Hot, sunny days are the norm for most parts of the country in July, and most gardens are lush by that time. By taking a few precautions, home gardeners can keep their gardens healthy and productive through the hottest days of summer and even begin preparing a fall vegetable crop.
Keep the Garden Well-Watered
Monitor rainfall. Most gardens need between 1 and 2 inches of water each week, so if the region is having a dry spell, watch for wilting.
Check soil moisture. A good rule of thumb to determine whether the soil is too dry is to insert your index finger up to the first knuckle. If the soil is dried out down to that point, the garden is in immediate need of water.
Water deeply. By watering deeply once a week rather than sprinkling the garden lightly with water each day, you encourage plants to develop deep, strong roots that are less affected by periodic drought. Shallow watering causes plants to spread roots out at the surface, making them more susceptible to dry spells.
Mulch well. Use a finely shredded hardwood mulch or well-composted leaf litter to mulch your garden. Mulching has the dual benefit of reducing water evaporation and helping to shade plant roots.
Feed Your Plants
Choose a well-balanced fertilizer for your plants during this mid-season period. A "balanced" fertilizer is any all-purpose product with identical nutrient numbers, such as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12.
Side-dress plants by laying down a strip of fertilizer 4 to 6 inches from the plant base, making sure none touches the plant's foliage.
Water well after applying fertilizer.
Monitor for Pests
Be on the lookout for the squash vine borer, which usually appears around this time of year.
Check the bases of plants like zucchini, pumpkin, cucumber and melon for a small hole near the ground, which indicates larvae have burrowed into the hollow interior of these plants' vines.
Shine a light along the length of the vine to see where the larvae are located. Kill the grub by either piercing it with a needle or by slicing the vine open to remove the grub.
Help control rampant aphid reproduction by encouraging beneficial insects to visit the garden, such as praying mantis, lacewing and ladybug. Place flowering plants around the garden and do not spray with broad-spectrum pesticides.
Reduce numbers of Japanese beetles in the garden by hand-picking them each morning before they are active. Kill the pest by knocking them off each plant into a container of soapy water.
Prepare for Fall Planting
Direct sow second-crop seeds for beans, Swiss chard, sweet corn and squash.
Set out transplants of fall crops, including vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, in July
Sow seeds for lettuce, radishes, carrots, beets and turnips late in July to allow them time to mature before the first frost of fall.
About this Author
Michelle Z. Donahue lives in Washington, D.C., and has worked there as a journalist since 2001, when she graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in English. She first covered politics as a reporter for the weekly Fairfax Times newspaper, then for the daily newswire Canadian Economic Press, where she reported from the U.S. Treasury. Donahue is currently a freelance writer.