July: To Do

If you print out this page, you should get little boxes where the bullets are, making this a check list.

Oh, and if you really think that I actually do all of these things, you are terribly confused. Sometimes I even (gasp) do things that aren't on this list.

I know this list is accurate for Sunset Zone 14, specifically, and I think it is good for all of USDA Zone 9. In addition, it is probably pretty accurate for USDA Zones 8-11, maybe even 7.

What is July like? Well, for me, July is usually like the dessicating blast from a furnace. It can be so hot for so long that I wilt along with the plants. By about July 15th, I've forgotten that rain exists. And I try to be strong because July is only a warm up for August.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Water new plants deeply. Water early or late in the day.
  • Deep water trees. If you haven't watered your mature trees they may be suffering from drought stress. Deep water once per week or two (the hot climates should stick to once per week). Water established drought tolerant trees once per month.
  • Azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, and hydrangeas need lots of water to keep their shallow roots from drying out.
  • Wait until October, or at least September, to plant shrubs and trees. It is too hot, and so, too stressful for large plants to take transplanting right now.
  • Prune summer blooming shrubs and vines (eg wisteria) when they finish flowering, removing poorly placed growth and stems growing at awkward angles.
  • Arrange vine runners while they are still short enough to work with. Nipping back longer runners will stop end growth and encourage side shoots which will bear more leaves and flowers.
  • Trim hedges. Clip beech, holly, hornbeam, and yew hedges towards the end of the month.
  • Transplant palms while conditions are dry enough to discourage root rot.
  • Layer shrubs.
  • Take cuttings from azaleas, bougainvillea, camellias, gardenias, hydrangeas, jasmine, lilacs, and mock orange.
  • Watch for pests and signs of disease.


  • Order roses for fall planting.
    Actually, I don't recommend this. It has been my experience that it is still way too hot in the fall here to plant roses. I strongly suggest that you wait until January and plant bareroot roses. That is when I do it, and it has been very successful. The author of this "to do item" lives in Maine where they have winter (but no summer ;-). Her point of view does not include (I think) actual experience in rose gardening in the desert.
  • Fertilize roses to encourage fall blooming.
  • Water deeply during dry weather.
  • Cut off any suckers that come up from below the graft union.
  • Watch for pests and signs of disease.
    • This year has been a terrible one for me wrt rust. My poor roses have be defoliated (by me) over and over. Robert is spraying them with a fungicide every 10 days. And still we have rust.
    • Spider mites: mottled leaves and fine webs indicate the presence of spider mites. Spray undersides of leaves with insecticidal soap, lightweight summer (horitcultural) oil, or a stronger miticide. To discourage mites, keep foliage clean by rinsing both sides with water.
    • Watch for signs of mildew and aphids on roses and spray promptly if they are found. (I don't reach for the chemicals first thing. With mildew, I cut off the affected area. If that doesn't do the trick, I will spray with an antifungal specially for mildew on roses. As for the aphids, I try the hose first, insecticidal soap second, and then something stronger if the first two don't work.)
    • Keep fallen leaves cleaned up to prevent black spot.
      I cannot recommend this enough. Another option is to make sure you cover any fallen leaves with at least 4 inches of mulch, but I haven't quite figured this one out. I mean, after you put down your mulch, more leave fall. Does that mean you put down 4 more inches? I don't think so. So it seems to me that you are going to have to pick up leaves anyway. Finally, if you do use the mulch, you must remove it and not dig it into the ground at the end of the year. If you don't remove it, you will still have the fungus stuff in and around your roses next year.

Lawns and Ground Covers

  • Water grasses and ground covers when necessary.
    It gets so hot here, and it is dry. Some people water their lawns twice a day when the temperatures hover at 100 F (38 C). So necessary is going to have different meanings depending on your environment.
    Uh, before anyone comes down on me for not conserving water, I want to point out that I do not have a lawn. Also, this year, we have plenty of water. Next year, if we don't have plenty of water, people who want to water twice a day may pay a much higher rate for it or they may choose to let the lawn die. Either way, residential use still will only account for 15% of water use in California. If we are serious about conserving water in this state, we will have to change the manner in which we do business.
  • When the grass is about a third taller than recommended height, mow lawn at high mower setting.
    • bluegrass - mow when the grass is 3 to 4 inches tall, with mower set at 2 to 3 inches.
    • Bermuda grass - cut when it is not quite 2 inches with the mower set at 1 inch.
  • Take cuttings of ground covers to start new plants.


  • Weed, water, and fertilize as necessary.
  • Fertilize heavy-feeding perennials such as delphinums, Shasta daisy, and chrysanthemums.
  • Hoe beds and borders regularly to keep down weeds.
    See note under annuals on my opinion about hoing vs. hand weeding.
  • Deadhead faded flowers unless you want plants to self-sow.
  • Cut back ragged-looking plants and brown ferns to stimulate new growth.
  • Layer carnations.
  • Plant colchicums, to flower in autumn, when they become available.
  • Sow seeds of columbines, dianthus, hollyhocks, and primroses to bloom next year.
  • To add bright color to the fall garden, plant garden chrysanthemums now. If plants haven't formed flower buds yet, pinch growing tips to keep plants compact.
  • Stake floppy plants. Drive stake at least 1 foot into the ground.
  • Disbud mums if you want larger flowers later.
    When you disbud, you remove the side buds from a spray of flowers leaving the central bud. I don't do this. I would rather have lots and lots of flower.
  • Dig, divide, and replant primroses and violas when they finish blooming.
  • Keep beds and borders well mulched through hottest part of summer.
  • Transplant biennials and perennial seedlings to a nursery bed.
  • Bougainvillea blooms best if kept on the dry side, so allow the top several inches of soil to dry out between waterings.
  • To get ready for fall plantings, take cuttings of dianthus, geraniums, scabiosa, Shasta daisies, verbena, and other herbacious perennials. Dip them in rooting hormone and them plant them in a mixture of 1 part perlite and 1 part peat moss.
  • Sow seeds of campanula, columbine, coreopsis, delphinum, forget-me-not, foxglove, rudbeckia, and purple coneflower in 1 part perlite and 1 part peat moss.
  • Watch for pests and signs of disease.
  • If geraniums, nicotiana, penstemons, and petunias appear healthy but have no flowers, budworms are probably eating the buds before the flower opens. Look for holes in buds and black droppings. Spray every 7 to 10 days with Bacillus thuringiensis (BT).


  • Weed and water bulbs as needed.
  • Deadhead summer bulbs as they finish blooming. Dahlias will rebloom if you deadhead.
  • Divide and replant border (flag) irises, Easter lilies, and daylilies.
  • If you have spring bulbs remaining in your garden, dig them up when the foliage has died and store them to replant. Narcissus bulbs can be left undisturbed for a few years, but tulips perform better in the South/West when they are dug and replanted every year.
  • Plant autumn crocuses.
  • Continue to plant dahlias and gladiolas for autumn flowers.
  • Order bulb catalogues and bulbs for autumn delivery.
  • Stake floppy plants. Drive stake at least 1 foot into the ground.
  • Watch for pests and signs of disease.


  • Set out new plants in bare spaces. Nurseries should have ageratum, celosia, dahlias, marigolds, petunias, portulaca, salvia, sweet alyssum, and zinnia right now. They will all bloom in to Autumn.
  • Water as needed.
  • Feed with a high-nitrogen fertilizer (some sources recommend a liquid fertilizer). Feeding annuals every time you dead head (like every 2 weeks) helps to keep those annuals blooming.
  • Hoe beds and borders regularly to keep down weeds.
    I hand weed. Robert and I have had many, many disagreements about this. I feel that I have have much more control hand weeding. In addition, in the long run, I believe it is more time effective to hand weed.
    My reasons are that with hand weeding I can pull up a weed but easily see a seedling that I want to keep, with hand weeding, I pull up the roots as well as the top of the plant, and if I need to remove underground runners, I am easily able to locate them. OTOH, the first seasons of weeding with this method is arduous and takes a very long time. You have to weed often. If you let it go, the weeds can easily get ahead of you.
    I do not try to weed my whole yard at once. I have divided the front yard and the backyard into sections, and I weed one section every week. I have 6 sections in the front yard, and 6 sections in the back, so that every 6 weeks I have weeded the whole yard.
  • Deadhead faded flowers or shear back plant promptly. This will help keep the garden clean. Marigolds and petunias will rebloom if you deadhead.
  • Mulch beds and borders through the hottest part of summer.
  • Cut back or replace worn-out plants.
  • Stake floppy plants. Drive stake at least 1 foot into the ground.
  • Plant seeds of cosmos, marigolds, salvia, spider lilies, verbena, zinnias, and other fast growing annuals for fall flowers. Plant seeds of Iceland poppies, pansies, and snapdragons for flowers in late winter and early spring.
  • Take cuttings from impatiens and begonia and root them to have new plants to bloom in the fall.
  • Watch for pests and signs of disease.

Container Gardens

  • Harvest vegetables and herbs, cut flowers from container gardens.
  • Weed and fertilize, but be careful not to overfeed, container plants regularly.
  • Water as needed. It might be necessary to water 2x/day during HOT weather. The soil in a pot should feel slightly damp to your finger. If you wait until the plants start to wilt, it is too late. This may mean watering twice a day.
  • Deadhead faded flowers.
  • Watch for pests and signs of disease.

Kitchen Garden: Vegetables and Herbs

  • Keep up on harvest.
  • Lift shallots if they have finished growing, and leave them on the surface for a few days to dry off.
  • Sow cool-season crops herb indoors for fall planting (indoors or out): basil (grown indoors), chervil, parsley.
  • Sow more vegetables - including broccoli, bush beans, cauliflower, green onions, peas, spinach (below 5000 feet, plat winter squash among spinach; it will cover when you harvest the spinach), lamb's lettuce, landcress, winter purslane, and (in cold areas) spring cabbage.
  • Sow more string beans. (I don't grow these.)
  • Make successional sowings of crops like beets, carrots, lettuces, and turnips. (I don't grow these.)
  • Plant out new tomatoes.
  • Plant out late cauliflowers, winter cabbages, and leeks.
  • Continue to thin vegetables sown earlier, before they become large enough to compete with each other.
  • Pinch out the growing tips of runner beans when they reach the top of their support.
  • Water tomatoes and peppers carefully. Form water basins by mounding the dirt 3 inches high in a circle around the plant and fill the basins to overflow about once per week. Do not sprinkle plants or get the foliage wet.
  • Harvest herbs regularly. Don't let the leaves become old.
    • leaves: almost all herbs
    • leaves for dyeing: dyer's greenweed, weld, woad
    • flowers for drying: anise hyssop, chamomile, cotton lavender, dyer's chamomile, French marigold, German chamomile, hyssop, lavender, roses, safflower, scented pelargonium.
    • flowers for dyeing: agrimony, coreopsis, dyer's chamomile, safflower, weld
    • roots: madder (in its third year), orris
    • seeds: nasturtium (unripe - remember that nasturtiums seeds are very poisonous.)
    • fruit: wild strawberry
  • Deadhead to encourage more flowers on flowering herbs.
  • Cut back bushy herbs.
  • Continue to pinch out flowering stems of herbs for the leaf harvest. See June's To Do list for specific plants.
  • Propagate herbs.
    • softwood: artemisia, catmint, curry plant, French tarragon, honeysuckle, lemon grass, myrtle, New Jersey tea plants, pinks, rosemary, rue, scented pelargonium, thyme, wall germander
    • softwood with heel: bay, cotton lavender (santolina), lavender
    • semi-ripe: artemisia, bay, broom (argh! Please, don't plant broom in rural western USA. It is too invasive.), curry plant, hyssop, lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary, rue, sage, santolina, scented pelargonium, thyme, wall germander, winter savory.
    • layer: myrtle, pinks
    • divide: orris root (every three years)
  • Pot up new sage and thyme plants from layered stems.
  • Water as needed. Water vulnerable crops before they show signs of stress.
  • Hoe regularly to keep down weeds.
  • Give plants that need a boost a dressing dose of quick-acting high-nitrogen fertilizer, but if using a powder or granules, be sure to water in thoroughly.
  • Be sure garden is well mulched for hottest part of summer.
  • Pull spent crops
  • Turn compost pile.
  • Check stakes and supports on tall plants and climbing plants.
  • Watch for pests and signs of disease.
    • Caterpillars can devastate a cabbage crop if undetected.
    • Inspect tomato plants for chewed leaves and black droppings, then hunt through foliage and handpick and destroy tomato hornworms. If hornworms are still small, you can control them by spraying with BT (bacillus thuringiensis), but it's less effective against large worms.


  • Order stock for fall planting.
    Like the roses, I plant fruit trees in the winter. I do not have as much experience with fruit as I do with roses. Also, see note under trees and shrubs about planting large plants this time of year.
  • Support limbs of apple, peach, pear, and plum trees that are overladen and/or sagging with fruit.
  • Harvest ripe fruit.
  • Thin fruit (like apples) on heavy-bearing trees.
    • Plums - thin to 2 inches apart
    • Apples, nectarines, and peaches to no closer than 4 inches apart.
  • Deep water trees. If you haven't watered your mature trees they may be suffering from drought stress. Deep water once per week or two (the hot climates should stick to once per week). Water established drought tolerant trees once per month.
  • Pick up dropped fruit daily.
  • Feed citrus. Citrus is a heavy consumer of nitrogen and needs phosphoric acid to set flowers. If the foliage is yellow with green veins, the soil is iron deficient. Add iron chelate. I use Ironite (brandname).
  • Cut brambles back to ground after harvest.
    You might have done this last month.
  • Prune citrus.
  • Prune suckers around base of trees.
  • Summer prune cordon and espalier apples.
    A cordon is basically a espalier.
  • Tidy up summer-flowering strawberries that have finished fruiting. Cut off old leaves and unwanted runners, remove straw, and control weeds.
  • Watch for pests and signs of disease.

House, greenhouse, or conservatory plants

  • Feed pots regularly both those indoors and those enjoying the season outdoors.
  • Potted cyclmens, fresias, oxalis, and tritoma that have been resting can be started growing again to bloom indoors in autumn and winter.
  • Start seeds for indoor blooms of snapdragons for late autumn, wax begonias and sweet peas in winter, kalanchoes in late winter, and calceolaria for next spring.
  • Take leaf and semi-ripe cuttings like chrysanthemums for flowers next fall.
  • Feed chrysanthemums regularly.
  • Remove sideshoots and yellowing leaves from cordon tomatoes regularly.
  • Keep a vigilant watch for pests and diseases. Spray promptly or try a biological control for greenhouse pests.
  • Pot up and pot on seedlings pot-plants as it becomes necessary.
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