July/August Gardening Tips

July and August is a time to enjoy the garden. Don’t forget however to water and weed on a regular basis.. Plants cultivated over many seasons can be lost in a few days if they lack moisture during a particularly hot spell.

Watering the garden: The primary rule of summer watering is to water thoroughly and deeply each time and to allow the soil dry out between watering. The soil should be moist at least 3 or 4 inches deep to insure that the water is reaching the root zone of the plants.  Deep watering will allow the plant’s roots to grow deeper. Light surface watering actually wastes water because the water never actually reaches the root zone of the plant.  Moisture rapidly evaporates from the top inch of soil.

As the weather dries out your container plants may need daily watering especially if the pots are exposed to the drying sunlight and/or hot winds. Apply water until it runs out the drainage holes.

Try to do your watering during the morning hours so that the leaves can dry off a bit before the hot sun hits them. Evening watering is sometimes acceptable if the temperatures are warm enough to insure that foliage dries before the temperature drops at night (wet foliage makes plants more susceptible to fungus and disease.)

Perennials, annuals, and bulbs: Continue to dead head your annuals to encourage continued blooming. If your annuals have died off pull them out and add them to the compost pile. Replant that spot with hardy annuals or perennials such as Petunias, Zinnias, Calendulas, or Armeria.  Sow seeds of Hollyhocks, English daisies, Foxgloves, Violas, Canterbury bells and Sweet William into the garden now for next year’s bloom.  Get a second bloom from faded annuals by cutting them back by one half their heights and then fertilize them with a balanced liquid fertilizer.

Roses will need to be fertilized each month through the summer.

Fertilize container gardens regularly with a liquid all purpose plant food.

Fertilize Sub-tropical plants: Subtropical plants may be fertilized this month or next month for the final time of the year. You don’t want to fertilize most subtropical plants in the fall as this will promote new tender growth that is subject to frost damage when cold weather arrives in winter.

Chrysanthemums should be lightly fertilized every two weeks. Discontinue pinching your mums in mid month so they will be able to develop flower buds for the fall. To promote ‘trophy size’ flowers allow only one or two main shoots to develop. Remove all side buds as they begin to develop.

Shrubs and trees: Summer blooming shrubs should be pruned for shape after they have finished flowering. Remove any dead or diseased branches.

Fertilize flowering shrubs like Camellias and Azaleas immediately after they have finished flowering with Acidic type fertilizer. Dead head the developing seed pods from your Azaleas to improve next year’s bloom.  Mulch around camellias to keep their roots cool. This is about the time for camellias’ third and last feeding. The rule of thumb is to feed camellias six to eight weeks after the last blooms fall. Feed again six to eight weeks later and one more feeding six to eight weeks after the last. An acid fertilizer is best but avoid over-fertilizing as camellias are not heavy feeders.

Fruits and veggies: Begin enjoying the harvest of your homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs!

Grass lawns: When figuring out your mowing schedule remember that grasses grow at different rates throughout the year. The key to good mowing practices is to mow higher in warm weather and to mow less often when the roots are growing more slowly.

Cool-season lawns such as fescue, bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass are growing slowly now so they need less frequent mowing. Perennial ryegrass and bluegrass should be cut at about 2 inches. Tall fescue should be cut a little higher (2 to 3 inches).

Warm-season lawns  such as Bermuda grass, St. Augustine and zoysia are growing at their fastest now; they thrive in the warm summer heat. This means they need more frequent mowing. Bermudagrass and zoysia should be cut short, 0.5 to 0.75 inches. Cut St. Augustine to 2 inches. All warm season grasses should be watered deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth. Feed warm season grasses every six to eight weeks during the growing season.

Snails and Slugs: Be alert to slug and snail damage. These creatures will be hiding during the heat of the day but will come out of hiding in the cool morning and evening hours or after a rain.

Keep the weeds pulled before they have a chance to flower and go to seed again.

Change the water in your bird bath or fountain regularly and keep it filled. Standing water may become a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.

Bougainvilleas: Bougainvilleas less than three years old should be watered regularly. Pay particular attention to newly planted specimens. Stop watering established plants (over three years old) at this time. There is no need to ever water any bougainvillea that has been in your garden five or more years; These plants are the most drought resistant around. Bougainvilleas are not heavy feeders so little fertilization is necessary.

Bromeliads: Protect bromeliads from burning during the hot weather by making sure they have enough shade. This can be done by placing them under shade cloth. Now is a good time to propagate bromeliads by cutting off pups when they are one-third to one-half the size of the mother plant.

 Cymbidiums: This is the time of year when cymbidiums produce more pseudobulbs and leaves. The quality and number of blooms these terrestrial orchids produce next winter depends in part on good summer care. Continue to feed with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Although cymbidiums shouldn’t be soggy don’t let the roots dry out. These plants should be in semi-shade throughout the summer. A frequent mistake is to keep cymbidiums in too much shade. Black marks on the leaves and pseudobulbs indicate fungus problems. Fungus won’t kill the plants but they won’t bloom as well.

Fuchsias: When the flowers of most fuchsias fade they fall off the plant but they leave behind their seed pod. Pinch off these seed pods (often called berries). This will encourage the plant to keep blooming. Misting can help keep plant cool in summer heat. Avoid over-watering. Keep roots damp but not soggy. Continue regular feeding with high phosphorus fertilizer for buds and bloom.

Roses: Irrigate 2-3 times a week. Make sure water is penetrating at least one foot below the surface. Add mulch to maintain even moisture and keep roots cool. To control mites and clean leaves wash foliage with a strong spray of water. Do this early in the morning so the leaves dry quickly. Continue with regular feeding and in addition sprinkle a cup of alfalfa meal (available at the nursery) around each bush.

Feed citrus trees: Established citrus trees should be fed again this month with a fertilizer that is specially formulated for citrus trees. Always water heavily and deeply after feeding.

Vines at the coast: Beach area gardeners are often disappointed by vine plants that do poorly because of coastal climatic conditions. The following vines usually do well in coastal areas: bougainvillea, cape honeysuckle, grape ivy and Italian jasmine.