July is here, and so are warmer temperatures. After a cool, rainy spring, many of us are playing catch-up in our gardens this summer. But all of that spring moisture has laid the foundation for some stunning summer blooms. 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 is also best to water your plants in the cool of the morning rather than the peak heat of the day. This helps to ensure that as much of the water you provide will actually reach your plants’ roots before evaporating off. And if you maintain a 1-2” layer of mulch around your plants to cover the bare earth, this will help your soil to retain the water that you apply, making it available to your plants!
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.
Although many of our kitchen gardens are lagging behind where they would be in other years, there is still 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!