July can be one of the trickiest months in the garden. It’s hot and humid, the plants are beginning to get that leathery, tired look, and the gardener’s enthusiasm for weeding is at an all time low. The inclination to stay inside and only pull those weeds that can be seen from the house is strong.
However, there are a number of things that can be done that will not only pave the way for a beautiful late summer garden, but will refresh the look of the garden now.
1) Water. This may seem obvious, but plants need it now, more than ever, as the temperatures are at their highest. Here in the northeast, it has been an exceedingly dry summer, and the ground has very little moisture in it. If you haven’t watered in awhile, water several times in short succession at first, so that the ground has a chance to soak it in, as it may repel water at first. Water in the early morning or evening, so that there is less evaporation.
Because of the dry summer, watering can be problematical, as many communities have instigated water bans. If this is the case, there are still things that you can do for your plants, like use greywater, so long as you pay attention to how you do it. Click here for a good article on using household waste water for plants.
2) Deadhead. Cutting back some plants now will mean that you may get a flush of new blooms in a few weeks. Plants like Geraniums (the perennial kind) will benefit from a quick trim of their seed heads. If a plant is busy making seeds, then it won’t have time to bloom, so if you remove the seed pods, it may have the energy for a few more flowers. Don’t feel like you have to painstakingly snip off each spent bloom; you can apply hedge shears without worrying, and get the job done in a matter of minutes. Cutting back Daylily stems, or Shasta Daisies will also result in more flowers, although those will need to be cut one by one… Sorry.
3) Pull up weeds that look like they are in the process of setting seed. This will help prevent more of them next year. Think of each one that you are pulling up as dozens to hundreds of weeds that you won’t have to pull next year!
4) Sow seeds. Yup, sow seeds! Sowing the seeds of Cilantro, Basil, Spinach, Dill, Beans, and Beets now will yield you wonderful fall crops. (Just remember to water them.)
5) Enjoy the fruits and vegetables of others’ labors! Blueberries and Raspberries are just the beginning of the tasty things that are available right now. Pay your local Farmer’s Market a visit and delight your tastebuds!
Use this time in the garden to do a little light work that will pay off later. But given that plant processes slow down when the weather is hot, allow yourself to slow down, too. Take a moment to appreciate the garden as the result of your hard work, and to plan for the future. After all, the best time to stop and smell the roses is what they are in bloom!