July To Do in the Garden

The potted hibiscus in full bloom this July.

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

July in North Carolina.  Is it going to be hot?  Do bears…, well you know.  Of course they do and it will be.

And rain will be spotty at best, and lots of folks will complain.  Welcome to summer.  Find a cool spot, a cooler beverage, and a good book and enjoy.

Or you could come over and help me spread the 20+ cubic yards of chipper chips I inadvertently was graced with last week.  (Long story.  Bring lemonade or ice cream.)  So, the Accidental Cottage Garden (ACG) is now casually attired in wood chips as is right much of the rest of the yard.  20 yards is a lot of anything.

The ACG looks good now.  There are numerous (OK, 12 or 15) different plants in bloom at the moment.  Here’s the list.  Sunflower (Helianthus annus ‘Ring of Fire’), Zinnia (Zinnia elegans ‘Canary’), Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Day lily, dark red with yellow (Hemerocallis hybrid), 2 different Asiatic lilies, (Lilium x ‘Corsica’ &  L. martagon, a Turk’s cap variety), Balloon flower (Playcodon grandiflorus), Liatris (Liatris spicata), Stokes aster (Stokesia laevis), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Straw flower (Helichrysum bracteatum), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), Blanket flower (Gallardia pulchella) plus the Knock Out® rose and potted hibiscus.

The ACG (Accidental Cottage Garden) bursting with summer color. Are your big bloomers flopping over with all the new growth and abundant flowering? There are many options for supporting your plants but they don’t have to be expensive or fancy. (Bottom row) A simple strip of cloth or twine loosely tied around a grouping of plants can do the trick. (Image credit: Gary Crispell)

Now, for those of us who just can’t kick back all summer here’s all the authorized sweat-producing activities for you to pursue.


PSA!! Let’s just get this out of the way now, and I won’t harangue you with it anymore (this month).  SOIL TESTS ARE FREE THROUGH NOVEMBER.  Get the stuff (sample box and information sheet with instructions) from the Extension Office at 721 Foster St., Durham.  The results from NCDOA will tell all you need to know to optimize your soil for whatever you intend to grow.  It ain’t hard.  Click HERE for more info on soil testing.


Fertilize any warm season grasses (Bermuda, zoysia, St. Augustine) that have been previously neglected.

Mow the same by removing no more than 1/3 of the blade length.

Mow cool season grasses (fescue, perennial rye, non-banjo bluegrass) no lower than 3”.

Treat lawns for grubs after the 15th.


This month should be the last time you fertilize landscape plants (trees and shrubs) until 2023.


For the perpetually procrastinating people, planting pumpkins is perfectly permissible provided plenty of preparation precedes planting procedures. 

One can also plant tomato (plants), broccoli (plants), beans (seeds), brussels sprouts (plants) and carrots (seeds).

Competitive types can get a jump on the fall garden by planting cruciferous seeds (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) in flats to be transplanted to the garden in mid-August.

Pot up (move to a larger-size pot) or transplant overgrown house plants.


Last chance to prune landscape plants.  Pruning later will stimulate new growth that may not have time to harden off before winter comes (and it will come).

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

Bleeder trees (leak a lot of sap when cut) such as maple, elm, birch and dogwood (Acer, Ulmus, Betula and Cornus) can be pruned in July.

Blackberry and raspberry fruiting canes can be whacked to the ground, but not until after the final berries have made it into a pie.

Many perennials will rebloom if you clip off the spent blooms before they set seed.


There are several pancrustacial hexapodial invertebrates of the class Insecta (bugs to those of us without entomology PhDs) for whom you might feel enmity and who are out and about this month feasting on your favorite flora.  As they are not innocent,  no attempt will be made to protect their names.  The suspects are bagworms (most of whom are now ensconced in their bags).  You will have to pick them off and dispose of them in any manner you see fittin’.  Leaf miners (Beware some of them carry little pick axes.), spider mites (I know, technically they are arachnids, not insects—get over it), aphids (which are ubiquitous), lace bugs, the bane of rose and grape lovers everywhere—Japanese beetles all of which can be treated with a variety of insecticides.  There are several organic (not long-carbon chain organic, but less-harmful-to-pollinators organic) and as always, read the label and follow the instructions.

(Left to Right) July is scouting time for garden and landscape visitors and their handiwork: bagworms (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis), aphids (too many types to list all their scientific names here), and common damage caused by leaf miners, which often appears as distinctive winding tunnels within the leaves’ walls. (Image credit aphids: Debbie Roos)

Watch for tomato blight.  It is a fungus.  Treat as necessary.

Maintain any rose, fruit tree and bunch grape spray programs.

Vegetable pests of the month include cucumber beetles, flea beetles on tomatoes and beans and eggplant and the afore mentioned aphids on everything with suckable plant juice.


If you’re feeling especially ambitious you can always build cold frames and greenhouses to over-winter your tender and semi-hardy plants.

You can always spread mulch.

Personally, I’m going to take the grandkids to the lake twice a week and hang out in the shade the rest of the time (after I spread all those damn chips).

Happy summer, y’all.  Enjoy.  It’s waaay better here than Arizona or Houston.


Resources and Additional Information

North Carolina State University’s Garden Planting Calendar for Veggies, Fruits, and Herbs provides an excellent resource whether your are succession planting now or planning ahead with seed-starting for fall crops.


Check out North Carolina State’s publication on everything pertaining to your lawn, including breakdowns on care of cool-season and warm-season turf.


For more information on tree and shrub fertilization, see “A Gardener’s Guide to Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs.”


Learn more about common summertime insects who love your garden as much as you do with University of Arkansas’s Division of Agriculture’s feature which includes great photos to help you with proper insect identification.


Understand the difference between organic and synthetic pesticides with Virginia Cooperative Extension resources.

Clemson’s Cooperative Extension’s factsheets on pruning trees and shrubs are handy guides.


Article Short URL: https://wp.me/p2nIr1-2iT