Gardening Tasks for July Q&A
Gardening Tasks for JulyBy Pat Curran, Horticulture Educator, Tompkins County Cooperative Extension
Question: What can I do in my garden in late July and erly August?
July tasks in the ornamental garden:
- Early in the month, last chance to pinch your chrysanthemums back.
- Best time to divide and/or move bearded iris, so they can get re-established before winter.
- Keep deadheading perennials to prevent seedlings, and in some cases, to encourage re-bloom (consult Tracy DiSabato-Aust's excellent book, "The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, Planting & Pruning Techniques").
- Keep deadheading most common annuals, and they will continue to flower.
- Don't let the annual weeds go to seed!
- Before you leave on vacation, chop perennial weeds back if you don't have time to pull them up.
- Newly planted woodies (trees, shrubs, woody vines) need 10-15 gallons of water each week that there is less than an inch of rain.
- It's too late to fertilize woodies, and pruning should be restricted to dead, diseased, or crossing branches.
- Take notes about which perennials need to be divided or moved (late August/early September is OK for extra-hardy ones, but shallow-rooted perennials need to wait until spring, to prevent winter frost heaving.)
- Go on garden tours to see new plants and get new design ideas!
- Take photos and label your plants as to name and color of the flowers, to help with ID and design ideas.
- Fertilize your container plants regularly, or use a slow-release fertilizer.
July tasks in the food garden:
- Keep small veggie transplants watered if it's hot and dry. Mulch them if you haven't already, but water them first. Heat-loving veggies such as okra, melons, or eggplant may thrive more with black plastic mulch. Organic mulches help improve the soil as they break down, however. You may need to use the nontoxic iron phosphate slug bait.
- Prevent blossom-end rot in tomatoes (a calcium deficiency) by keeping the water supply steady through use of mulch and judicious watering (but don't get the foliage wet).
- Plan replacement veggies where the spring peas and other early crops grew (succession planting).
- Start harvesting blueberries; 'Duke' is an excellent early-to-fruit variety. Plan your blueberry bird protection.
- Keep tucking your indeterminate tomato vines inside the cages.
- Direct your squash vines the way you want them to go.
- Consult your Extension office for the last day to plant particular veggies and still expect to get a good crop: e.g. July 15 for snap beans, carrots, and cukes, July 31 for beets, Swiss chard, and kohlrabi (unless you are in a favorable microclimate or zone 6). For good germination, it will be important to keep the soil moist.
- Late in the month, harvest garlic when about half the leaves have turned brown; the bulbs will store better.
- Handpick Colorado potato beetles, and scout for other insect pests.
- Remove diseased or yellow leaves from tomato plants; look up late blight symptoms and stay vigilant.
August tasks in the ornamental garden:
- Keep watering the newly planted woodies (see above).
- Look for quality plants on sale at your local nursery. Water them well before planting. If it's really dry, water the planting hole before you plant, then water again after planting, and mulch.
- Later in the month, see what perennials are in bloom now that you can add to your garden: Caryopteris? Russian sage? Early mums or asters? Heleniums? Veronicastrum? Heliopsis? August 'lily'?(Hosta plantaginea, often grown next to upstate NY porches).
- Use the hot dry weather to tend to garden structures that need paint, stain, or repairs.
- Create a sitting area! Look for light shade, with a view of sun-loving flowers. Plan where to put a pergola, and which vines to grow on it.
- Continue to take photos and label plants.
- Continue to weed and deadhead established plants.
- Continue to water and fertilize container plants. Early in the month, pinch annuals such as petunias back, and they will respond with more flowers.
- Late in the month, install trunk protectors on trees exposed to bark rubbing by bucks.
August tasks in the food garden:
- Harvest tomatoes regularly. If time is short, freeze them and process them for sauce in the winter (no need to remove the skins, as they come off easier when thawed).
- Harvest veggies at the right time, which varies for each species and often for the variety as well, such as with eggplants, which come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. Sweet peppers, however, can be left on the plant to ripen and turn color (red, yellow, orange, purple, or 'chocolate' are all available). Sweeter when ripe, peppers are also fine in the green stage.
- Keep a close eye on tomato plants for disease symptoms, and also potatoes, if you grow them.
- Keep picking cukes, pole beans, and summer squash, so they continue to produce.
- Continue harvesting blueberries; 'Elliott' is an excellent late variety, sometimes even into early September.
- Day-neutral strawberries may produce another crop of fruit if kept watered.
- Aug. 10 is about the last date to plant broccoli and cauliflower transplants, and leaf lettuce, spinach, and turnip seed. Average date of first fall frost is October 1 (later near the lake, or in zone 6).
- Late in the month, pinch melon and winter squash vines back after they have set all the fruit they can be reasonably expected to mature.
- If your potatoes were planted early, or you planted early potato varieties, the foliage may mature, and the potatoes may be ready to harvest. If so, harvest promptly. If late blight is nearby, harvest the potatoes before the foliage gets infected. Plan to eat the potatoes; do not save them as seed potatoes.
- Keep asparagus mulched and weeded so that the ferns can feed the roots as long as possible.
- Make sure your fence(s) are tight and adequate to prevent animal damage. As wild forage stops growing, in hot dry weather, veggie gardens become even more attractive.
For more information about gardening, including gardening tasks during the growing season, consult the Cornell gardening website or call the horticultural hotline at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County at 272-2292.
Last updated January 29, 2021