my july 2010 garden chores

JULY STARTS OUT as Throw In the Trowel Month here, with June’s cutbacks still looking pretty rough, but then summer shapes up and the heat-lovers have their day. All is forgiven! Keeping up with watering and weeds tops the to-do list, with planting and other more macho tasks (other than mowing my steep hillside) at a minimum.

FIRST, THE HAIRCUTS: If you were squeamish about cutbacks as spring faded, you may be regretting it now, and facing floppy, exhausted plants in certain spots. Some things (like certain perennial Geraniums, for instance) do better if cut back hard. Go for it. Others need just deadheading of spent blooms. Annuals that grow leggy can often benefit from a chop job, too. Do some experiments. Sometimes a plant can’t look worse, and you probably won’t kill it. :-)

MAKE A PASS through each bed each week, since weeds are not just unsightly but steal moisture, nutrients and light from desired plants. Top up mulch in all garden beds if washed or worn away to help in the plight.

LOOK WHILE WEEDING: Try to remember what’s done well (and not so well) so far in each bed. Make notes, to plan for fall reworking of problem spots, or a bed redesign.

IF YOU ARE IN JAPANESE BEETLE territory, handpick (as with other obvious pests like tomato hornworms) in early morning and drown in a can of water to reduce infestation. Plan to try to reduce grub population with nematodes or perhaps Milky Spore inoculation. This mole-eradication post is also related, as it’s grubs that moles are after.

GARDENS NEED an inch of water a week from you or the heavens. Check your rain gauge to make sure they get it, and remember: soak deeply in the root zone, don’t spritz things with a sprayer now and again like you’re washing the car. That’s a garden no-no. Those plants living in pots need extra attention, especially smallish ones in sun, and they also need regular feeding. Be alert!


STOP FEEDING woody plants. Promoting more soft growth in high summer isn’t good; time for them to start moving toward the hardening-off phase of their cycle. No more eats till late winter or earliest spring.

TREES ARE especially vulnerable to drought, if you’re having a dry year, particularly the oldest and the youngest (those planted in the last few years). Water deeply, as with a Tree-Gator. Ugly…but better than not watering these precious members of the garden and landscape.

ALWAYS BE on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs and prune them out as discovered. Ditto with suckers and water sprouts.

SPRING-FLOWERING shrubs like lilacs reach the end of their pruning window after July 4th here, otherwise risking damage to emerging buds for next year’s blooms. Last call!

THROUGH MONTH’S END, softwood cuttings of buddleia, weigela, rose-of-sharon and roses, among other shrubs, can be taken to propagate more plants inexpensively.


STRAWBERRY BEDS may appreciate rejuvenation now.

KEEP GARLIC AND ASPARAGUS well weeded. Garlic may start to fade and topple by later this month or next, as harvest time nears. When several lower leaves yellow, try carefully lifting a head or two to judge readiness, before lifting all to cure during a warm, dry spell in an airy, sheltered place. Let asparagus ferns grow till frost to feed the underlying crowns.

CONTINUE SOWING carrots, beets, radishes, lettuce, dill. With salad greens, select heat-resistant varieties, and sow small amounts every 10 days. I do it under a couple of hoops with a bit of Reemay clothes-pinned onto them to cast a bit of shade. Direct-sow a short row of bush beans every two weeks through month’s end, and another mound of bush cukes and zucchini right now.

FOR PEAK FLAVOR, basil, sage, marjoram and oreganos, mint, tarragon are best harvested just before bloom. Start more basil from seed for combining with those September tomatoes, and dill for late pickles. Harvest lavender, rosemary and chamomile as they flower, blossoms and all.


POTS IN PARTICULAR need regular, thorough watering (sometimes more than once a day if they’re small and in full sun!) throughout the heat of high summer. Vigilance!

SOW VIOLAS (and pansies in zones where they overwinter) in flats indoors for set-out in fall, where they’ll appreciate a protective mulch after the ground freezes. Fall-planted violas bloom earlier next spring.

PRUNE RAMBLER ROSES and once-blooming climbers now, after their flowering period.

MANY PERENNIALS and biennials can be started now from seed, then set out in the fall into nursery beds.

I MOW THE foliage of my ripened daffodil drifts around July 4th. Deadhead faded perennials unless they have showy seedheads (same with bulbs), or you want to collect seed later (non-hybrids only).

ARE ANNUAL VINES getting the continuing support they need, whether twine, wire, lattice? Perennial types may need a bit of help, too.

ORDER BULBS to get varieties you want (see Sources in bottom of left sidebar column). Remember our “early, middle, late” mantra when doing so.

PREPARE NEW beds for fall planting by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, then put mulch on top.

EDGE BEDS to make a clean line and define them, and keep edges clean with regular fine-tuning with grass shears. A clean edge makes a big difference.


Houseplants, including amaryllis, can spend the summer outdoors, in a sheltered location with filtered bright light (not direct sun). Feed regularly.

Don’t bag or rake clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return Nitrogen to the soil.


Don’t let the heap dry out completely, or it will not “cook.” Turning it to aerate will also hasten decomposition, but things will rot eventually even if not turned.

On using this list in your garden: The monthly A Way to Garden chores and based on my Zone 5B Berkshire MA/Hudson Valley NY location; adjust accordingly. If you are in a colder spot, try last month’s list. Warmer climate? Try a peek at next month’s.

  1. Charlene says:

    Hi Margaret,

    I am trying to water my River Birch and your mention of the Treegator caught my eye. Unfortunately, my tree is too big. Do you know of any other products that would act the same way yet for a larger tree? I am trying to use a sprinkler at the moment. Arghhh! When I first planted this bed, I laid soaker hoses down. Unfortunately, they don’t like to be punctured. :-)

    Love your site and check in often.

    Best wishes,

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Lucy. Glad you like. I hope that you will visit soon again from way far away in the south of England, where I have just “visited” via your blog link, thank you.

  2. Anita Stockbridge says:

    Please tell your Westchester, NY and Fairfield County, CT readers about the Bedford Garden Club’s VEG OUT vegetable gardening tour. Wednesday July 14 from 9 am to 3 pm. Order tickets on line (http://www.veg-out.org/) and pick them up at the John Jay Homestead, a lovely NY State Historic site. There will be a farmer’s market and an EXPO with master gardeners’ composting tips, garden fencing, trellis and gates, a raised garden bed display, Coup d’Etat chicken coups with chicks for the back yard, organic fertilizers and more! Plus 10 vegetable gardens to visit around historic Bedford NY. Lunch can be reserved for $20 supplied by Table, a locavore’s heavenly market.
    Thank you! Hope to see you there,

  3. Joy says:

    Yes ! I think I enjoy the chop back in mid to late June way too much .. something satisfying in that chore for some reason ? haha ..
    The watering thing .. we are working towards more drip lines but even just having the front connected for that is so helpful .. I know that at the same time I am watering with one hose the other hose is soaking the front garden and that is such a relief ! .. Then I set my hand hose on to water my new tree that gorgeous Amur Maple .. while I weed and putter along with other chores .. all the while this gorgeous tree is having a wonderful drink.
    I don’t forget about my rain barrel either .. I water the beds closest to it and draining that is a must for new fresh rain water if it ever decided to rain here in Kingston ? ;-)
    Loved the pictures and points Margaret !

  4. Celine says:


    I write to you from N/W Ireland. Our weather may be very different, but the chores are the same. I love your newsletter and especially the monthly chore list.

    Wishing you continued energy,


    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Celine. What a good day for visitors from the UK (Scotland checked in earlier, for example). :) Nice to “meet” you, and thank you for your kind words. I am glad the newsletter suits you; I love creating it. More to come…

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