my july garden chores

chores-logoJULY STARTS OUT as Throw In the Trowel Month here, but then summer shapes up and the heat-lovers have their day. All is forgiven! Keeping up with watering (in non-Noah’s Ark years) and weeds tops the to-do list, with planting and other more macho tasks (other than mowing my steep hillside) at a minimum. I started on some of these not long ago, but I have miles to go before I sleep.

FIRST, THE HAIRCUTS: Many perennials (euphorbia, some true geraniums, ribbon grass or Phalaris) do better the second half of the season if cut back hard. Others need just deadheading. 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.

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, 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 the kids!

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.

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. 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.


SOW VIOLAS (and pansies 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 right sidebar). 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.

Categorieschores by month
  1. Johanna says:

    Margaret, terrific reminders as always! Going through your list I said “check, check, oh I forgot that!, check, check, never remember that one…” You are a terrific living reference. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Fred from Loudonville, NY says:

    Margaret you list of things to do is extensive, BUT i have others that I will do here at Whimsey Hill House. This time of year, I move volunteer cleomes and amaranthis to blank spaces in the garden. Even if they faint for a day or two , with a good watering , they stand straight again. When I have moved the last of the annuals to their final spots, I will trim all the evergreen foundation plants and reshape the growth on the topiarys that are on my property. July is also a good time to look for sales of perennials and containers. With all this rain, and recession, stores want to get rid of stuff, so deals are out there. July is a good time to take a good look at what you like about your garden, and what you want to change. Next month, after August 15, it is time here in the Hudson Valley to move perennials. This year from July 11 to about July 25, ALL perennial gardens are at their peak. All gardens books that show the summer garden, in the north east are photographed at this time. SO, this is a great time to really enjoy the fruits of our labors. AND finally July is a great time to visit http://www.berkshirebotanical.org, click on events, and get an invitation to their 75 Anniversary party at the garden!

  3. Mary Eliades says:

    Your slide show was beautiful. I enjoyed it very much-also the captions. Just delightful! Thanks.

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