Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Julie Chai

What to do in your garden in July

SHARON COHOON  –  Updated February 8, 2019


Citrus. Plant lemon, lime, kumquat, orange, and othercitrus. Or, to enjoy fruit year-round, set out one early-, onemid-, and one late-fruiting mandarin orange tree in the space you’dgive to one tree. Satsuma bears its fruit November through January;’Honey’ mandarin, January through April; and ‘Gold Nugget’, Aprilthrough October. Plant all three in a hole wide enough toaccommodate the rootballs, allowing 8 feet of clearance around thehole. Place satsuma in the southern position, ‘Gold Nugget’ in thenortheast, and ‘Honey’ mandarin in the northwest.

Fragrant plants. If scented plants are missing from yourgarden, you’re missing out on a summertime joy. Plants that canfill the balmy air with sweet floral perfumes include banana shrub (Michelia fugo), gardenia, heliotrope, Kahili ginger (exceptin 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 worthseeking out, says Vista landscape designer Tom Piergrossi, isevergreen mock orange (Philadelphus mexicanus).

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

Patriotic pots. Using red, white, and blue annuals andperennials, plant a patriotic flower pot or two for Fourth of Julycelebrations. For the best effect, combine tall plants withshorter, bushier ones, then add trailers to spill over pot sides.For red, choose from annual phlox, celosia, dahlia, floweringtobacco (Nicotiana), geranium, petunia, Salvia coccinea, or scarlet sage. White flowers to tryinclude alyssum, annual phlox, dahlia, dwarf cosmos, floweringtobacco, geranium, heliotrope, nemesia, petunia, or a white varietyof scarlet sage. For blue, choose from gentian sage, lobelia,mealycup sage, nemesia, petunia, or verbena. All of these plantsrequire 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 backherbs to encourage fresh growth. Use any excess basil for makingpesto or to add a fragrant finish to salads.


Solar-heat soil. You can use the power of the sun to killweed seeds and to destroy fungus and nematodes in troublesomesections of the garden. Level the area, thoroughly moisten thesoil, and cover with a thick, transparent plastic tarp, weighteddown around the edges. Leave the tarp in place for four to sixweeks. Then uncover in fall and replant your healthy, weed-freebed. The hotter your summers, the better this works.

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