for the picking. Tomatoes, on the other hand, benefit from cages.