How refreshing to enter July with such mild, wet weather behind us. Still, we know from experience that July and August will likely heat up and dry out. For people that may be new to the area and were excited about the long growing season promised, you have been deceived. Harsh summer temperatures send most of our plants into survival mode and, for the most part, split our frost-free days into two short growing seasons.
Tomatoes know it is July. Spider mites and disease take a toll on the plants and high temperatures slow or halt production. If you want a fall crop, simply slice off the top six inches of shoots, rinse well to dislodge pests and plant in gallon containers.
These should be placed in a bright area out of direct sun. Your transplants will be ready for the garden in four to six weeks. Once production is finished in the original plants, pull them and discard — but do not compost.
Plant pumpkins, winter squash, or sweet potatoes now for a fall harvest. Add fertilizer and make sure the planting bed is moist before seeding. Provide afternoon shade for tender seedlings.
This is a great time to rejuvenate the bare soil where you had your spring garden. Adding a couple of inches of compost or left-over shredded leaves will be a giant leap into a productive fall plot.
Many of the annual blooming plants we bought this spring are losing their vigor about now. Shear these back and fertilize. Fall will bring another round of color to most of them.
Trim back mums and asters up until the middle of the month. You will be rewarded with neater, more compact plants with more blooms. Summer-blooming salvias will benefit from cutting back the flower stalks to the foliage.
Hedges, meanwhile, can be sheared now to maintain density. The ideal shape is a slight taper from top to bottom. You want sunlight to reach the lower areas of the bushes. If you have butterfly bushes, cut them back by one-third. Smaller crepe myrtles will bloom more if the spent flowers are snipped before they start forming seeds.
If a bush has outgrown its space, you can prune it now, then use a sharp garden spade to root-prune the plant around the perimeter of the expected size of the root ball you will try to move. Leave about one shovel-width space between each cut. This will allow feeder roots to develop and give the transplanted shrub a better chance of survival in its new home. Give it a little extra TLC in the interim to help it cope with the loss of the severed roots.
Mow lawns at the highest setting for the kind of grass you are growing. Water deeply but infrequently to encourage deeper roots.
Summer too will pass, and gardening will be fun again. In the meantime, address your gardening questions to the Big Country Master Gardener Association by calling our hotline at 325-690-6496 or emailing us at [email protected] We would love to hear from you.
Until next time, happy gardening.