Geraniums on the verandah.
Garden Chores for July
In This Issue
It’s summer and the delicate flowers from spring have given way to the bold and vivid blossoms of the season. Dahlias are no shrinking violets. Cone flowers, daisies, gladiolus, sunflowers, lilies and daylilies follow suit with their flashy flowers and myriad of vivid colours.
Veggie gardens transition this month. Lettuce, spinach, radish and other cool crops have passed their peak, but cucumbers, beans, broccoli, tomatoes and carrots are in full swing.
I admit it is difficult to harvest everything at their peak.
It’s surprising how quickly plants mature from being perfect to being bitter or tough in a couple of days. It makes visiting the veggie patch a daily necessity, and way more satisfying.
Growing food used to be just for fun, but now it’s essential if you want to eat fresh veggies without taking out a mortgage.
Having a veggie garden was considered more work than it was worth, oh – how times have changed. Now people are growing food where no gardens exist.
Pots of veggies are gracing balconies, verandahs, patios – anywhere where there’s space and light.
The rewards of growing anything is empowering,
from home-grown veggies to flowers that bring the butterflies and bees.
Enjoy the bodacious blossoms and bursting bounty while you can as the days are getting shorter and autumn is waving at us in the distance. I know … I’m no fun.
In the meantime, have fun in the sun!
July PLANT COMBO
This sunny border is a colourful combination that will attract butterflies, bees and other pollinators. At the rear is tall red bee balm (#1- Monarda). Beside it is #2, a yellow Asiatic lily. At it's feet is a ladies mantle (#3 Alchemilla mollis). Number four is an elegant ornamental grass is switch grass (Panicum virgatum). The blue flowers #5, belong to English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). The white flowers of #6 are pearly everlastings (Anaphalis margaritacea) and #7 is a white lily. All these plants prefer a good draining soil that isn't too wet.
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STAGE 1 LAWN WATERING ALLOWED:
Even-numbered addresses on Saturdays
Odd-numbered addresses on Sundays
Automatic watering: 5 am – 7 am
Manual watering: 6 am – 9 am
Watering trees, shrubs and flowers is permitted any day from 5 am to 9 am if using a sprinkler, or any time if hand watering or using drip irrigation. All hoses must have an automatic shut-off device.
Edible plants (veggies, fruits and herbs) are exempt from regulations.
Special permits are available that allow more frequent watering of newly planted lawns. Contact your local municipality for more information. For Metro Vancouver click here.
The BC Fuchsia and Begonia Society promotes fuchsias, begonias, Pelargoniums (geraniums), African violets, streptocarpus, gloxinias, coleus, ferns and other shade-loving plants. The society meets at 7pm, 2nd Wednesday each month at St. Timothy's Church Hall, 4550 Kitchener Street. We offer knowledgeable speakers, plant displays, plant sales, refreshments and friendship.Join our plant growing enthusiasts. Click on Fuchsias & Begonias to learn more. Email email@example.com to attend a meeting.
July Garden Stars
July Garden Chores
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First things first: Take the time to have a wander around the garden. They’ll be some good things, and some bad – no doubt. Water thirsty plants asap and take note of what needs to be done. It’s a good idea to take photos of your successes, pretty flowers and such as it helps with planning the garden for next year. For more click on Garden Inspections
Water: Don’t let wilted plants suffer as the longer they suffer, the weaker they become and more prone to malnutrition, diseases and insects. Give them a good long drink so you don’t have to water them so often.
Trees: Water your trees during the summer! Without adequate water they are prone to insects, diseases, dying back and death. Give them a good long soak. Put the hose on gently for an hour along the tree’s dripline (where the canopy ends) not against the trunk as there are no feeder roots there.
Street Trees: Don't forget to water any street trees that the city planted on and around your property.
Collect Water: Rain barrels are a great idea, especially when rain water is directed from the house gutters to a downspout. Instead of water going down the drains, collect water in a bucket while you shower. Use the dirty dishwater by washing the dishes in a tub in the sink, then toss it onto the garden.
Hedges: Don’t wait until autumn to trim hedges as their subsequent new growth will be too tender for the upcoming cold weather. In the South Coast of BC, Zone 8, trim now until the beginning of September at the latest. If you live further north, the end of July is suitable.
Bedding Plants/Annuals: When petunias, lobelias, impatiens and other annuals have petered-out, cut them back to revive and to prolong their life. Grab plants by the ends of their stems then use scissors to cut above or under your fist. Do this before they go to seed. Follow them up with a drink and some organic plant food to speed up their recovery.
Remedial Staking: Support flopping stems and flowers with bamboo stakes, dollar store trellises and such.
Planters: Keep plants well-watered as they dry out quickly during the summer. Yellow and weak growth are signs of hunger, so feed with a liquid fertilizer for a quick feed then supplement with a slow release granular fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Follow up by removing spent flowers and plants.
Take Cuttings: Duplicate your favourite trees, shrubs and vines by taking semi-hardwood cuttings now. Select partially mature stems that snap when bent. For more click on Taking Cuttings
Weed. Take the time to pull them out for instant gratification. Moisten the soil first to help ease them out of the ground. If you want to use a herbicide, select an organic one as they are just as effective a non-organic options. Be careful with herbicides as they kill all plants, not just weeds. Don’t spray on a windy day and protect nearby plants with cardboard. Repeat applications are necessary, reapply every 7 days.
Coleus, Dusty Miller and Basil: To prolong their life and to create a bushier plant, pinch off their flower buds and flowers.
Compost: Keep on turning the pile after adding veggie scraps then follow up with a layer of dried foliage or torn newspaper. Add water if the pile is dry and strips of torn newspaper if it’s too wet. Don’t add meat or fat, cooked or processed food including rice or bread. Rinse out any un-cooked eggshells as this creates a foul odor, entices rodents and screws up the compost. For more on composting click on Composting.
Divide Perennials: Overgrown daylilies, irises and other perennials bear fewer and smaller flowers. New growth only develops at the perimeter of the plant, leaving a bare centre. After digging them up, discard the unproductive centre. Cut up the remaining roots that have foliage and replant or pot up to give away.
Peony measles & Hellebore leaf spot: Diseased leaves have brown blotches and dead parts. To help reduce the spread of diseases, remove and discard infected leaves asap, and don’t add them to the compost bin. Click here for more on Peony measles.
Butterflies, Bees, Birds & Pollinators: All living creatures need water to live so place numerous shallow dishes full of water around the garden. I also place a water dish out for dogs that are taking their owners for a walk. It’s a tough job.
Watering the Garden in Summer
In Metro Vancouver, water restrictions are different for lawns and gardens. It’s only lawns that are restricted to one day a week. Watering trees, shrubs and flowers is permitted any day from 5 am to 9 am if using a sprinkler, or any time if hand watering or using drip irrigation. All hoses must have an automatic shut-off device. Edible plants are exempt from regulations.
Put sprinklers on a timer as it makes life so much easier. Just attach it to an outdoor faucet and hook up a hose with a sprinkler attached.
To retain soil moisture, after weeding and watering, add 3 inches of organic mulch on top of the soil and around plants. Mulch also insulates the soil and stops weeds.
Trees and shrubs need water too! Water the entire perimeter of the plants’ canopy (dripline). Not sure if it’s enough? Dig down and see how far the water has gone. The deeper the better as you won’t have to water as often. Shallow watering promotes shallow roots that are unable to handle environmental stresses including drought and heat.
Select an area where the soil drains freely, in full sun, and in a protected location preferably against the house, a fence or other structure winter. Plant seed potatoes for Christmas harvest. Sow seeds of winter hardy plants: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cilantro, kohlrabi, kale and cabbage. Another option is to visit your local plant nursery for starter plants.
Protect plants from insects with a cloche covered with floating row covers that will also keep them a tad warmer. In fall, add a layer of straw to insulate the soil from the cold. For more on Winter Veggie Gardening, click here. Check out West Coast Seeds for handy information. For more on cloches, click here.
In the Veggie Garden
Daily visits to the veggie garden are essential. Harvest daily, weed often, water when needed and feed plants if they are yellow and weak. Use kelp, fish and other organic fertilizers. If weeds and frequent watering is an issue use straw as a mulch between plants. Torn up newspapers are also effective.
New Spuds: Harvest new baby potatoes when they produce flowers. Either pull out a few spuds or dig up the entire plant and harvest them all. To learn more about growing potatoes click more.
Harvest: Daily harvesting ensures fresh produce picked at their prime. Huge zucchinis may look impressive, but smaller ones are much tastier. To learn more about when to harvest crops click on more.
Here's some more information on veggie gardening:
Growing Food - Crop Rotation, Succession & Companion Planting - Harvesting - Growing Potatoes
It’s not looking good for the flowering currant that sits at the corner of our property. It’s dying. Its leaves have turned brown, and all its stems have died back. It looks awful and I am sad about it. My poor baby.
The symptoms indicate it has root rot. The speed of its decline, the dieback and wilting brown leaves are sure signs. It’s a nasty fungus that favours certain plants grown in wet, clay soils. Flowering currants (Ribes) are one of those plants.
I must admit the plant hasn’t had it easy ever since a neighbouring large overhead ornamental cherry tree was removed. To add insult to injury, it suffered through the heat dome in 2021 followed by the atmospheric river of the same year. I did notice that it looked a bit poorly this spring. It was wilting but I thought that was because we hadn’t had rain for a while, so I watered it. That was the wrong thing to do. I should have checked the soil for wetness first, but hey, it didn’t even occur to me that it was succumbing to root rot. There’s not much I can do to revive the poor thing, as there is no cure. Drats.
Sadly, I cannot replace it with another flowering currant as the soil is now contaminated with the Phytophthora fungus. I also can’t replace with other susceptible plants which include maples (Acer), horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), aucubas, boxwoods (Buxus), California lilacs (Ceanothus), false cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, hollies (Ilex), lavenders (Lavandula), apple trees (Malus), cherries including ornamental flowering ones (Prunus), rhododendrons, azaleas, currants & gooseberries (Rubus idaeus), mountain ashes (Sorbus), yews (Taxus - very susceptible) and viburnums.
To plant another flowering currant in the same place, I would have to remove all the contaminated soil and replace with fresh, but I'd rather play it safe and plant something else.
Trees that Drip Sticky stuff
The curse of overhead trees dripping a sticky substance is not actually from the tree, but from the aphids feasting on it. As the aphids suck out the tree’s juices, they excrete a sticky and smelly substance called honeydew. This sweet gummy stuff attracts ants, which ‘farm’ or ‘milk’ the aphids for their honeydew by stroking the aphid’s abdomen.
The honeydew also attracts a fungus called Black Sooty Mould. It looks like the name implies - black soot - and it covers the leaves. It doesn’t cause too much harm to the plant other than blocking out the sunlight. It’s the aphids that are the problem. To learn more about susceptible trees and what to do about it, click here.
Potato & Tomato Blights
Humid, warm weather brings out late blight (Phytophthora infestans) in potatoes and tomatoes. It takes about 10 hours for the disease to become active when conditions are 15° – 25° (60° - 78°F) and the humidity reaches 90%. It is a rapidly spreading disease that first appears as brown irregular spots on the foliage. Infected plants soon collapse, turn brown and shrivel. Potatoes tubers and tomato fruit also become infected. There’s no cure, so harvest as much as you can, then destroy the plants and remove all plant parts from the soil. Don’t plant any tomatoes or potatoes in that same spot preferably for at least four years.
Japanese Beetles: Potatoes, beans and apple trees are a few of the plants that are susceptible to this common plant pest. Symptoms include holes in foliage with only the veins remaining. To learn more click on Japanese Beetle
Pruning in July is an effective way to control growth while encouraging flowers and fruit on trees and vines. Unlike winter pruning that encourages growth, pruning in the summer slows plants down. Always water plants after pruning and don’t prune when plants are wilting due to lack of water.
Pruning Trees & Fruit Trees: Remove dead branches, suckers, watersprouts, crossing branches, weak and old stems. It's best to prune ornamental cherries now, not winter, to prevent the spread of bacterial canker
Pruning Shrubs: Cut back shrubs after flowering, especially if they are spindly. Remove no more than ¼ of overall growth. Remove dead, old, unproductive stems, spindly ones, and branches that grow towards the plant’s center.
Pruning Apples: To create more fruit, cut back all side shoots to a few buds. The remaining shoot will revert to fruiting spur in a couple of years.
Pruning Grapes: Cut back stems keeping only a few clusters per branch. You’ll have fewer grapes, but they will be bigger and healthier. For more click on Pruning Grapes
For more on pruning click on Pruning Basics 101 - Pruning Tools - Pruning Clematis - Pruning Roses -
Now’s the time to tame plants to encourage fruit ripening, bigger and tastier tomatoes. They need a little bit of pruning, support as they grow and consistent watering.
Control growth: Removing suckers that emerge from stem axils (where the leaves join the stem) when they are small and haven’t produced any fruit.
Faster Ripening: Cut back stems just above a fruit cluster. Remove any leaves that are shading the fruit. Mix 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts to a gallon of water and apply to the soil.
No fruit, few fruit? Too much nitrogen and/or not enough sun are the usual culprits. To promote flowers, apply a high phosphorous fertilizer (high middle number (6-8-6).
Aphids? Too much nitrogen promotes lush, tender growth. Squish them while hosing them off. Look for lady bugs as they may be already killing them for you.
Wilting for no reason, brown or black blotches and discoloured leaves may indicate a disease. Keep water off the foliage. Remove and discard infected leaves asap. Remove any leaves that touch the ground.
Water in the morning and keep water off the leaves especially before nightfall.
Here's some links you might find helpful.
Tomato Tips - Taming Tomatoes - Speeding up Tomato Harvest -Tomato Troubles - Saving Tomato Seeds - The Life of Tomato Seedlings to Plants
Onions, Garlic, Shallots
To encourage big fat bulbs, snip off flowers as they appear (make them into pesto or add to stir fries). Stop watering when their leaves begin to yellow. Harvest when their leaves brown. Cure them in a shaded, dry, and cool place, away from full sun. This tightens the outer layers, which protects the bulb. Once cured, store in a dry, cool and dark location.
Common Name: Japanese spirea, Japanese meadowsweet
Botanical Name: Spiraea japonica
Form: round to vase shaped
Plant Type: deciduous shrub
Mature Size: 4 - 6 ft x 5 - 7 ft
Origin: China, Japan
Hardiness Zone: 3 to 8
Foliage: up to 3” long, oval, serrated, fall and spring colours, green in summer
Flowers: flat topped clusters (corymbs) of tiny pink flowers June with repeat blooms
Fruit: small seeds held in capsules
Exposure: sun, light shade
Soil: soil tolerant, prefers moist loam
Uses: massing, accent, rock gardens, shrub border, hedge, foundation plantings, containers, small gardens, formal, informal, cottage, cut flowers
Attracts: butterflies, bees
Maintenance: low, easy care, durable
Tolerates: clay soil, air pollution, deer, erosion
Invasive Tendencies: Eastern USA
Propagation: potential to self seed, may sucker
Pruning: remove spent flowers, prune late winter, early spring
Problems: no serious issues
Japanese spireas are little shrubs known for their flat pink flower clusters. They are a common shrub and a favourite of many gardeners because they are a nice size, reliable bloomers, are easy care and love the sun. Japanese spireas cultivars and hybrids are often used around the foundation of houses as they don’t get obnoxious.
Note that the species Japanese spireas, also referred to as Japanese meadowsweet, send out suckers, which maybe problematic if there isn't adequate space. They are considered an invasive species in Eastern US. Cultivated varieties and hybrids are not as prone to suckering.
Pollinators, especially butterflies and bees, love to rest on their flat flowers while they sip nectar and gather pollen. The initial flowering period starts in June and continues for about a month depending on the weather. Sporadic flowers occur during the summer, however to encourage lots of new flowers, remove spent flowers asap.
Japanese spireas are dense shrubs with many stems. Each stem produces a flower on new growth so if there are many stems there are many flowers, but they will be small. To increase the size of the blossom clusters, thin spireas in late winter or early spring. Remove all crossing, weak and old stems.
Plant breeders have surpassed themselves when it comes to creating cultivars that are not only grown for their flowers, but for their foliage. Proven Winner’s Double Play Big Bang one of numerous stellar Japanese spirea cultivars. The Double Play moniker denotes that there is more to this cultivar than the species. The flower clusters are bigger, pinker, with orangey-red spring foliage that matures to a chartreuse. The bright pink flowers are accentuated by the contrasting yellow-green foliage. In autumn, the leaves changes colour once again to a brick red. It grows 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm) tall and wide.
Anthony Waterer spirea (Spiraea X bumulda 'Anthony Waterer') has been around since the late 1800’s. It’s popularity is due to it’s compact and dense growth. It’s the perfect size for urban gardens as it grows from 2-3ft tall and 3-4ft wide. Six-inch flattened flower clusters (corymbs) bear deep carmine red flowers. New foliage is red with a purple tinge, which ages to a bluish-green in summer then turns a brick red in autumn.
Spiraea japonica ‘Goldflame’ formerly S. x bumalda 'Goldflame', bears rose-pink flowers on arching stems. Reblooms after deadheading. It grows 2 to 3ft tall and wide. Bronze-red leaves emerge in spring, mature to green then turn yellowish copper in autumn. It’s more sprawling with irregular growth compared to other cultivars and hybrids.
There are many spirea cultivars available so do your research, read the labels and include at least one of these reliable, low care pretty shrub in your garden.
THE GARDEN WEBSITE INDEX
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for the tropical Gardener
While working in Florida as horticultural consultant, it became apparent that there was a need for a book on tropical shrubs. There are so many wonderful shrubs to choose from, so I wrote a reference book to make the selections easier. Ornamental Tropical Shrubs includes pictures in full colour and information about the plants in point form. So if you live in the tropics and subtropics and need a reference book on tropical shrubs, or you just want to have a look-see click here.
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