What to do in your garden in July

Sharon Cohoon


Get rotating nozzles Replace your current sprinkler heads with more efficient rotating nozzles, and you can reduce your water consumption by at least 20 percent. Your local water provider may even offer a rebate to help defray the cost. Visit bewaterwise.com for more information.


Grow tomatoes Inland and coastal gardeners (Sunset climate zones 18–21 and 22–24, respectively) can continue to set out tomato plants. If a small, sunny patio or balcony is your only area for growing, try the dwarf variety ‘Tiny Tim’, a prolific producer of ½-inch fruit. It tops out at 1 foot tall and can remain in a 4-inch pot the entire season, says Dawn Van Allen, owner of the Garden nursery in Pomona, who grows at least 300 tomato varieties for the nursery every year. Plant before mid-July.

Plant a Fourth of July pot Create a patriotic container with 'Stars & Stripes'  mandevilla. The new introduction ― available only at Armstrong Garden Centers ―has large crimson flowers with white stripes. Add a fringe of blue lobelia to complete the color scheme. See a photo on our garden blog (freshdirt.sunset.com).

Sow beans to dry Plant beans for drying instead of snap beans this year, if only to enjoy the sight of pretty patterned varieties like ‘Jacob’s Cattle’, ‘Pawnee Shell’, and ‘Tiger’s Eye’ beans in glass jars on your kitchen shelf. These and more are available from Seeds of Change (888/762-7333).

Try a new shade lover Tired of coleus and begonias? Consider Torenia, which has small bell-shaped flowers that bloom into fall. Proven Winners’ new Catalina series is especially attractive; 'White Linen' and 'Midnight Blue' are our favorites.

Citrus and other subtropicals Plant kumquat, lemon, lime, orange, and other citrus. If you have room and live in the mildest coastal climates, try avocado, cherimoya, and mango (in Southern California, Sunset climate zones 21-23 are best ― mangoes love heat and resent fog).

Succulent containers To spruce up patio tables, outdoor kitchen counters, and other areas for summer parties, plant shallow containers with a medley of forgiving, low-maintenance succulents, suggests Samantha Owens of Barrels and Branches nursery in Encinitas. Her favorites for tabletops include Aeonium 'Kiwi', jade plant (Crassula argentea 'Crosby's Dwarf'), lipstick echeveria (E. agavoides), and Sempervivum arachnoideum.


Control algae If algae is taking over your pond, get rid of it with GreenClean Algaecide, available at garden-supply stores or from pondbiz.com. The product kills algae without harming pets, fish, bees, or birds.

Prune grape foliage When grapes are pea-size, remove leaves within 6 inches of the bunches, suggests Yvonne Savio, Los Angeles County Cooperative Extension garden program manager. The pruning improves air circulation, lessening the chance of fungal and bacterial mildews and rot. Keep some leaves on the sunny south side of the clusters, however, to shade the fruit from intense direct sun.

Guard against brushfires If you live in a fire-prone area and haven't taken preventive measures this year, do so now. Remove dead limbs and leaves from trees and shrubs, especially ones near your house. Cut tall grasses and weeds down to stubble. Clear gutters of debris. For more information, visit the American Red Cross website (www.redcross.org/services/disaster).

Protect fruit To keep birds and wasps away from grapes, enclose whole clusters in paper bags until the clusters have ripened. Also net your fruit trees ― especially figs.


Solarize your soil Use the power of the sun to destroy troublesome fungus, bacteria, and nematodes in soil. Level the problem area, thoroughly moisten the soil, and cover it tightly with a thick clear plastic tarp, weighted around the edges. Leave the tarp in place four to six weeks. The hotter your location, the better solarization works.

More: Plant a showy coleus 

Plant a showy coleus

'Henna', a striking new coleus, is a must-have for the summer garden. It grows 2 feet tall and 16 inches wide, and can fill a medium-size pot all on its own. But in lightly shaded beds and pots, its scalloped leaves ― splashed with copper and lime ― pair well with trailers such as chartreuse Lysimachia nummularia  'Aurea' or Ipomoea batatas  'Marguerite'.

Grow it beside bronze Carex flagellifera  'Toffee Twist' and terra-cotta-colored calibrachoa. Pinch off flower spikes as they develop, and water regularly through the warm months. –Julie Chai

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