Southwest

What to do in your garden in July
KIM NELSON

EXPLORING

Tour gardens in Santa Fe. Join the Behind Adobe Walls tour July 19 and 26 for a look at four featured gardens and homes in Santa Fe. Tickets ($75 with lunch and parking, $65 without) include bus transportation to each garden. Proceeds benefit local beautification, conservation, and education projects. For more information, call 800/283-0122.

PLANTING

Install landscape plants. Sunset climate zones 1a-3b: Plant tough deciduous trees and shrubs now so they can get established before winter. Consider quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus), squawbush (Rhus trilobata), and white spruce (Picea glauca). Zones 10-13: Set out drought-tolerant trees and shrubs like apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa), desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), Texas ebony (Pithecellobium flexicaule), and Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora). For accent plants, try agave, barrel cactus, Dasylirion, prickly pear, and yucca.

Plant warm-season veggies. Zones 1a-3b: Sow seeds of beans, beets, collards, cucumber, lettuce, melons, pumpkins, radishes, and spinach. Zones 10-13: Sow cucumbers, eggplant, and okra, plus any of the "monsoon crops" listed below. At month's end, plant seed potatoes (try 'Red Dale' and 'Yukon Gold').

Set out summer color. Add heat-tolerant plants to flower beds and pots. Good choices include agastache, celosia, cosmos, four o'clock gaillardia, gazania, globe amaranth, kochia, lisianthus, Madagascar periwinkle, portulaca, and zinnia.

Sow monsoon crops. To take advantage of rains during the summer monsoon, sow seeds of traditional Southwest crops such as beans, black-eyed peas, corn, melons, and squash. For a wide selection of heirloom varieties, including 'Chimayo' melon and 'Mayo Blusher' squash, order from Native Seeds/SEARCH ( www.nativeseeds.org or 866/622-5561).

MAINTENANCE

Control pests. If you spot aphids on new growth, cochineal scale on prickly pear pads, or lace bugs on sunflowers, blast them off with a strong jet of water. Treat fungus gnats and white flies on annuals, herbs, and potted plants by spraying insecticidal soap. Handpick caterpillars and grasshoppers.

Test your soil. If plants fare poorly in a particular spot in your garden, the trouble is likely related to the soil. First, call your cooperative extension for advice; if they can't suggest a remedy, consider a soil test. For a fee, a professional lab will analyze a sample of your garden soil to determine if it has a nutrient deficiency or other problems and give recommendations for improving the soil. The following labs perform this service: Atlas Consultants in Nevada ($195; 702/383-1199); IAS Labs in northern Arizona ($68; 602/273-7248); New Mexico State University SWAT lab ($17; www.swatlab.nmsu.edu or 505/646-4422); Texas A&M Soil, Water, and Forage Testing Laboratory ($10; soiltesting.tamu.edu or 979/845-4816).

Zap weeds with vinegar. USDA Agricultural Research Service studies show that household vinegar is an effective biodegradable herbicide that kills many weeds, including Canada thistle, during their first two weeks of life. Spray young weeds with undiluted white vinegar (5 percent acetic acid) when the air is still, taking care not to spray desirable plants.