Where I live (Bristol, Rhode Island, home of the nation’s longest-running Independence Day parade) it’s practically a town ordinance that all plants be planted, tools put away, hoses reeled, debris composted, and walks swept before July 4. No matter where you live in the Northeast, July’s heat signals the end of planting season until fall; it’s high time to tidy away the nursery pots, slap the dirt off our paws, and invite everyone over for a cookout. July also gives us an idea of what summer has in store weather-wise. Lately, July has been our gateway into an extended dry spell, if not a full-on drought.
Go on tour to gather ideas and inspiration. It isn’t just your own garden that’s ready for guests in July.
- Check local listings for Garden Conservancy Open Days and fund-raising tours hosted by other organizations.
- Visit public and botanical gardens. Consider membership—most offer reciprocal free admission to other gardens through the American Public Gardens Association.
Water full-sun containers daily—twice daily if necessary—during heat waves.
Keep track of the moisture level in the soil in different garden areas. Dig down and get to know it by feel.
- Invest in a rain gauge, rain barrels to capture roof runoff, and soaker hoses.
- Water new perennials, shrubs, and trees regularly (for one, three, and five years). Consider evicting any established plants that cry out for supplemental water and replacing them with drought-resistant species.
Fertilize annuals and tender perennials.
- It’s OK to use synthetic chemical fertilizers on container plants because there’s no real soil in potting mix.
- For annuals and tender perennials planted in the garden, use a dilute solution of organic fertilizer such as fish or seaweed emulsion, which won’t destroy the fragile structure of the soil and its food web.
Find some shade and take a nap.
- Deadheading is optional. Some plants (particularly annuals) may be tricked into an extended bloom if they’re prevented from setting seed. For others, the seed heads that form after the flowers are half the fun. Allow them to remain for fall and winter interest (as well as to self-sow).
- Start collecting ripe seed from your favorite early-blooming annuals, biennials, and perennials. Consider starting or joining a seed swap next winter.
Kristin Green is a former horticulturalist for the Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, & Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island.
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