July: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Alright, y’all. It’s July. This is the Piedmont of North Carolina. ‘Nuff said. Except … we’re gardeners and we must garden! Heat? Humidity? It’s all just more stuff to keep our horticultural minds busy. Does a fungus love heat and humidity? Yes it does. Does your water bill go through the roof trying to keep stuff alive just so it can drown in the next thunderstorm? Probably. Can you keep up with the aphid, spider mite and lacebug outbreaks? Hopefully!

But wait. Remember the 70-degree days we enjoyed in February? Can’t get that in New Hampshire or New York or Nebraska or North Dakota, or a whole host of other states. Then think ahead to October.  Will we worry about snow then? Will our growing season have ended? Nope! Sure it’s hot and humid now, but we can escape to the sea for a breeze or to the mountains for some cooler temps. Yessirree, give me North Carolina every time, thank you very much. Now let’s go out in the yard and be grateful.

Lawn Care
Fertilize warm season grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia and St. Augustine) if you haven’t already. When mowing these lawns remove one-third of the growth. Change directions with each mowing to strengthen root systems and expose different side of the blades to sunlight.

Fertilizing
Continue side-dressing your vegetable garden plants. July is the last time to fertilize landscape plants until next year.

This is an excellent time to take soil samples especially from your lawn. Sample boxes and instructions can be obtained from the extension office.  It is a FREE service until November.

Planting
Veggies that can still be planted include Brussels sprouts, collards, beans, carrots, tomatoes and pumpkins.

A young Brussels sprout plant, ‘Long Island Improved,’ one of three varieties that perform satisfactorily in N.C.  The others are Jade Cross E Hybrid and Royal Marvel. About 85 to 95 days are required from field seeding or transplanting to maturity.

Get ready for the fall garden by starting broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower plants to be transplanted in mid-August.

July is also a good time to transplant overgrown houseplants.

Pruning
– “Bleeder” trees like maple, dogwood, birch and elm can be pruned this month.

– Overgrown hedges can be pruned.

– Coniferous evergreens (they make cones with seeds in them) can be pruned.

– Raspberry and blackberry fruiting canes can be cut to the ground following harvest.

– Rhododendrons, azaleas (I know that’s redundant) and blueberries can have the dieback removed.

– Keep garden mums pinched until mid-month.

– Remove faded blooms on perennials to encourage a second blooming.

Spraying
Insects to be watchful for include bag worms, leaf miners, aphids, spider mites and lace bugs. Oh, yeah.  Japanese beetles, duh. Watch tomatoes for signs of blight and spray as necessary. Continue with rose program. Also continue fungicide program for bunch grapes and fruit trees.

Vegetable pests to watch for:  cucumber beetle (cucumber, ironically enough), flea beetle (tomato, eggplant and beans) and aphids (everything).

Only use pesticides when necessary and ALWAYS follow the label instructions.

There’s not too many extra things to do this month unless you want to build cold frames and greenhouses to be ready for next winter. I recommend you kick back on the deck in the evening with a cool beverage and enjoy summer in this goodly state. 

Further Reading
Browse, or search, Horticultural information leaflets from NC State Extension:  https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/catalog/series/73/

Learn more about Brussel sprouts – https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/brussels-sprouts

Photo credit: Downtowngal, no changes made:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Young_brussels_sprouts_plant.jpg

May: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Rhododendron in bloom. Photo by A. Laine.

Ahh, May. The lovely month. The month for mothers, proms, college graduations and the first great beach weekend—Memorial Day. It is generally not too hot and rarely too cool. The month of balmy days that lead to enchanting evenings on the veranda (deck, patio, veranda—whatever). Enjoy the evening.  There’s gardening to be done on the morrow.

Lawn Care
Warm season grass people: It is your turn. If you didn’t fertilize the lawn in April, get to it. A good slow release fertilizer that meets the requirements notated in your SOIL TEST results is in order. Also, sharpen those mower blades.

Cool season grass folks: Just mow it, but not less than 3 inches high. “Do not,” he repeated, “fertilize cool season grasses until Fall.”

Fertilizing
Speaking of fertilizing; long season vegetable crops like tomatoes, beans and squash (among others) will benefit from a side dressing six to eight weeks after germination. (What?! You didn’t start your own from seed? You bought plants at a Big Box? Give them a week or two in the ground and then side dress.)

While you have the bag open throw some fertilizer at your summer annuals and perennials, too.

Azaleas and rhododendrons and camellias and other ericaceous (acid-loving) plants will benefit from a shot of acid fertilizer about now.

Planting
May is the second-best time in the veggie garden. (Everybody knows harvest is the best time.) It is time to plant beans (snap, pole, bush limas, etc.), cantaloupe, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, southern peas, peppers—sweet and hot, pumpkins, squash, watermelon and, for you non-competitive types, tomatoes.

Gladioli bulbs may be planted now as may begonias, geraniums and other annuals that you didn’t plant in late April.

Pruning
Spring flowering shrubs (e.g. azaleas, camellias, etc.) may be pruned as soon as the blooms fade.  Azaleas may be pruned until July 4th without cutting off next year’s buds.

Overgrown hedges can still be pruned.

Keep pinching back garden mums until mid-July.

Hand prune azalea and camellia leaf galls. They are generally not harmful to the plant, but are unattractive.

I realize your grandmother always cut back the daffodils and iris and other spring bulbs as soon as the flowers faded. I urge you to resist the temptation to carry on that tradition. The bulbs need that foliage to make the sugars that will provide the energy to bloom again next year. Wait until the foliage itself yellows before whacking it off and relegating it to the compost heap. The bulbs thank you.

Spraying

  • Always, always ONLY spray when necessary and READ & FOLLOW label directions.
  • Monitor rhododendron species including azaleas for borers. Spray if necessary.
  • Spray iris beds for iris borers which you probably will not see.
  • Scout for and spray as necessary for bag worms. They are on the move this month.
  • May is a good time to begin to try to eliminate poison ivy/oak (Rhus radicans) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica). Best wishes.
  • Begin spraying squash vines for borers.
  • Monitor the blueberry plants for borers. Spray as necessary.
  • Continue the never-ending spray programs for roses, fruit trees and bunch grapes.
  • Other insect pests active now include azalea lace bugs, boxwood leaf miners, euonymus and tea scales, spider mites (especially on coniferous evergreens), the ubiquitous aphids and the bane of my gardening existence—white flies.
  • If (or more likely when) your tomatoes show signs of blight, begin a fungicide regimen.

Other Things To Do in May That Could Quite Possibly Include the Garden

  • Dance around a May pole.
  • Celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
  • Mulch stuff.
  • Put out a flag on Memorial Day and thank a veteran.