Gardening Tips for July

Special to the Times-Record

Flowers growing in containers may need to be watered daily. Hanging baskets of fuchsias and other flowers are especially prone to drying out.
A layer of mulch in containers can reduce watering needs.

Remove flowers in the garden after they fade. This is called deadheading. In this way, the plant won’t waste any energy on producing seed in these faded flowers. Rather, the plant will spend its energy on producing new flowers.

Most annual flowers do not need to be sprayed with fungicides. Focus on sanitation instead remove faded flowers and any leaves that show disease spots.

A thin layer of organic mulching in a flower bed will keep the plants cooler and healthier. The need for watering will be reduced, often in half!

Cocoa bean mulch is hazardous to dogs. Usually dogs are not interested in the mulch, but in rare situations when dogs consume the mulch, they can die!

Keep roots of lily and clematis cool; mulching is very valuable for these plants.

Mulch peony bushes and clip off seedpods from spent blooms.
The best time to clip flowers for drying is midday. The flowers should be in peak form. Remove the leaves and hang upside down in a dry, dark, well-ventilated area for drying.

When clipping rose flowers, make the cut down on the stem at the first 5-leaflet leaf. This will encourage stronger, healthier plants.
Plant autumn crocus bulbs as soon as they become available at garden centers.

Tall flowers can be staked to prevent wind damage. Use stakes that are not conspicuous. Green bamboo stakes work well for this.
Spindly petunias or other annual flowers can be pinched back to stimulate bushier growth. Snapdragons should be pinched back after blooming to stimulate another spike of blooms.

Harvest gladiolus spikes when the flowers on the bottom third are starting to open, the middle third are swollen and the top third are held tight. Keep four leaves on the plant when cutting, so bulbs can replenish themselves. Keep spikes upright to maintain natural flower shape.

The best time to harvest flowers for fresh floral arrangements is in the morning just after the dew has dried away. Re-cut the stems just before placing them in the vase.

Perennial flowers can be fertilized now. Don’t fertilize in autumn since this will encourage new succulent growth that will be winterkilled.

It’s time to renovate your strawberry bed. Set your mower at its highest setting and mow the tall foliage, making sure you do not damage the crowns. Use a hoe or tiller to narrow each row to a width of 12–15 inches across. Rows should be centered 36–42 inches apart. Fertilize plants with six pounds of 10–10–10 or a similar fertilizer per 100 feet of row. These nutrients will be used in forming flower buds (for next year’s crop) and runners. Fertilize plants again in mid-
August. Use three pounds of 10–10–10 or a similar fertilizer per 100 feet of row.

Colorado potato beetles continue to attack our potato, tomato, eggplant and pepper plants. These orange and black-striped beetles can be picked off. Look for their bright orange eggs that can be clustered on the underside of leaves. Simply rub off the eggs or pick off the beetles. For severe infestations, spray with carbaryl (trade name Sevin), one of the most effective beetle killers on the market. Some strains of the natural insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis are safe-to-use and very effective.

You can easily tell which flowers on a cucurbit vine are female. Female flowers have a baby fruit attached at their base. Male flowers are more plentiful and do not have fruits attached.

Now is a good time to fertilize asparagus. Sidedress 1 pound of 10–10–10 fertilizer per 100 feet of row.

Keep your tomato vines adequately watered and mulched to prevent blossom end rot, which forms a hard black spot on the bottom of fruits. This disorder often affects the first fruits. If you see damage, simply pick off these fruits.

Now is a good time to plant Chinese cabbage. The heads will develop as the days get shorter. Chinese cabbage tastes like a crunchy, mild cabbage and has the texture of iceberg lettuce.

Do you like eating turnips? Probably not. Sow seed from mid-July through mid-August. The cool night temperatures will raise the sugar levels in the roots. Turnips grown in autumn will taste edible-no kidding!

Trees and shrubs
Whenever you start your lawn mower, every tree in the yard starts to shiver in fear. Be careful when mowing around trees. The most precious tissues on your tree are the young rings just beneath the bark. When you damage the bark off a young tree you can expose these rings to drying-this can stunt the tree for decades. Be especially careful if you use a weed wacker.

Bumps and other unusual growths may be seen on the leaves and twigs of ash, oak, and maple trees. These growths are “galls” caused by mites or aphids that bit into the leaves/stems when they were emerging this spring. These galls are completely harmless to established trees. No sprays are recommended.

Ash trees may drop their leaves in July. A closer look at the fallen leaves may reveal brown spots and curling. This is anthracnose disease, which often occurs after a wet spring. Don’t worry. The tree is under minimal stress and there is no long-term harm to the tree. Rake and dispose of the leaves to prevent anthracnose from infecting the tree next spring. No chemical sprays are warranted.

Most lawns in North Dakota begin to turn yellow and go dormant in July. This is a natural way for our lawns to survive. It’s okay-there is nothing wrong in letting your lawn take a summer nap. You can take a break from lawn care, too. You can both be happy.

There’s an old trick to see if your lawn is thirsty. Take a walk across your lawn and look back at your tracks. If you can see your footprints in the grass, the lawn needs a drink. Water deeply once or twice a week, depending on weather.

The best time to water your lawn is in the morning. The grass plants are active and will absorb the water they need. The worst time to irrigate is in the evening since the lawn will stay wet all night, leading to diseases.

Tom Kalb,
Extension Horticulturist, NDSU

The Valley City Community Gardens (VCCG) Steering Committee invites you to send your gardening questions to VCCG Gardening Column, 230 4th St., N.W., Rm. 204, Valley City, ND 58072-2947 or .