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The lazy days of summer have arrived. Even if you have gardening chores to do, this is the time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. And don't overdo it when the weather is hot and steamy, which is to say, most of the time. Stay out of midday heat if possible, relax with a good beach read and a cool drink, and save any gardening tasks for the early morning or early evening.
Fertilize zoysia lawns with a second application of fertilizer this month, unless you used a very slow-release fertilizer earlier.
Remember to water when we don't get at least an inch of rain each week. Water in the morning to prevent disease problems. What's an inch of rain? Place a small container with a flat bottom (such as an old margarine tub) in your garden bed. When water in it is an inch deep, you've applied an inch of water.
Around the Garden
Water! Water! Water! Your trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables also need at least an inch of rain a week.
Avoid applying insecticides, fungicides or fertilizers when the temperature is above 85 degrees. Spray only in the early morning or evening, when the temperature is below 80 degrees and plants will have a chance to dry before the temperatures reach 85 degrees. Also, make sure plants are well watered before spraying - don't spray them when they're stressed by lack of water.
Spider Mites are having a great year, which means your plants probably aren't. Mites are tiny sucking creatures, too small to be seen easily on the leaves. The best way to check for mites is to hold a piece of paper under the leaves of a plant you suspect and shake the leaves a little. If lots of little specks fall on the paper, you've probably got mites. Spray with Ultrafine Horticultural Oil, being sure to soak the underside of leaves and needles.
White flies are another pest that's everywhere this year. If you see tiny white specks on the underside of your leaves, and they fly up in a cloud when the plant is jostled, you've got white fly. They're difficult to get rid of, but SureFire Sticky White Fly Traps will help. You can also spray with Schultz Insect Spray for roses and flowers or Green Light Rose Defence spray (which is good for a wide variety of flowering plants, not just roses).
It's not too late to plant summer blooming shrubs and perennials, but you do need to give them a little extra TLC. Plant in the evening or on a cloudy day when the temperatures are cooler and the plant has a chance to settle in before being hit with the heat and light of a typical July day. Be sure to keep newly planted shrubs and flowers watered well. Even drought tolerant plants need some help until they get established.
Continue to deadhead annuals and perennials (cutting or pinching off dead flowers) for a loner bloom.
If you've been pinching back your mums throughout the spring, mid-July is the last time to pinch. Flowers will begin to bloom about 5 or 6 weeks after the last pinching. If you haven't been pinching your mums all spring, here's an easy care trick: cut them back by half in early July and fertilize. This will help them to grow bushier and delay bloom until later in the summer.
If July's heat has caused your annuals to fade, pinch them back and give them several weekly feedings of Miracle Gro.
Your Edible Garden
Sow seeds of beans, cucumbers, zucchini and other summer squash, winter squash, carrots, okra, corn and melons, for harvest in late August and September. Look for "days to maturity" on the seed packet and concentrate on varieties that mature in 60-70 days or less. Remember to keep beds moist until seeds germinate and are well established, then water deeply once or twice a week.
If your tomatoes develop a rotten spot on the bottom, discard the affected tomatoes so your plant won't waste energy trying to ripen them. This problem, called blossom end rot, is the result of a calcium deficiency that's usually caused by uneven watering. Scratch a little lime into the soil around the plants and try to water deeply once a week if we don't get at least an inch of rain.
At Your Pond
If you have a pond or water garden, remember to fertilize lilies and lotus twice monthly during the growing season.
Don't stress out your fish! Water evaporation rates are high this time of year, so remember to add water if the water level of your pond goes down. Before you add water use stress coat if your water is chlorinated.
Remember to rinse submerged pads daily. A pump's intake flow can quickly become restricted and result in a ruined pump.