For gardeners in July, water is the thing. If you have a drip system, visit your garden and check in with each plant. Make sure all emitters are free of dirt and debris and that water can flow freely. Adjust water timers so plants are not watered at night; many plants are susceptible to mold and fungus, and a long, damp night can encourage disease. Better to water in the early morning, when the rising sun will dry the leaves, and the roots will be hydrated for the heat of the day.
Citrus trees, stone fruit and flowering trees will appreciate a deep watering every week or two through the hottest months, but remember to cut back on water before harvest to intensify the flavor of stone fruits, and avoid peaches and nectarines that are watery and tasteless.
Check hanging baskets and potted plants under eaves. Are they getting enough water to look their best? The July sun can be pretty brutal. Occasionally soak your potted and hanging plants to completely hydrate, especially if water seems to run off quickly when you water, and the soil is dry if you prod a few inches down. Move suffering potted plants to cooler locations until temperatures ease.
Bougainvillea is an exception to the rule. Its flashy beauty does better when kept on the dry side, so do not water them until the soil is dry several inches down.
If you have dahlias in your garden, trim them back as the first flush blooms. They have worked hard. Deep water and fertilize to encourage another bloom.
If you planted zucchini, winter squash, beans or cucumbers early, you can plant them again in July. Planting another hill of zucchini or other summer squash, or cucumbers and early melons can extend your season after your original spring planting is spent. Pull out the used-up plants. Work in some new compost, water well and think about what you want to plant there next.
For fall gardeners, your choices to plant from seed are many; bush beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, green onions, peas, spinach, and turnips. Winter squash and winter greens can also be planted. Kale, basil, spinach, bulb fennel, well-watered radishes, lettuce and mesclun mixes can also be sown now. Just water regularly and never allow new seedlings to dry out.
Remember when you plant seeds that the beginning is the most important. After germination, if that fragile little seedling dries out just once, it will not grow.
If you notice that your plants start to lose their vibrant green and look a little yellow around the gills, they are trying to tell you they have used up all the energy in the soil. Following the instructions on your jug of fish emulsion, or the labels on other amendments or fertilizers can help green them up and help them produce abundant crops. When your crop is harvested and the bed is empty, replenish with compost and other organic matter or plant a cover crop to furnish the nutrients your next plants will need.
Remember your garden hygiene. Keep fallen fruit and overripe vegetables picked up off the ground to avoid attracting rodents, raccoons, skunks and other pests to the garden. Rake plant material up and add to your compost pile.
After you harvest your blackberries, raspberries or ollalieberries,cut this year's spent canes all the way to the ground to refresh your plants for next year, and tie up the new canes as they begin to grow.
You can start new perennial plants from cuttings now. Choose 5-inch long shoots of fresh growth with no flowers or buds of plants including dianthus, Shasta daisies, geraniums, salvias, verbenas and many other herbaceous perennials. Choose a rooting hormone at your local nursery or garden center, and follow the directions for using it. Rooting hormone greatly improves your chances of successes with many cuttings. Use seed starting mix or succulent mix for your cuttings or make your own mixture of half perlite or vermiculite, and half peat moss. When your plants are rooted, transplant to the garden or a container with a nutritious potting soil or mix.
Whether your chores are simply picking tomatoes and watering the zucchini, or getting your greenhouse in full swing for your fall crops, take the time to look at all you have accomplished since spring. Or, if the early planting season got away from you, vow to have your first cool season garden this year. The main thing is to enjoy July. It is summertime.
UC Master Gardeners of Napa County is recruiting for the Class of 2015! Applications are available at two information meetings:
Friday July 11, 12.30-2.00
Tuesday July 22, 6-7.30
At 1710 Soscol Ave.; Suite 4; Napa, CA 94559
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. Napa County Master Gardeners ( http://ucanr.org/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.