The page on the calendar has turned. It’s already July, which came in on a flood in Oklahoma. Today is gray, but I don’t mind. Gray skies bring cooler weather. July will be hot and humid soon so enjoy it while you can and get those July garden chores done.
It’s a completely different garden this year. Some plants have died from too much rain and Oklahoma’s clay soil. I thanked them for their service, ripped them out and moved on. Plants die. I’ve lost several things in this weather, including my tiny ‘Troll’ ginkgo. Yes, it’s sad, but the little guy just couldn’t handle the heat wave we had before the last rain. So, I’m replacing it with a purple fountain grass like ‘Fireworks’ until I decide on something more permanent. Grasses grow quickly and fill in bare spots. Thank goodness.
Earlier in spring, I moved my Hydrangea angustipetala ‘MonLongShou’ Golden Crane® to a new border with terrible drainage. I didn’t know how bad the drainage was until it started to suffer. By the time I figured out what was happening, it looked very, very sad. So, I returned it to its former spot. All of this moving may kill it, and I’ll have to try again. I’m telling you this because every gardener makes mistakes and has failures. It’s okay, if sometimes frustrating and expensive.
I thought I would share my July garden chores with you. They’re listed below.
Try tropical plants for summer. Tropicals are so happy with Oklahoma’s current hot and humid weather because these conditions replicate the plants’ native environment. If you have holes in the garden, consider plunking a tropical plant in the empty spot. No, they aren’t perennial, but anything that blooms abundantly, or struts an interesting leaf when the mercury hits 100°F isn’t going survive an Oklahoma winter. Consider tropicals your little black garden dresses for summer.
Some great tropical plants to try are:
- Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides. syn. Solenostemon scutellarioides). Make a place for those that can handle the sun including: ‘Henna,’ ‘Indian Summer,’ ‘Songbird,’ Colorblaze® KeystoneKopper, ‘ColorBlaze® Sedona, ‘Wasabi,’ ‘Religious Radish,’ ‘Big Red Judy,’ ‘Saturn.’ ‘Kingswood Torch’ and ‘Orange King.’ Remember, sun resistant types can also be grown in shade, but coloration will be different. The thicker the leaves, the better they perform in extreme sun and heat. For shade, choose one of the Wizard series, ‘Fishnet Stockings (can handle partial sun), ‘Black Dragon,’ or one of the excellent, large-leaf ‘Kong’ series. You can’t go wrong with Kong.
- Almost as large as the coleus group is the genus alternanthera. It’s a diverse clan including A. ficoidea ‘Red Threads,’ A. dentata ‘Purple Knight’ (which can be grown from seed,) ‘Little Ruby’ and ‘Brazilian Red.’ Then, there’s green and pink A. ficoidea ‘Partytime’ and ‘Raspberry Rum,’ a dark red and pink with larger leaves.
- Tradescantia bermudensis ‘Variegata’, variegated oyster plant, aka Moses in the cradle, is a great tropical accent plant especially if you choose one of the variegated ones. Note that the golden variegated one isn’t as sturdy as the ordinary one or the white and green variety.
- Some salvias are also tropical. Salvia elegens ‘Golden Delicious’ pineapple sage has been a huge hit here in recent summers. The regular pineapple sage is pretty too.
Shop for crapemyrtle shrubs and trees. You can plant crapemyrtles in full sun in this weather, and they will do fine as long as you remember to water them. If you forget, they will let you know. Why shop for them now? Because they are starting to come into bloom. Don’t just fall for a pretty flower though. Make sure the crapemyrtle you choose is the best one for its location. Before you buy, look online to see if your variety will grow too large for its space. Buy the right sized crapemyrtle, and you won’t need to perform surgery on it every spring.
Put out more Nolo Bait™ and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.) This will be my third application of Nolo Bait™. I normally only put it out twice, but the rain washed it off both times. As soon as this rainy spell is over, I’ll put out another application. Also, I have some Bt. spray for the Checkerspot Butterfly caterpillars. They’ve destroyed several of my black-eyed Susans. I don’t mind sharing some plants with them, but they are voracious this year. These are both organic controls only applicable to the particular pest. They won’t hurt other creatures including humans. By the way, I only put Bt. on the plants being hit the hardest. I don’t spray the whole garden because I don’t want to hurt other caterpillars like those of the Monarchs and other butterflies. Bt. also helps slow down the redbud leaffolders on The Rising Sun® redbud. For some reason, this cultivar is a leaffolder magnet. The tree was nearly destroyed in years past.
Click on the gallery below to see more photos of the garden. I walked around the outside to get some different angles this time.
Mulch. If you mulched with quick-decaying matter like shredded leaves or fine pine, you may need to add to it. We’ve had a lot of rain that has taken a toll on mulch that floats. The rain has been rushing in instead of falling gently. I don’t know about you, but not only is some of my mulch at the bottom of the hill, but the gravel from my paths is too. Also, when it isn’t raining, the weather is hot, muggy and buggy. In hot weather mulch decays faster. I’ll be adding some shredded leaves to my beds this week around the plants, especially anything new. It’s really the wrong time of year to plant new things, but the weather has been so rainy, I take chances.
Add shredded leaves to swampy borders. The new border next to the house has a section that is full of clay. Not only that, the border within the retaining wall drains into this bed. After the five to six inches from a few days ago, along with last night’s rain, I now have a swampy mess in the middle. I’ll work some shredded leaves into this swamp with the hope that earthworms will break up the nasty clay. I won’t plant anything there until next spring. I’ll probably add some chicken manure to it too.
Fertilize with an all-natural liquid fertilizer. The garden could use a mid-summer boost so I’m going to put a hose-end fertilizer sprayer on and spray organic liquid fertilizer all over the garden. It will smell like a lake for a couple of days, but the plants will be all the better this tonic. Make sure your organic fertilizer has fish emulsion and molasses (or some other natural binding agent), I like John’s Recipe from Lady Bug Brand a lot. I also like Jobe’s Organic All Purpose Fertilizer which is granular. You can just throw it down on the soil and cover with mulch. Don’t forget to fertilize your containers too. A lot of water runs through those containers so they need all the help they can get.
Deadhead blooming plants. Any plants that have finished blooming can be deadheaded now to encourage more bloom. I don’t deadhead my hydrangeas because I like to leave the blooms intact and watch them turn to a beautiful brown or dark pink. Later, in fall, I might cut some of them to bring inside. However, I vigilantly deadhead my roses, lilies, daylilies, daisies and echinaceas so that their energy goes back into the plant instead of into forming seed. Also, you might cut back your asters again. I only cut back my mums once, but my asters are crazy this year. I cut them back three times, and some still bloomed. I’ll cut them back again because I want fall flowers.
Continue weeding. Weeding is ever constant, but it gives me time to let my mind float while I still get something accomplished. As I weed, I ponder all of the blessings in my life. Blessings like all of you who read this blog.
Okay, that’s all of the July garden chores I can think of. Guess I’ll go have a glass of iced tea and watch the sun set–if I can find it in all of these clouds.