Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print and online media. She has worked on Newsday's interactive endeavors since 1994, and currently is Deputy Editor overseeing Newsday.com's Lifestyle and Entertainment coverage. Jessica enjoys toiling in her garden -- a never-finished work in progress -- and helping local gardeners solve their horticultural problems in her Garden Detective column, which appears every Sunday in Newsday. Her Garden Detective column and blog have been awarded Press Club of Long Island Society of Professional Journalists Awards. Jessica lives in Glen Head, NY, with her husband John, daughters Justine and Julia, dogs Maddie and Miguel, and a whole bunch of perennials, vegetable plants and weeds. Ask a question Show More

July! It’s time to celebrate independence, but we gardeners are never free from the chores that keep our plants thriving. We don’t mind, though, because the rewards are every bit as good as that chargrilled hot dog, roasted marshmallow and fireworks display that make the month festive. Enjoy the party, and mind these chores and tips to keep the colors bursting all summer long.

1. If you’re aiming for a giant pumpkin, pick off all but one flower from each plant and fertilize every week.

2. Deadhead perennials, roses and annuals to encourage continued blooming.

3. Water your lawn in the morning to prevent disease, and remember: Less-frequent deep irrigation is better than a daily sprinkle.

4. Happy Fourth of July! It’s time to fertilize the lawn.

5. Fertilize flowering plants every 10 days, following package directions.

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6. Shear spring bloomers like creeping phlox and sweet alyssum now for improved blooming next year.

7. Cut back asters, sedum and chrysanthemums by one-third. Don’t worry; they’ll grow quickly and more lush.

8. Join the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge by sending a photo of yourself with your plants, along with your methods, to jessica.damiano@newsday.com.

9. Most plants require about 1 to 1 1⁄2 inches of water per week. Be sure to compensate for rain (or lack thereof).

10. Clean birdbaths and change the water frequently.

11. Fertilize tomatoes, eggplants and peppers as soon as they set fruit.

12. To prevent powdery mildew, thin crowded plants, water only in the morning and aim water at roots, not leaves.

13. For bigger tomatoes, regularly remove suckers — those tiny stems that grow between branch crotches.

14. Green beans: the more you pick them, the more they’ll make.

15. Shear hedges, such as yews, one last time.

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16. For the best flavor, harvest herbs midmorning, just after the dew has dried.

17. Check potted plants for water twice daily. They dry out more quickly than their garden counterparts.

18. Sow seeds of cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, radish and broccoli directly into the garden now for a fall crop.

19. Those near the shore should spray tree leaves with antidessicant now to help prevent salt and wind damage.

20. Mound soil up against squash and cucumber stems to protect against vine borers.

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21. Plant peas again for fall harvesting.

22. Give newly planted trees 1 1⁄2 inches of water per week, preferably from a drip irrigator.

23. For larger dahlia blooms, remove side shoots from main stems.

24. Harvest potatoes when foliage begins to die back.

25. Pick melons when the skin turns yellow and stems loosen.

26. Don’t allow zucchini to grow more than 5 to 6 inches long. Harvest often, or the plant will stop producing.

27. Pick off tomato hornworms by hand, and drown in a bucket of soapy water.

28. Keep on top of weeds.

29. Fertilize strawberries after harvesting.

30. Divide bearded irises and replant with the tops of their crowns exposed.

31. Cut flowers in the morning, and they’ll last longer in a vase, but clip them late in the day if you plan to dry them.