July 2012 Gardening Calendar
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Thank goodness, it has been a wetter and cooler spring than 2011. Your plants should be in generally good condition. Don’t be surprised, however, if there is some hangover from the 2011 drought. Root systems that were injured in 2011 may not be capable of supporting the lush foliage that is a response to the good growing conditions in 2012. The result is that some shrubs and trees will suddenly drop foliage or die when we have a typical South Texas dry, hot spell. The best you can do is provide regular deep watering to high risk plants such as those planted in the last few years or those that showed stress symptoms in 2011. Regular deep watering means every three weeks if there is no rain. Overwatering wastes precious water and can be as detrimental to the high-risk trees as insufficient water.
In the vegetable garden, you should be reaching the end of your tomato harvest for the spring. Spider mites have been a problem this year, so don’t prolong the season. Get the fruit off as soon as it shows some color and discard the plants as soon as possible. It will be time to plant fall tomatoes late in the month or in early August and you do not want spider mites to move from the old plants to the new plants.
Peppers, eggplants, okra, and southern peas can continue to produce through the hottest part of the summer but everything else should be removed by now. Till-up any vacant soil so it can dry out and heat up. The condition helps reduce disease pathogens, and other pests in addition to the spider mites.
For those of you who plant fall tomatoes this month or early August, watch for Surefire transplants. This wonderful fall tomato is now in heirloom status as the hybridizers have quit producing seed. Surefire is a relatively small (tennis ball size) heat-setting determinate tomato that produces mature fruit very quickly and always beats the earliest freeze.
Jerry Parsons, the Gardening Volunteers of South Texas, and cooperating nurseries are producing enough seed for a small compliment of transplants every autumn. Grow Surefire with Celebrity, Tycoon, 444, Solar Fire, and other recommended varieties.
In the flower garden your zinnias, vinca, purslane, moss roses, and cosmos should be performing well. Keep them watered and add one-half cup of slow release lawn fertilizer per eight feet of row every four weeks. To maintain zinnia blooms at peak levels they should be used for cut flowers or deadheaded. If you allow the seed to drop they will produce new plants but the results may not be as colorful or large-flowered as the transplants you originally planted.
Keep watch for marigolds at your favorite nursery. If they have large African or American hybrid plants, you may want to plant a bed for fall color. A solid bed of 18-inch tall gold or yellow marigolds planted on 18-inch centers makes a spectacular show.
The key is to plant sturdy transplants before they show any bloom. That way they grow large enough to support as a full head of blooms. The advantage to planting in the fall is that spider mite populations do not grow as fast as nights become longer and temperatures become cooler. Like tomatoes, marigolds are very attractive to mites.
Even, after you harvest the fruit, it is important to keep irrigating peaches and other fruit. Buds for next year’s blooms form over the next two months.
To keep the hummingbirds happy keep the sugar water feeders full. In the summer they need to be rinsed every week with clean water and then refilled. Use a bottlebrush to clean them once every month.
Calvin R. Finch, PhD, is a SAWS Director and Horticulturist.
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