Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print
Daily storms or prolonged drought? Heat waves or cool spells? July can be unpredictable, but there's one thing gardeners can count on: a lot of work!
Weeding and watering are the important buzzwords of the month, while perennials blast off along with fireworks and crops begin to mature for your midsummer feasts.
1. To protect against late blight, treat potato and tomato plants with a fungicide containing chlorothalonil (or copper, if growing organic), and reapply every week.
2. If you're planning a vacation, arrange for a surrogate waterer; if you come home to dead plants, it will likely be too late to start over.
3. Keep mower blades sharpened to cut down on lawn diseases and set blades to 3 inches for optimum grass health.
4. Happy Fourth of July -- it's time to fertilize the lawn!
5. To grow a giant pumpkin, remove all flowers but one, and fertilize every week.
6. When tomatoes, eggplants and peppers set fruit, replenish nutrients with another dose of fertilizer.
7. To keep algae under control in ponds, add a bunch of eelgrass per each square foot of surface water.
8. Set automatic sprinklers manually to ensure the lawn gets 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week, adjusting for rainfall. Soak deeply in the early morning.
9. Continually harvest green beans to keep plants producing.
10. To make more plants, pinch back vining houseplants, dip the cut ends in rooting hormone and plant in a 50/50 peat/vermiculite mix.
11. Cut flowers will stay fresher longer if you pick them in the morning, but if you're going to dry them, pick them late in the day.
12. Harvest herbs in the morning, but not too early, and wait until the dew has dried for optimum flavor.
13. Deadhead perennials and summer-blooming shrubs every week or two.
14. Pick melons when their skin turns yellow and stems loosen their hold on the fruit.
15. Last call for shearing hedges, like yews, for the year.
16. Pick zucchini when fruit is 5-6 inches long or the plant will stop producing.
17. For bigger tomatoes, remove suckers (small stems growing in branch crotches). Then join the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at newsday.com/gardendetective.
18. Sheer creeping phlox and candytuft now for fuller plants and more blooms next year.
19. Deadhead hybrid tea and grandiflora roses.
20. Most vegetables planted in the garden need one inch of water per week; their potted counterparts dry out much more quickly, so check them daily.
21. For a fall crop, sow seeds of cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, radish and broccoli directly into the garden now.
22. Divide bearded iris, if necessary, and take care to replant with crowns exposed to protect against rot.
23. If you're near the beach, spray tree leaves with antidessicant to protect against salt and wind damage.
24. Cigarettes can transmit tobacco mosaic virus to your plants. Don't smoke in the garden, and wash hands after smoking before handling plants. Really.
25. Mound up soil around squash and cucumber stems to ward off vine borers.
26. For shrubs growing in containers, add fertilizer diluted at half strength to every second watering.
27. To help prevent powdery mildew, space plants to allow for air circulation, avoid wetting leaves and water early in the day.
28. You still can plant shrubs and trees. Container-grown are best, but pricey. If buying balled and burlapped, ensure roots are fresh.
29. Plant peas again for a fall harvest.
30. Be sure newly planted trees get 1 1/2 inches of water per week, and water established trees if two weeks pass without rain.
31. Lure slugs by placing a wooden board in the garden, overturning it in the morning and scraping them off into a pail of soapy water.