This month you should be sowing seeds for two distinct groups of plants. If you have been following the practice of multiple sowings to spread out the harvest over a longer period rather than one big harvest, you can still sow seed for one more harvest before fall. Consider sowing a final crop of beets, bush green beans, chard, cucumbers, melons, okra, potatoes, pumpkins, summer squash and sweet corn.
If you crave a late crop, you can sow seeds for many of the same vegetables that you plant in the spring. If available use late season varieties. Some fall crop options to start now include: Plant but protect from heat: late-season cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, peas and broccoli.
Start planning for cold frames if you want to extend your growing season into ate winter and get a head start on spring.
Tidy the garden
Keep things attractive and blooming by deadheading spent flowers. Remove any trimmings from the bed and compost it. Litter on the soil surface can harbor unwanted pets and disease. Annuals might start looking a little ratty this month. Instead of replacing them, try cutting them back. Many will regrow and flower as they did weeks ago. Check the weekly to-do list for trimming and dividing suggestions for perennials, Pull out and compost vegetable plants that have produced their last fruits, mainly early crops such as peas, spinach and first plantings of beans. Remember that containers can wilt in a few hours if allowed to dry out. ‘Check at least once or twice a day and water as necessary. Pots on driveways, porches and patios in full sun may need several waterings during hot, dry weather.
Blackberries and raspberries
July is the prime time for blackberries and raspberries to fruit. Remember that fruit forms on the one-year canes so once you’ve harvested the last of the berries, consider pruning. Your job is to cut out the canes that produced this year. Lop them off at the base or soil line.
Bethlehem Garden Club: A Standard Flower Show, July 21-22, First Presbyterian Church, 2344 Center St., Bethlehem. The show is open 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. In addition to floral designs and horticultural samples, there will be vignettes, table settings, decorated toys, miniature and a plant sale. There will be a Pastry Cafe on site. The show is open to the public; admission is free.
In our garden
The red mandevilla vines are doing well. Gracefully twining up a small pot trellis. Thumbergia drapes over the side of a hanging basket. My new gardenias are loving the hot, humid weather this week but want larger pots. The best performing pot is a small container of impatiens that I got from my friend Betty after attending a dinner at De Sales and she got the centerpiece. I don’t really like impatiens but must admit that they look good on a small glass table outside.
My tick notes last week was well timed. Recent rain and humidity brought them out. We found three on us this week. One on the band of my hat; one on ‘Fran’ Hirt and the third, just starting to bite Fran on his forearm just below the elbow. We hadn’t been gardening that day, just sitting out in a shady spot near a huge Norway spruce.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would be in a garden on the Parkland Garden tour on Saturday, July 15. I’ll be there from 11 to 1. Please stop by and say hello; Fran will be with me so come meet him as well.
Week in the garden
Planting: Start a final sowing of beets, bush green beans, chard, cucumbers, melons, okra, potatoes, pumpkins, summer squash, and sweet corn. Plant but protect from heat: late-season cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, peas, and broccoli for late summer or early fall harvest. Plant or pot up summer bulbs and tubers such as dahlias, cannas, calla lilies, and caladiums. Replace spent containers of spring flowers with heat-loving annuals. Move the pansies to cool shade and keep them watered during the summer if you want to keep them for the fall. Hold new plants until the weather cools. Gather them together to make watering easier.
Seasonal: Stake tall flowers and provide supports for vining plants. Deadhead flowers and trim damaged, diseased, and dead foliage to keep beds tidy. Shear back damaged or ratty looking foliage on columbine (Aquilegia sp.) and cranesbill geraniums. Cut common bleeding heart (Dicentra spectablis) back to its base foliage. Prune back clematis (Group I, C. Montana rubens, for example) and deutzia, after blooming. Divide spring blooming perennials after they finish blooming. Cut back peony flower stems as the blooms fade. Allow the greens to grow until fall then cut them back to the ground. Clip back iris flower stems as the blooms fade; divide plants in crowded beds. Give a light feeding to hellebores such as the Lenten rose. Stop pinching back helenium, chrysanthemums and asters. Test soil for new beds, Retest soil in poorly performing areas or those that haven’t been tested in the last 3-5 years. Apply corn gluten based weed control in the garden and establish a schedule for reapplication, usually at four to six week intervals
Lawn: Treat for chinch bugs and sod webworms. Cut as needed, based on growth not schedule, to a height of about 2.5 to 3 inches tall. Use a sharp blade and fresh gas.
Keep newly seeded or sodded lawns watered; supplement rain in weeks where less than an inch. Apply spring fertilizer treatments now. Apply preemergent crabgrass control in the next few weeks. Fill in holes and low spots in lawn. Apply corn gluten based weed control in the garden; reapply at four to six week intervals.
Chores: Harvest crops regularly, at least every other day. Check hoses; replace washers and correct leaky connections. Dump standing water and remove anything that may collect rainwater to help control mosquito populations. Check seed inventory for late crops and fall planting. Inventory and restock seed starting and potting supplies. Clean, disinfect and store pots and trays used for seed starting and transplants. Water any recent plantings and containers anytime we experience a week with less than an inch of rain. Fix damaged screens and garden hoses. Note damaged caulking around doors and windows. Dump standing water and remove anything that may collect rainwater to help control mosquito populations
Provide deer, rabbit and groundhog protection for vulnerable plants. Reapply taste or scent deterrents. Clean and fill bird feeders regularly. Clean up spilled seed and empty hulls. Dump, scrub and refill birdbaths at least once a week. Consider setting out nesting materials if you have them. Clear gutters and direct rainwater runoff away from house foundations.
Tools, equipment, and supplies: Check spring equipment and supplies, repair or replace. Sharpen blades, get fresh gas, check and/or replace oil. Send snow removal equipment for tune-up or repair.
Safety: Clear lawns of debris before mowing and make sure pets, children and others are well away from the area being mown. Store garden chemicals indoors away from pets and children. Discard outdated ones at local chemical collection events. Photograph storm damage before clearing or repairing for insurance claims and file promptly. Anytime you are outside and the temperatures are about 50 degrees or warmer watch for tick bites. Use an insect repellent containing Deet on the skin. Apply a permethrin product to clothing. Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, hats and long pants when working in the garden. Stay hydrated. Drink water or other non-caffeinated, nonalcoholic beverages. Even in cold weather, apply sunscreen, wear hats and limit exposure to sun. Wear closed-toe shoes and gloves; use eye protection; and use ear protection when using any loud power tools.
Sue Kittek is a freelance garden columnist, writer, and lecturer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at email@example.com or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, PO Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.