July: To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

It is July!  It is not hot.  You only think it is hot.  Hot is 114-in-Portland, Oregon-with-no-AC.   That, my friends, is HOT.

 June turned out quite well, I thought.  It would have been nice if Raleigh had shared a little more of their over abundant rain, but then, when has Raleigh ever shared anything good with Durham?  The gardens in our yard look pretty good right now except for the tomatoes that the voles got to… again.

They were not intimidated by the overlapping double layer of chicken wire in the bottom of the raised bed.  Next step is hardware cloth.  I’ll let you know about that next year.

The Accidental Cottage Garden is showing off presently.  There are black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida), prairie cone flowers (R. hirta), coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), liatris (Liatris spicata), Stokes aster (Stokesia leavis), balloon flower (Platycodon grandifloris), purple cone flower (Echinacea purpurea), Asiatic lily (Lilium x ‘Corsica’), gallardia (Gallardia pulchella) and a Hydrangea x ‘Limelight’.  The most amazing thing right now is the saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana) that is reblooming.  Can’t say that I have ever seen that before.  Enough about our gardens.  Let’s put on some sunscreen and insect repellent and go out into yours.


Fertilize warm season grasses (Bermuda, St. Augustine or zoysia) now if you haven’t already done so.

Mow these grasses by removing no more than 1/3 of the growth.  Mow cool season grasses (fescue, bluegrass and perennial rye) at a height between 3” and 4”, no lower.


Last chance to fertilize landscape plants until 2022.

It is an excellent time to take soil samples and send them in to NCDA for FREE SOIL TESTS.  Boxes and instructions are available at the Extension office, 721 Foster St.  They are only free until November.


It is not too late to plant pumpkins, broccoli, beans, collards, Brussels sprouts, carrots and even tomatoes.

Get a jump on the Fall garden by planting seeds of cruciferous plants (cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts) to be transplanted in mid-August.

Pot up or transplant overgrown house plants.


Trees that bleed a lot when cut (E.g. birch, maple, dogwood, elm) can be pruned this month.

Knock down those overgrown landscape plants and hedges.  August is too late.

Coniferous plants (seeds are produced in cones) can be lightly pruned now.

Keep garden mums pinched until the middle of the month for Fall blooms.

Blackberry and raspberry fruiting canes can be cut back to the ground after the last blackberry cobbler of the season.

To get a rebloom on perennials prune them lightly after the first bloom and before they set seeds.


Be on the lookout for these nefarious characters, bag worms (pick off the bags), leaf miners (take away their little headlamps), spider mites, aphid, lace bugs, and Japanese beetles. Spray sparingly and follow the instructions on the label. For many things, nothing more than insecticidal soap is needed.

Be aware of tomato blight and treat as necessary.

Continue the perpetual program for roses, fruit trees, and bunch grapes.

Pests of vegetables that are active this month include cucumber beetles (on cucumbers, ironically), flea beetles on tomatoes, beans and eggplants and aphids on anything they can get their sucky little mouth parts into.


If you are just bored you can build cold frames or greenhouses in preparation for the winter to come (‘cause it will come).  Personally, I am going to go out and sit under the gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) in the backyard with a cold beverage and luxuriate in the heavenly odoriferousness of the blooms while listening to the indigenous wildlife communicate with each other.

So, let’s all get vaccinated so we can gather in the garden with friends.  Enjoy July, y’all.

*Resources and Further Reading

All About Soil Sampling and How to Get Supplies from Durham County Cooperative Extension

Organic Lawn Care Guide

Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

General Pruning Tips

Learn more about insects and how to control them from the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook

NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (find your perfect plant or figure out what that unknown weed is!)