July should be a busy time in the garden

July 17, 2013

In 1893, German immigrant Chris von der Ahe owned the Saint Louis Browns baseball team, and being German, he served the fans sausages on buns, and baseball and hot dogs have been together every summer since.

Beyond hot dogs, July is a busy time in the garden. Crops that have been growing awhile such as squash, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, sweet corn, roses and any other long-season plant will benefit from additional fertilizer right when they flower, and again three to four weeks later. In a method known as side dressing you lay down a band of fertilizer on both sides of each row about four to six inches away from the plants. Every 100 feet of row can use about three to four cups of good balanced organic fertilizer. Plants are growing at full speed now, and many potted plants will need additional fertilizer too.

Deadhead or cut off spent blooms to keep flowering plants looking good and to keep them flowering. Snapdragons, delphinium and phlox all will rebloom if you cut off the old blossoms. If you save your own seeds (and why not?), then let a few flowerheads stay on the plants and go to seed. What you don’t collect, the birds will.

Rather than cut off every dead lavender blossom after blooming, try using garden shears and cut the plants back to the shape of a small hedge. Be careful to only cut new growth and leave the old wood alone because the old lavender wood won’t regrow if cut.

If you are going away for vacation, or holiday as the Brits say, bury your potted plants in the garden right up to one-third of their depth. This keeps the pots from drying out.

July is also a good time to easily propagate new plants by layering. Forsythia, rhododendron, honeysuckle, boxwood, azalea, verbenas, English ivy and climbing roses are some plants that will root when you fasten the stems down with a rock or weight and cover them with soil. Within a few weeks, the stems will root and you can cut the new plants off of the mother plant.

This is also a good time to divide and transplant bearded iris. Toss out the old center of the plant and carefully break apart the roots or rhizomes. After the last iris blooms fade, stop giving them water. When their leaves start turning brown, cut them back to where the leaves are still green and dig them up carefully with a fork. Let them dry out a little bit in the shade for several days. This will harden them off before you replant them.

Take this chance to add compost or old manure to the iris bed. Replant the bearded iris just about level with the ground. To keep the iris from losing too much moisture, cut the leaves back into a fan shape of just six inches.

Now enjoy your garden and perhaps a ball game and a sausage in honor of July, National Hot Dog Month.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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