July in the Garden

July in the Garden

July is here, and so are warmer temperatures. This month, a wide variety of flowering plants are coming into their own: The ’Aphrodite’ sweetshrub on the west side of the Farmhouse has simply exploded into bloom, and we’ve never seen our lilies grow taller! As you work in your garden this month, remember to use sunscreen, wear a hat, and drink plenty of water. And your plants would appreciate a good drink, too.


The Importance of Water

This month is all about — you guessed it — watering. The hot sun is a double-edged sword that works to ripen fruits and veggies, but also dries the soil much quicker than it did last month. July can bring long stretches of hot, dry weather to our corner of the Pacific Northwest that practically bake our Portland clay soils, so your lawn and garden will almost certainly need a little extra moisture when the sky doesn’t provide it.

When it comes to irrigation, it pays to be smart about how and when you water. Watering deeply will not only allow you to water less often, but will also encourage better root development (and in turn, more heat-resistant plants) compared to shallow watering. In the summertime especially, it's also best to water your plants in the cool of the morning rather than the peak heat of the day to ensure that as much of the water you provide will actually reach your plants’ roots before evaporating off. (This is another good reason to maintain a 1-2” layer of mulch around your plants: It helps to retain soil moisture!)

Preparing for a Heat Dome

With Portland experiencing record-breaking temperatures in the past few summers, it's always a good idea to keep an eye to the forecast to help your plants weather the weather. If extreme temperatures approaching or exceeding 100ºF are on the way, upping your watering regimen in the days prior to and during a heat dome will give your plants the best chance of coming through unscathed. It's a good idea to pay attention to what the wind is doing as, well, as hot air moving through your plants can compound the damaging effects of heat by drying them out more quickly.

This not only applies to annuals and perennials, but to shrubs and trees, too! Liberally watering your large woody plants out to the "drip line" — marked by the edge of their canopy above — will help to protect the tiny hair roots these plants use to feed themselves. (Even drought-adapted plants like manzanitas and madrones stand to benefit from being watered at least once in the lead-up to a 100-plus-degree heat dome.) In general, new plantings and containerized plants will require more water than established plants in the ground, but all of them will benefit from deep watering to get them through the heat.

Seeds for the Future

Apart from watering, it’s important to stay on top of garden tasks like weeding and deadheading. Cutting off spent flowers will help to keep many perennials and flowering shrubs blooming longer, including summer favorites like hydrangeas. (A glass of wine or your favorite cool beverage helps make this housekeeping task even more enjoyable.)

Of course, there are other things you can do with these seed heads, too. If you’re not the deadheading type, you can always leave them in place to help to feed the birds, or you can encourage your favorite plants to self-sow by clearing a patch of bare earth at their base for seedlings to take root. You can also collect seeds for future sowing of your own! Once the seed heads and pods have fully ripened, remove them from the plant and store them in a paper bag to finish drying in a location protected from both sunlight and heat. (Don’t forget to write on the bag to remember what they are!) Once the seeds have dried, you can save them in a cool, dark, dry place to be planted next year.

If you have seeds from previous seasons — or have recently purchased some — this is also a good time to sow many biennial and perennial flowers in pots that can be transplanted into your garden beds around the end of August.

In the Kitchen Garden

The same principles apply in our kitchen gardens, as well! The process is similar to saving for annual plants, as you need to dry seeds before storing them. Most fruits and veggie seeds should be harvested when the fruit is fully ripe.

There are also many veggies and fruits you can sow this month for harvests into the fall and winter. Veggies like collards, kale, corn, radishes, and Brussels sprouts need to be in the ground before the weather gets too hot in mid-July and August. Conversely, crops like endives actually prefer the hot temperatures of late July and August to be sown.

There is a hearty harvest of veggies and fruits to be had this month, but it may take some patience. Watching and waiting is the name of the game. You want to resist the urge to pick your fruits and veggies until they hit the peak of ripeness. If you jump the gun and harvest too early — or, alternately, delay it for too long — your plants may invest energy into the wrong stage of fruit development, decreasing their yield.

The other issue impacting yields are pests and diseases. It’s always best to monitor for early signs of these issues to nip them in the bud, and this is especially true for fruit trees. If you can intervene early, you might not need chemical remedies, but for the likes of filbertworm, we carry Orchard Spray, and for codling moth, peach borers, and root weevils, you’ll find All Seasons Spray. Continue to watch for cutworms this month and the consequent disappearing foliage that comes with them. Sluggo Plus (with spinosad) or Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew can help to treat these pests organically. Early and late season tomato blight can also be treated with copper or sulfur spray.

The Garden at Large

As you enjoy the summer blooms of lilies, daisies, and more in your ornamental beds, observe your garden and take stock of the areas where you might want to add summer interest with more flowers or foliage now that the peak of showy spring color is behind us. (If you need a bit of inspiration, there’s plenty to be found in our display beds here at the Nursery!) To keep the current show going, fertilize your flowering plants with an extra dose of Organic E.B. Stone Rose & Flower.

As you plan and cultivate your garden, don’t be afraid to interplant flowers, fruits, veggies, and herbs. After all, plants in nature don’t sort themselves into these man-made categories, and there’s no “rule book” saying we as gardeners have to, either! This is a great strategy for gardeners limited on space (think balcony containers featuring herbs and flowers) but it also has functional benefits at any scale. Ornamental flowers will attract beneficial insects that help to pollinate your fruits and veggies, and mixing your plantings can even help to control pest insects, too. Plus, plenty of plants normally relegated to the kitchen garden are beautiful in their own right: Picture the delicate flowers on a snap pea clamoring its way up a trellis, an attractively-mounding blueberry bush with pink-tipped glaucous leaves, or the silvery architectural foliage of stately cardoons like the ones planted in front of the Cafe. There are so many deserving plants that can do double-duty as both edible and ornamental plants that our Patio team has even coined a term for them: “edimentals!”

In all, there’s so much to do this month in the garden. Now, it’s just a matter of getting out and doing it!