So. California

What to do in your garden in July


Citrus. Plant lemon, lime, kumquat, orange, and other citrus. Or, to enjoy fruit year-round, set out one early-, one mid-, and one late-fruiting mandarin orange tree in the space you'd give to one tree. Satsuma bears its fruit November through January; 'Honey' mandarin, January through April; and 'Gold Nugget', April through October. Plant all three in a hole wide enough to accommodate the rootballs, allowing 8 feet of clearance around the hole. Place satsuma in the southern position, 'Gold Nugget' in the northeast, and 'Honey' mandarin in the northwest.

Fragrant plants. If scented plants are missing from your garden, you're missing out on a summertime joy. Plants that can fill the balmy air with sweet floral perfumes include banana shrub (Michelia fugo), gardenia, heliotrope, Kahili ginger (except in Hawaii, where it's especially invasive), Nicotiana sylvestris, night jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum), plumeria, Stephanotis floribunda, summer phlox (P. paniculata), and tuberose. Not as common but worth seeking out, says Vista landscape designer Tom Piergrossi, is evergreen mock orange (Philadelphus mexicanus).

Heat lovers. Fill empty spots in the garden with heat lovers like dwarf cosmos, gaillardia, portulaca, Salvia farinacea and S. splendens, verbena, vinca, and zinnias. Or try Angelonia (for more on this plant, see "Summer Coolers" on page 64).

Patriotic pots. Using red, white, and blue annuals and perennials, plant a patriotic flower pot or two for Fourth of July celebrations. For the best effect, combine tall plants with shorter, bushier ones, then add trailers to spill over pot sides. For red, choose from annual phlox, celosia, dahlia, flowering tobacco (Nicotiana), geranium, petunia, Salvia coccinea, or scarlet sage. White flowers to try include alyssum, annual phlox, dahlia, dwarf cosmos, flowering tobacco, geranium, heliotrope, nemesia, petunia, or a white variety of scarlet sage. For blue, choose from gentian sage, lobelia, mealycup sage, nemesia, petunia, or verbena. All of these plants require full sun.


Harvest frequently. To encourage further crop production, pick beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes frequently. Fast growers like squash should be checked almost daily. Pinch back herbs to encourage fresh growth. Use any excess basil for making pesto or to add a fragrant finish to salads.


Solar-heat soil. You can use the power of the sun to kill weed seeds and to destroy fungus and nematodes in troublesome sections of the garden. Level the area, thoroughly moisten the soil, and cover with a thick, transparent plastic tarp, weighted down around the edges. Leave the tarp in place for four to six weeks. Then uncover in fall and replant your healthy, weed-free bed. The hotter your summers, the better this works.

Wash away spider mites. If leaves on your rose bushes or other plants are turning brown and dropping off, check the plants for spider mites. These tiny brown insects appear as specks on the backs of leaves. To dislodge the insects, blast them off with a strong jet of water from your hose, being especially careful to thoroughly wet the undersides of leaves, where mites like to hide. Repeat several days in a row.

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