July 2012 Garden Tips
July is the month in Sonoma County when gardeners typically start to observe water problems, especially if they have not been practicing ‘water wise’ gardening. However, this year, like last, Sonoma County had very late rain (June 28 saw substantial precipitation) so things are not as dry as they usually are at this time. However, we are now in the dry – and hot! - season so check to make sure that all irrigation systems are working and that filters are not clogged.
Trees, shrubs, and perennials that you planted this spring (or summer) can take a long time to adjust to their new homes. They need extra watering and their root balls must never dry out while they are getting settled. Water them evenly and well to encourage deep root growth.
Don’t kill spiders in your garden! Spiders do not harm your plants and they help you keep down other insect populations. There are a lot of insects – both detrimental and beneficial – this year due to all the rain.
Weeds are usually hardier than flowers and crops, and they will rob your plants of water and nutrients. All which means you either have to mulch more or get down on your hands and knees and WEED! And yes, there are more weeds, too, due to all the rain.
Cut back perennials such as nepeta, diascia and penstemmon to force new foliage and keep the blooms coming.
Deadhead perennials and annuals such as heuchera and petunias to keep the plants from bolting or setting seed.
If you are looking for summer color, you can continue to add annuals to beds and containers. However, no matter how tempting it is, try not to do any major planting of perennials, shrubs or trees in summer. If you find plants at the nursery that you cannot resist, make sure that if you plant them in established beds you are vigilant about keeping them watered. Another solution is to designate a shady spot out of the way and keep all of your summer purchases there, grouped together in their pots. Visit them every other day or so and water as needed. Small pots may need watering once a day during heat waves. Plant them in the fall once the rains begin again.
July is a month of lessening garden work so it is a good time to observe and plan. Take a glass of something cold to a shady spot and sit with a notebook and pen and look around the garden. Make a list of which plants are working and which are not. Note particularly successful plant combinations that deserve to be repeated elsewhere in the garden. That way when the fall planting season arrives, you’ll be prepared!