July to-Do List | Extension Master Gardener℠ Volunteers of Clay County

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By: Eleanor Moyer, Master Gardener℠ Volunteer of Clay County

Well, dear readers, how does your garden grow? It certainly has been a beneficial Spring and early Summer, but alas, even the best of times provides both opportunity and problems.

Our first chore this month is to water and water some more! Plants need at least one inch per week, so it’s helpful to invest in a rain gauge coupled with a journal. Container plants need more-at least once per day and some even twice. A decent water meter can be a wise investment if you have multiple containers or raised beds. Watering in the morning prevents wet leaves that will encourage fungus. Drip irrigation is preferable as sprinklers probably waste as much as they benefit. Remember to fertilize containers as nutrients are leached with watering.

The most useful tools for a gardener are eyes, hands, and feet! Stroll through the garden every day or nearly so with a bucket plucking weeds and rascally pests. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage more blooms. Remove flower stalks that have no buds. Use old medicine containers, paper envelopes, or glass jars to harvest flower seeds- marigolds, zinnia, cosmos, for instance, can be kept for next season. It’s still time to plant these fast-growing annuals that should last until frost. Besides deadheading, consider propagating cuttings. Coleus, basil, and rosemary are easy to root using either water or sand/light potting soil. Cut at least a 4-inch, non-woody stem. Strip the bottom half of the leaves. Place in water that is changed every two to three days with no leaves touching. When roots form, pot in light potting soil. The same method for soil/sand/vermiculite. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. A rooting hormone may accelerate root growth. In a few weeks, you’ll have new plants for your garden or gifts plus your donor plants will be more prolific and bushier.

So, that bucket of pests and weeds—dispose of them away from the garden or compost pile, but also look carefully at what you have captured. If you have a small home garden, most of insect damage can be controlled by simply removing the critters. To recognize what you capture, look to NC Extension online publications. I also found a very illustrative site at sowtrueseed.com. I don’t know anything about their products, but their Ultimate Pest Watch Guide gave clear, colorful pictures of a variety of garden pests. If you want to reduce pesticide use in the garden, go to Carolina Farm Stewards which concisely paraphrased NC State publication AG 295. One of their suggestions was to place a small board at the base of infected squash plants. Squash bugs slink under it at night for easy removal in the morning.

There is still time to sow veggies in the ground and to start fall plants indoors. Check the N.C. Cooperative Extension site for a great chart on when to plant. Our Master Gardeners Discovery Garden is open. It’s a super place to get ideas and see what’s blooming in our garden.