July 2003

Ground rules and tools for gardening in month of July

Victoria County Master Gardener

Do you think your gardening chores are almost over when the heat of July hits? Not in our area, where we are blessed with almost year-round opportunities to garden. Here are a few gardening ground rules for our part of the state:

Although most people think gardening is over, now is the time to start your first seeds of tomatoes, peppers and okra for your fall garden, as well as place your orders for bulbs, seeds and plants for fall planting.

Increase lawn-watering time and depth now, soaking 6 inches deep to reduce stress caused by heat. Raise your mower height during hot dry weather; 2-3 inches for St. Augustine, 1-2 inches for Bermuda and Zoysia.

Pecan trees need supplemental watering to ensure kernel development this month and next. Producing pecans need about 2 inches of rain or equivalent watering per week in July and August.

Prepare for fall vegetables in the first half of the month. Treat garden Bermuda grass infestations with a glyphosate herbicide, then till and fertilize at least two weeks before planting.

If you have sandy soil, nematodes may be a problem, and dry tilling your garden several times in the summer will help to control nematodes.

Plant Mexican marigold mint and Mexican bush sage in the herb garden or in a border now for beautiful fall color.

Seeds of zinnia, cosmos, marigold, periwinkle, portulaca and sunflower can be planted now. The herb basil also can be planted.

Plants that are put in the ground now should be protected with some afternoon shade.

Start flats of cool-season plants in the third week of July by planting seeds. These include broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, Brussels sprouts and other cool-season crops.

You can still plant gourds of all varieties and expect to harvest nice gourds in the fall. Pumpkins can be planted now also.

Protect whatever you grow with generous additions of compost and mulch.

Keep your garden clean. Remove diseased or spent plants. Remove undesirable seed heads or pods. Keeping your flowers "deadheaded" will inspire many of them to bloom again.

Collect desirable garden and flower seeds now and save them for next year.

Clean and sharpen your tools. Fall gardens are just around the corner.

Last, but not least, save time to investigate and register for the new master gardener training classes to be held each Thursday, 1:30-5 p.m. from Aug. 14 through Dec. 4. Contact the Victoria County Extension Office at 361-575-4581 for more information.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association.

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