By: Pat Cordray
Finally, we had a little rain in June. I think I heard my plants collectively breathe a sigh of relief. I felt the same way. It gave me a moment of heat relief, then the humidity hit. July can bring its own gardening problems and joys. There are the usual summer time garden necessities like watering. Then there are the bugs, all kinds of bugs. The most exciting part of July is that the blooms of so many summer perennials and annuals will be in high gear and what is prettier than that? So, let’s get busy.
July gardening includes watering, bugs and planting:
Again, this month watering has to be at the top of the to do list. Before you water check the soil around the plant. If it is newly planted, check the soil in the area closest to the plant (the roots will not be in the surrounding soil yet). When checking the soil, you may notice that it is damp everywhere but closest to the plant. That means the plant has used all of the water it can get to and it’s time to water. In the summer months you may have to water these new plantings daily. Water slowly all around your plant. If you are unsure about how long it takes to water to keep the root ball moist, stop and check. Dig into the soil and see how far down the soil is moist. If you have only watered long enough to wet the top ½ inch, you’re not done, water a little longer.
Once the roots become more established you won’t have to water as often. If you notice that the plant is wilted but the soil is damp, don’t water. The plant is
conserving energy and will bounce right back when the sun goes down. If it is still wilted in the morning go ahead and water. The ideal time to water is in the early morning hours but if a plant needs water then by all means water it.
Spending time in your garden is the best way to stay on top of what your plants may need. Whether it is water or help when pests attack. If you are out there you will catch “it” before the plant dies or a pest has spread through your whole garden. Summer, aka bug season, is a time of added stress for plants. Some plants would prefer morning sun and afternoon shade, so our afternoon sun is a shocker.
I have written before about bad bugs like: mealy bugs, scales, spider mites, lace bugs, aphids, thrips, leaf miners, squash bugs, leaf rollers and whitefly, will the list ever end? I wanted to tell you about the good bugs. The bugs that can make your gardening so much easier. Some pollinate your plants and others help by eating, laying eggs in or on the bad bugs, mostly on their larvae. Before you spray, consider that the spray will kill the good and the bad. Instead of spraying why not plant for the good bugs so they can handle the problem bugs in your garden? What kind of plants would attract these good bugs? Consider planting parsley, dill, fennel, anise, lovage, chervil, sunflower, dandelion (this plant is definitely not the bad guy portrayed in ads for weed killers on TV), yarrow, tansy, marigold, zinnia, milk weed, lantana, passion vine or verbena. These plants attract lady beetles(bugs), butterflies, bees, green lacewings, hover flies, milkweed assassin bugs, mealybug destroyers, moths and parasitic wasps. Familiarize yourself with what the good bugs and their larvae look like, so you can distinguish the good from the bad. This website is a good place to start to learn more about beneficials. Beneficials in the Garden, Galveston County Master Gardeners
For summer color, you know you want some, to replace fading spring color. Try vinca, purslane, angelonia, zinnia, pentas, scaevola, salvia, Crossandra, coleus, Mexican heather, lantana, Portulaca, mandevilla, passion vines, firecracker fern, gomphrena, milkweed, melampodium, blue daze, and echinacea; all are just beautiful.
For shadier areas you can add torenia, coleus, mona lavender, ajuga, begonia, impatiens, jacobinia, shrimp plant, and Persian shield. Color plants add beauty to your garden.
Feed these blooming plants to keep them healthy. Use a granular food like Microlife 8-4-6 or use a liquid food like Microlife Maximum Blooms or Fox Farm Big Blooms, any of these fertilizers will do the trick.
Enjoy your garden,