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Master Gardeners of Orange County, NC
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Bloom · Berry

Below is a simple ‘shortlist’ of plants that are normally in bloom this month or are of interest for fruit, bark or foliage. See Bloom • Berry for comprehensive lists with links to photos and cultural information.

Bulbs Perennials Shrubs Trees Vines
Agapanthus
Crinum
Crocosmia
Lilies
Lycoris
Rain lilies
Bee balm
Butterfly weed
Coneflowers
Dahlia
Daylily
Lobelia
Phlox
Red-hot poker
Sedum
Shasta daisy
Abelia
Butterfly bush
Hibiscus
Hydrangea
Indigo
Mock-orange
Rose
Yucca
Crape myrtle
Magnolia
Trumpet creeper

Lawns

Fertilizing

Continue feeding your zoysia lawn. Do NOT fertilize tall fescue or bluegrass lawns.

Mowing

Remember to change direction when moving your lawn. Travel north to south on one mowing and east to west on the next cutting.

  • Mow often enough so that no more than ⅓ of the grass height is cut, and leave grass clippings on the lawn. Clippings decompose quickly and can provide up to 25% of the lawn’s fertilizer. If grass clippings are too plentiful, collect and use them as mulch or let them dry a bit and add to your compost pile.
  • Mow fescue lawns to 3–3.5″.
  • Mow Bermudagrass when the lawn first turns green using a reel mower set at ¾–1″ or a rotary mower set as low as possible without scalping.

Watering

Hopefully, you have read our LAWNS page and properly prepared your cool-season lawn for the heat and drought that is normal in our area. The page contains detailed watering instructions, which differ depending on whether you are keeping your lawn green or encouraging dormancy.

Links

Bermudagrass lawn maintenance calendar NC CES: AG-431
Tall fescue lawn maintenance calendarNC CES: AG-367

Ornamental plants

Disease

Use preventive measures for blackspot, powdery mildew, cankers, rust and botrytis on roses. Rugosa and Lady Banks roses are generally immune to disease. See the Earthkind trials for other genetically resistant, but not necessarily immune, cultivars. Currently, all roses are considered susceptible to rose rosette, so monitor for symptoms (especially on Knockout® roses) and carefully remove infected plants.

Fertilizing

This is the last summer month to safely feed woody plants. Beginning in mid-July, they should be encouraged to prepare for fall dormancy.

  • Never fertilize in the heat without watering diligently. Fertilizers stress plants in two ways:
    • dessication, because fertilizers are salts and draw water away from plant roots
    • stimulating unbalanced growth via nitrogen — top growth stimulated during hot weather can outstrip the root capacity to support it, greatly increasing plant stress.
  • Decide whether fertilizer is needed
    • In general, if trees, shrubs and perennials are growing at a rate that is acceptable to you, the foliage looks healthy and bloom is plentiful, there is no need to fertilize.
    • Poor bloom can be a sign that a perennial needs division (e.g. daylilies, iris) or that shade or root competition is now a factor. Trees grow, and even if your bed is not shaded, tree roots often extend far past the drip line — sometimes 3X the diameter of the tree canopy.
    • Unhealthy foliage on any plant may indicate problems other than a nutritional deficiency. See FERTILIZING for more information.
    • Recently transplanted trees/shrubs, or those that have experienced root disturbance, cannot grow until the roots recover and will not benefit from fertilizer application. Recovery requires ~ 6–12 months per inch of trunk caliper for trees, so it may be several to many years before a larger tree resumes growth.
  • Links
    Fertilizing
    A gardener’s guide to fertilizing trees and shrubs
    Tree and shrub fertilization
    Fertilizer recommendations and techniques to maintain landscapes and protect water quality

Insects

Beneficial insects share the same plants as insect pests. Use low-toxicity pesticides when possible, spray only if needed, and spray at dusk when the bees have all gone home. Always read and follow label directions for safe pesticide application.

  • Aphids can attack tender new plant growth. They can be washed off with a forceful stream of water. Severe infestations can be controlled with the relatively environmentally benign insecticidal soaps.
  • Lace bugs also can attack new growth, usually only on azalea and rhododendron, but sometimes on pyracantha, cotoneaster, quince or hawthorne. Dark spots about the size of a pinhead on the lower leaf surface are diagnostic. The best defense is to plant genetically resistant varieties and to maintain plant vigor. For control of severe infestations where there is no evidence that natural predators are present, repeated applications of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil can be effective. When a history of lace bug infestation exists, insecticides can be applied to the lower leaf surface, usually 2 applications ~2 weeks apart. Monitor the plants about once a month for reinfestations.
  • Fall webworms are often mistaken for Eastern tent caterpillars, but do no lasting harm to trees. Tent caterpillars are active only in spring, while webworms become active beginning in mid-summer. Treatment is not necessary, but you can open the web to expose the caterpillars to predators.
  • Slugs can attack soft new growth. Holes in leaves or on leaf margins and a silvery slime trail in the morning indicate slug damage. Slugs hide under boards, stones or debris during the day, so populations can be reduced by managing habitat. See the link for additional suggestions.
  • Japanese beetles vary in numbers from year to year. Control by any method is difficult to achieve unless it covers a significant area. This requires careful monitoring and the coordinated effort of an entire neighborhood. A recommended alternative is to keep plants healthy (weak plants are more susceptible), to remove beetle attractants such as prematurely ripened or diseased fruit, and to plant resistant species. See the link for details on beetle lifecycle, monitoring, control, and species susceptibility.
  • Kudzu bugs are a new pest from India and China that look somewhat like an olive lady beetle. They feed on all types of legumes (note that wisteria is a legume) and congregate on figs, magnolias, bronze fennel, redbuds, roses and peppers. Because they are so new, control strategies are still experimental. Carefully brushing them into soapy water is one approach (they release an irritant when crushed). Some predatory insects like assassin bugs and predatory stink bugs appear to be finding them, which may help to control population size. NC CES has additional information.
  • Flatid planthoppers look like mealy bugs at first glance, but they usually do little damage and do not require treatment.
  • Monitor evergreens for bagworms, removing the bags by hand — sprays cannot penetrated the bags.

Maintenance

Cut off the faded flowers of annuals, phlox, shasta daisy and daylily to encourage a second flowering (or for annuals, continual bloom).

Mulching

In a sunny location the temperature at the soil surface can be higher than the air temperature and bare soil will rapidly dry out. Mulch plants to a depth of about 3”, keeping it away from plant crowns, to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

Propagating

  • This is still a great time to take semi-hardwood cuttings of azaleas, holly, rhododendron and many other shrubs.
  • July is an ideal time to divide and transplant your iris.
  • While you can safely divide or transplant many daylilies now, some cultivars rot when divided or transplanted in hot, humid conditions. The problem is not well understood. It is safer to propagate daylilies in mid- to late September.
  • Start seeds for cool-weather annuals indoors in July/August for fall planting. Try foxglove, pansy, alyssum, snapdragons, ornamental cabbage (kale) and primroses. Pansy seeds germinate well when stored in the refrigerator (not freezer) for 10–14 days before planting.

Pruning

  • Trees
    Prune “bleeder” trees like maple, dogwood, birch and elm this month. You can prune off water sprouts by gentle rubbing. Prune off spent crape myrtle blossoms to prolong the flowering period, but only prune branches with a diameter less than that of a pencil.
  • Evergreen shrubs
    Continue pruning white pines and narrowleaf evergreens like juniper early in the month. Prune out dieback on hybrid rhododendron, azalea and mountain laurel.
  • Summer-blooming shrubs
    Deadhead butterfly bushes, which bloom on new wood, to encourage repeat bloom. Most other summer-blooming shrubs bloom on 1-year-old wood, so prune as soon as they have finished blooming (or for hydrangeas, once the flowers fade) so you do not remove the flower buds for next year. Shrubs to prune include: abelia, althea, deutzia, euonymus, forsythia (a spring bloomer), bush honeysuckles, florist hydrangeas, mock orange, privets and weigela. Newer hydrangeas that bloom on new wood as well as old have come on the market recently, but these can be pruned like older varieties.
  • Roses
    Watch for root suckers on grafted roses and remove them promptly. These represent the rootstock species and not the hybrid you purchased. Suckers are usually very vigorous and can steal all of the resources from the top graft. They often have foliage that is distinctly different from the top graft.
  • Perennials
    Pinch your chrysanthemums the first week only! For easy remembering, use the Fourth of July as your stop date.

Weeds

  • Manage vines such as trumpet creeper, blackberry and poison ivy, and remove “weed” or unwanted trees from your landscape.
  • Weed in bed areas either by spraying or by hand. If hand-weeding, it is easier when the soil is damp. Try to get to weeds before they seed — if not your weed problems will multiply rapidly.

Watering

If drought threatens, set priorities. Trees come first, followed by shrubs, then perennials.

  • Drought stress occurs when water lost through plant leaves exceeds either the water available to the plant in the soil or the water the plant is able to absorb via normal physiological processes. Warm summer breezes increase plant water loss. Most plants need 1–1.25” of water per week.
  • Hard downpours can run off without soaking in, so plants can need watering even after a 3” rainfall.
  • Clay soils absorb water at only ~ ¼” per hour, so soaker hoses are a great way to water. For large areas or lawns, cycle sprinklers on and off so that water has a chance to soak in and reach the roots: water for 15 minutes, turn off to let water soak in, water again for 15 minutes, turn off, etc.
  • Water deeply to soak the soil 4–6” deep.
  • Avoid wetting plant foliage. The best time to water is late night–early morning, which minimizes evaporation and ensures that if foliage is wetted, it dries quickly. This minimizes conditions that favor fungal disease.
  • For trees, water around the drip line and as far as 3x the drip line — in clay soils, even tap-rooted trees, usually spread their roots widely and shallowly.

Vegetables

Fertilizing

Continue sidedressing.

Planting

You can begin your fall vegetable garden this month.

  • Plants of brussel sprouts and collards can be set out in mid-July. You can also plant beans, carrots and tomatoes.
  • Start broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower plants in peat pots for transplanting in mid-August.

Pests · Disease

Vegetable · herbMonitor for:
Cucumbercucumber beetle
Eggplantflea beetle
Squashaphids, borers
Tomatoflea beetle
Avoid blossom end rot by keeping soil consistently moist and not over-fertilizing.
Basildowny mildew Leaves will look yellow and spores will be visible on the undersurface of the leaf. Flavored basils, such as lemon or cinnamon, are less susceptible. If you confirm infestation, you can report your findings to Cornell Universtiy.

Harvesting

Watering

Vegetables need at least 1” of water each week to remain productive. In sandy soils apply 1/3” of water every third day to keep the top 6–8” of soil moist. In clay soils, water once or twice a week. Water early in the morning. Watering late in the day encourages disease.

Herbs

  • Pinch back basil, catmint, catnip and lemon basil to prevent flowering and keep them bushy, but allow some basil plants to bloom to attract bees. Sow a new crop each month to harvest leaves.
  • Each time you need a few chives from the garden, cut generously to encourage new growth. Snip the extras into short segment, put them in a plastic container and store in the freezer.

Fruits

Spray your tree fruits and bunch grapes on a regular basis.

Blueberries

Prune out dieback.

Blackberries · raspberries

Prune the fruiting canes of raspberry and blackberry plants after harvest is over. Cut canes at ground level.

Figs

This winter caused significant damage to figs, and many are just beginning to show new growth. If you are lucky enough to have fruits, harvest them when they soften and turn downward. Otherwise, prune out dead material and consider protecting trees next winter with 1–2 feet of loose mulch such as leaves or straw. Do NOT fertilize — in our area, fertilization makes figs more susceptible to cold damage.

Wildlife

  • Feed hummingbirds!
    • Most plants with tube-shaped flowers will attract hummingbirds. Note that cultivated hybrids often make much less nectar than wild strains.
    • Hummingbirds become abundant at feeders beginning in mid-July. Fill feeders with a solution of 1 part sugar in 4 parts water. Boil for 2–4 minutes to dissolve all sugar, then cool. Wash feeders and replace the food at least twice weekly.
  • Attend to birdbaths. Change water frequently to keep it fresh and prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Scrub your bath to keep it clean and remove mold that can make it slippery for birds. Birds prefer water that is no more than 2 inches deep.
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Lawn · Garden Moisture Index

Colors indicate inches of precipitation deficit/excess with a resolution of 4km.
Alabama State Climatologist Lawn/garden moisture index

This live feed maps the difference between recent garden-effective precipitation and the amount normally adequate for the time of year. Soil water-holding capacity is not considered, but the index still provides a good idea of current soil moisture.

Check drought conditions
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