Regional To-Do List: Maintaining Western Gardens In July

By: Teo Spengler

Make no mistake, “the West” is not a bite-size area. As a gardening region, the West includes all of California and Nevada and many different hardiness zones. Still, it’s warm throughout the region in summer, so a regional to-do list is possible.

If you are ready to jump into July gardening, you’ll have plenty of tasks on your plate. Read on for information about what you should be doing in western gardens in July.

July Gardening

Throughout the western hemisphere, the month of July is the heart of summer, meaning that the weather is sunny and warm. April’s showers brought May flowers, and June saw many western gardeners sowing vegetable seeds and planting annuals. You might think that July is a great time for gardeners in the West to sit back and barbeque.

It is, of course. But plant growth can be phenomenal in western gardens in July. That means that a regional to-do list for this month will include all the usual garden maintenance work as well as some fun planting and harvesting.

What to Do in the West

The July list of what to do in the West starts with simple, predictable tasks like irrigation. Almost every plant, including drought tolerant succulents, appreciate a deep drink when it’s hot and dry. It is critical to water vegetables, like tomatoes, frequently, while tougher veggies like squash and beans do well with a little less.

Ornamentals, like camellias and azaleas, need generous amounts of water on a regular basis in July, and mature trees will require occasional deep watering during a drought. When you install annual flowers, they’ll require almost daily water until they develop as strong root system. The exception to the water-well-in-July rule is California native plants that are accustomed to wet winters and dry summers.

While you’re watering the flowers, take time to deadhead. Clipping off the faded blossoms allows more to grow. Don’t neglect to pluck out weeds as they appear and add mulch to keep more of them from showing up. And did you know that annuals require regular fertilizer to keep those flowers coming?

What can you plant in western gardens in July? You still have the option in many areas to put on summer crops like early corn, summer squash and beans. July is an especially good month to plant avocados, since these semi-tropical plants do well in the long weeks of summer heat to follow.

July is also perfect for adding summer annuals. Good choices include:

  • begonias
  • coleus
  • cosmos
  • dahlias
  • lobelia
  • marigolds
  • petunias
  • salvia
  • zinnias

Herbs like basil can be planted too. It may be time to harvest citrus crops as well as peaches, apricots and plums.

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  • Continue to remove suckers from tomato plants and to check that they are supported either with stakes or tomato cages.
  • Infestations of insects to be on guard against include but are not limited to those of thrips, tomato fruitworm, tomato hornworm, spider mites, chinch bugs, scale, snails, and slugs. Also look out for diseases such as leaf spot, powdery mildew, and rust.
  • Inspect plants for Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica), including gourds, pumpkins, and squash.
  • Fertilize heat-resistant flowers such as coleus, hibiscus, Melampodium, Pentas, plumbago, moss rose, and zinnias.
  • (Mid-July:) Pinch mums one last time. Pinching later in the summer would reduce the blooms that you are counting on for fall displays.
  • Pick what's ripe regularly to improve yields. Zucchini plants, for example, will keep bearing through summer as long as you keep ripe fruits picked.
  • Pick blueberries before the wild birds eat them. To avoid having to be so vigilant, practice sound bird control. The most common way gardeners have of protecting blueberries from birds is by covering them with nets.
  • Inspect fruit trees for water sprouts and prune them off. They will steal energy from fruiting branches.
The Spruce / K. Dave

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July Garden Chores

Tackle weeds after rain when soil is softer. This makes easier work of pulling tap-rooted weeds, such as dandelions. When the sun promises to shine all afternoon, chop young weeds with a garden hoe, letting them lie in place. The sun will kill shoots by evening.

Divide bearded iris after leaves turn brown. Trim leaves before digging and dividing rhizomes. Let rhizomes dry in a shady spot for a few days. Weed beds before replanting.

Harvest herbs frequently, cutting fresh growth on plants. To dry herbs in a warm, dry spot, bundle stems and hang upside down, or spread leaves in a single layer in a basket or on screens.

Keep up with the harvest from your vegetable garden. Be sure to pick small and often. Tiny filet green beans, for example, need picking daily.

Take time to remove suckers from pear and apple trees when you spot them. Suckers are non-productive stems that grow vertically from horizontal branches. Rub out young ones with your fingers snip larger ones with shears.

Refresh mulch around trees, shrubs, and perennials to reduce weeds and slow water evaporation from soil. Aim for a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer.

Keep new plantings well-watered, but this time of year, pay attention to other parts of the landscape, too. Container plantings can need watering as often as twice a day in hot, windy weather. Lawns need about an inch of water a week.

Keep deadheading! For the most flowers and tidiest garden, deadhead daily. Some gardeners take a few minutes each morning, making it part of their daily routine.

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