July has arrived and the garden is buzzing. The trees and shrubs are planted. The annuals and perennials are staked and blooming. The vegetable garden is lush and ready to be harvested. Although the big tasks are completed, there is plenty to do. The following are a few jobs to keep every Mid-Atlantic gardener busy this month.
Make sure everything gets enough water. July in the Mid-Atlantic is hot and often dry, so keep those hoses and watering cans out. A good rule of thumb during dry spells is to water annuals, vegetables, and newly planted perennials, trees, and shrubs at least twice a week. However, check the soil first, and water appropriately and as necessary. Depending on your soil and type of plant, you may need to water more or less frequently. Containers that have been planted in May could have significant roots by now and therefore dry out quickly. On the flip side, an upright sedum (Hylotelephium spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) that is planted in slow-draining soil will need to dry out a little in between watering.
Engage in pest-prevention strategies. As the garden becomes full and lush, there is an abundance of food for insects and birds. There is also plenty of food for pests. To minimize pest insects, it is crucial to keep your plants healthy. One way to do this is to give your plants a little space. Proper spacing helps with air circulation and prevents pests from taking up residency. Also, try to water plants in the morning. By watering before the heat of the day, plants will be less stressed and therefore less appealing to feeding insects that thrive on stressed plants.
Refresh summer containers. Colorful summer containers are popping by July, and when the right plants are chosen, container plantings can last until fall. However, containers can become crowded, and some plants may not look their best. Now is a good time to head to the nursery to replace plants that are not working with something that will perform better. Usually by July, garden centers offer bigger pot sizes in annuals, and perennials are very full. So you will have an instant impact in your containers without waiting for the plants to grow in again.
Deadhead to boost bloom production. The annuals you planted in May are in full bloom. Don’t forget to remove spent flowers to promote new blooms, keeping the flowers coming all season. Perennials such as salvia (Salvia spp. and cvs., Zones 5–11), catmint (Nepeta spp. and cvs., Zones 4–8), bee balm (Monarda spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9) and penstemon (Penstemon spp. and cvs., Zones 4–10) can also be deadheaded to encourage a rebloom.
Provide birds and butterflies with a water source. Plants are important for attracting native wildlife and insects; however, water is also a wonderful and necessary attractant of wildlife. Birds need a place for drinking and preening, as they need to keep their feathers clean to stay alive. Male butterflies use water for “puddling,” in which they retrieve nourishment needed for mating. A great way to supply a source for butterflies is to use a soaker hose to keep a spot of rich soil moist. This will allow butterflies to extract the necessary nutrients found in native soil. A dish of damp soil may be an acceptable substitute.
—Michele Christiano is a horticulture assistant at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.