July weather may be sweaty hot, but you – and your garden – can keep cool. The key is to get to work early in the morning while temperatures remain comfortable, both for people and plants.
▪ During hot weather, water early – preferably before 8 a.m. That allows the water to soak in instead of evaporate. If you notice water running off your lawn or flower beds, cut your sprinkler time into chunks that allow the water enough time to soak into the soil. For example, instead of 10 minutes, run the sprinklers for two five-minute intervals, spaced at least 30 minutes apart.
▪ Mulch, mulch, mulch! A layer of insulating organic mulch will keep your plants hydrated longer and squeeze the most out of what moisture they can get. For mulch, use several sheets of newspaper (such as The Bee), covered with an inch of compost or bark. Remember: Organic materials tend to stay cooler than black plastic, weed cloth or rock mulches. And that means roots will be cooler, too.
▪ If leaves or fruit look sunburned, give them some shade. Bell peppers are especially sensitive. Erect an umbrella or suspend shade cloth over sensitive plants during the hottest, sunniest days. (Draping burlap over tomato cages will work, too.) They still need some sun, just not the hottest rays of the afternoon.
▪ It’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds. Plant sunflowers from seed.
▪ Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.
▪ On tomato plants, pick off caterpillars and be on the lookout for other pests.
▪ Feed vegetable plants bone meal or other fertilizers high in phosphate to stimulate more blooms and fruiting. Make sure to water plants before feeding.
▪ Pinch off blooms from basil so the plants will grow more leaves.
▪ Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.