Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print
My garden peaks in July. It's when the daylilies and the catmints and the knockout roses bloom all at once, basking the beds in orange, purple and hot pink. The vegetables, which only recently have sprouted from seed to plant, are beginning their journey from plant to plate. Enjoy the harvest, the celebration of our independence and the colors of your garden this month -- and try to enjoy these chores, too.
1. If you're going out of town, arrange for someone to water; just a couple of hot, dry days can kill your plants, especially those in pots.
2. Keep mower blades sharpened and set blades to three inches for optimum grass health.
3. Pinch spent snapdragons, and cut back and fertilize phlox and delphinium, and they'll bloom again.
4. Happy Fourth of July. It's time to fertilize the lawn!
5. Water and turn the compost pile at least once a week.
6. To keep algae under control in ponds, add a bunch of eelgrass per each square foot of surface water.
7. To grow a giant pumpkin, remove all flowers but one, and fertilize every week.
8. Continually harvest green beans to keep plants producing.
9. Apply organic fertilizer when tomatoes, peppers and eggplants fruit, and repeat next month.
10. Give the lawn a slow, deep soaking once a week, in the early morning.
11. For the best flavor, harvest herbs in the morning, just after the dew has dried.
12. It's time to pick melons when their skin turns yellow and stems loosen their hold on the fruit.
13. Deadhead perennials and summer-blooming shrubs every week or two.
14. Fertilize flowering perennials with 5-10-5 product to maximize blooming.
15. Join the Tomato Challenge! Send an email with your growing strategy and a photo of yourself with your plants to firstname.lastname@example.org
16. Harvest zucchini when it's 5-6 inches long. If you don't, the plant will stop producing.
17. Pinch back vining houseplants, dip the cut ends in rooting hormone and plant in a 50/50 peat/vermiculite mix to make new plants.
18. Sheer creeping phlox and candytuft now, and plants will be fuller next year.
19. Most vegetables planted in the garden require an inch of water per week; potted ones need more -- check them daily.
20. Deadhead hybrid tea and grandiflora roses.
21. Divide bearded iris.
22. If you're near the ocean, spray tree leaves with anti-dessicant to protect against salt and wind damage.
23. For a fall crop, sow seeds of cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, radish and broccoli directly into the garden now.
24. Mound up soil around squash and cucumber stems to ward off vine borers.
25. Fertilize shrubs growing in containers at half strength with every second watering.
26. It's not too late to plant shrubs and trees.
27. Be sure newly planted trees get 11/2 inches of water per week, and water established trees if two weeks pass without rain.
28. Plant peas.
29. Control slugs naturally: Place a wooden board in the garden overnight, overturn in the morning and scrape them off into a pail of soapy water.
30. Cigarettes can make your plants sick! Don't smoke in the garden, and wash hands after smoking before gardening.
31. Stake tall flowers to prevent wind damage. Secure with soft twine to avoid damaging plants.