What to do in your garden in July

JIM McCAUSLAND

PLANTING AND HARVEST

Harvest crops. To encourage production, pick crops as theyripen, especially everbearing strawberries and vegetables such asbeans and indeterminate tomatoes (those that keep growing andbearing all season).

Plant annual flowers. If you set out flowers from nurserypacks early this month, they'll bloom until frost, often putting ona better late-summer show than spring-planted annuals.

Set out vegetables. Sunset climate zones 4-7, 17: Sow seeds of beets, broccoli,bush beans, carrots, chard, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce,peas, radishes, scallions, spinach, and turnips for fall harvest.Set out a late crop of seed potatoes by July 4.

Start lawns in Alaska. Zones A2, A3: Lay sod or sow seed fornew lawns or repair old ones this month. In sunny areas, go withKentucky bluegrass; use red fescue in the shade.

MAINTENANCE

Care for fuchsias. Snip or pick off faded blossoms to keepblooms coming, but expect fewer flowers during hot weather. Apply acomplete liquid plant fertilizer monthly for plants in the ground,every two weeks for potted fuchsias.

Consider a soil test. Your permanent plants should begrowing strong this month. But if they're getting enough water andstill aren't doing well, a lab test can help you determine if yoursoil is causing the problem. Washington State University posts alist of Northwest soil-testing labs on its website www.cru.cahe.wsu.edu/cepublications/eb1578e/eb1578e.pdf.After you send a soil sample to the lab and pay a fee, you'll get areport detailing its chemistry.

Guard against wildfire. Create a buffer zone between yourhouse and adjacent wildland by thinning dense shrubbery and closelyspaced trees on your property. Or replace them with low-growinggroundcovers, such as beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) or Japanese spurge, or with hardscape.Remember that fire crews devote their efforts to saving the mostdefensible properties. For more safety tips, go to www.sunset.com and search for"wildfire," then click "Wildfire Lessons."

Monitor mulch. Spreading organic mulch around plantsconserves soil moisture and keeps roots cool. But dry mulch canalso soak up water from rain or sprinklers before it ever reachesplant roots.

If this is happening in your garden, try one of thesetechniques: Install drip emitters or lay soaker hoses under themulch to deliver water directly to the soil (mulch hides the blacktubing). Or pull the mulch back from the soil; this is particularlyeffective if you've built a watering basin around plants. Anotheroption is gravel mulch; water percolates right through it, yet itinsulates the soil from the sun's hot, drying rays.

Water wisely. Irrigate annuals, lawns, perennials, andshrubs early in the morning. This not only reduces the amount ofwater lost to evaporation, it allows plants to dry off beforemildew and other diseases take hold.

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