July To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Chinese Forget-me-not photo: Gary Crispell

It’s July 2023. A great time to be alive and gardening in piedmont North Carolina. COVID-19 is just another obnoxious virus. This year we have incinerated bits of Canada and Brunswick County fouling our air. Kinda sad, really.

On a lighter note, did everyone get enough rain the third week of June? I mean really. It almost made up for the previous four weeks when we had zero rain here…almost. We’ll take it and be glad.

The Accidental Cottage Garden loved the water. Parts of it were looking a little thirsty. I try not to water it as part of the grand experiment to see who can stand it. The goal is to eventually have a garden of perennials that don’t need any attention except in the extremes.

This is one of the most diverse months in the ACG. Current splendiferous show-offs include coreopsis (C. lanceolata), several variations of black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), blazing star (Liatris spicata), Stokes aster (Stoksia laevis), balloon flower (Platycodon grandifloris), Corsica lily (Lilium x ‘Corsica’), taller than me tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium), purple cone flower (Echinacea purpureaum), blanket flower (Gallardia pulchella), evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), cosmos (C. bipinnatus & C. sulphureus), Chinese forget-me-not (Cynoglossum amabile), and numerous other cast members. When one sows 100,000 seeds one gets lots of surprises and delights.

So, what’s happening in your garden? Not sure what to do next? Well then, the rest of this post is just for you.


For the most persistent of procrastinators out there, fertilizing warm season grasses (Bermuda, zoysia, St. Augustine) should happen like NOW (or May or June).

Mowing height for warm season lawns should be between 1” and 2”. Mowing height for cool season lawns (fescue, bluegrass, perennial rye) should be no less than 3”. Mow in a different direction each mowing to strengthen roots and allow sunlight to hit different sides of the grass blades (and to make your lawn look like a baseball outfield).


Keep side dressing the veggie plants.

July is last call for fertilizing landscape plants until 2024. New growth that occurs after August might not have enough time to harden off before the first hard frost in the fall (statistically speaking).


Speaking of procrastination, you could still plant tomatoes (the biggest plants you can find). Much less time critical plantings include brussels sprouts, beans, collards, carrots and pumpkins. Get a jump on the fall garden by starting broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower now to be set out in the garden mid-August. July is also a good month to transplant overgrown houseplants.


“Bleeder” trees such as maple (Acer sps.), birch (Betula sps.), and elm (Ulmus sps.) can be pruned this month. Overgrown hedges can be pruned this month, but not again until cold weather sets in. Keep garden mums (Chrysanthemum x hybrids) pinched until mid-month for fall blooms. Coniferous evergreens (needle like leaves and seed cones) can be pruned now. Be aware that most of them do not readily put out new growth below a pruning cut. Raspberry and blackberry fruiting canes can be cut back after harvest and the last cobbler for 2023. Removing faded blooms from perennials encourages a second blooming. Rhododendron including azaleas (Of course Rhododendrons include azaleas.) and blueberries can have any dieback removed.

SPRAYING (and other pest related issues)

Insects love July. There is just sooo much lush vegetation upon which to feast. And yours is their favorite. The regular rascals include bagworms (who have retreated into their bags by now, so you will have to pick them off by hand and smoosh ‘em), leaf miners, the ubiquitous aphids, lace bugs, and so as not to leave out the arachnid family, spider mites.

Oh, yeah. Lest we forget, Japanese-American beetles. (Come on. You know they have been here long enough to be naturalized citizens.) There are numerous chemicals available to control these pests. Think organic first.

Watch for blight on tomatoes and treat with an appropriate fungicide as necessary.
Continue regular programs for roses, bunch grapes, and fruit trees.

Vegetable garden pests to watch for are cucumber beetle on well…you know, flea beetle on tomatoes, beans and eggplant, and aphids on whatever is green and growing vigorously.
Only use pesticides when necessary and try an organic product first. ALWAYS read the label and follow instructions.

Slugs and snails can be major pains this time of the year. They are not insects. They are mollusks, related to octopuses (though not nearly as intelligent). Control of them is multipart. They are generally nocturnal, so eliminating their daytime hiding places is a starting point unless…You can use hiding places as traps by placing flat boards on the ground near the plants the slugs are damaging. In the morning pick up the boards and remove the slugs (yuck) and destroy them. The flat-beer-in-a-shallow-dish trick is anecdotally successful where the infestation is small. Placing sharp-edged material (egg shells, expanded slate, diatomaceous earth, etc.) around plants may or may not be effective. They don’t like the scratchiness of the edges; however, they have demonstrated the ability to crawl across the sharp edge of a razor blade. Salt is effective, but toxic to plants. Chemical control methods include copper which is a repellent and iron phosphate which is labeled as safe around pets. Less safe, but more effective (Why is always that way?) chemicals are metaldehyde which kills by dehydration and is more effective in dry weather and carbamate baits. They work best by placing them under the daytime hiding places. (Thanks to Mattie for reminding me to talk about mollusks in the garden.)


OK, so that is totally not a thing. I get it. How ‘bout “WHEN YOU ARE TOTALLY SICK AND TIRED OF THE “TO DO” LIST AND IN SERIOUS NEED OF A BREAK”? Can we agree on that? It’s July. (Did I mention that already?) The evenings are sultry and made for warm friends, cool beverages, and fire fly watching. Check them out as they float up from their daytime digs and flit about looking for a good time. If break time comes during the day there are a myriad of parks in the area to check out and museums if it is toooo hot. Enjoy our North Carolina July and be glad you don’t live in Texas. (Been there. Done that. No tee shirt.)

Additional Resources:

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.


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.


NCSU’s TurfFiles Carolina Lawns: A Guide to Maintaining Quality Turf in the Landscape offers an comprehensive look at care for all types of lawns


Clemson University’s Home and Garden Information Center fact sheet on pruning shrubs offers advice on methods and timing