"Summertime, and the livin's easy!" Hopefully, we'll be spending the month barbecuing, swinging in hammocks and marveling at the abundance of our gardens. Beans, squash and tomatoes are putting on a show, and daylilies are painting the set in hues of orange, rose and yellow.
Backing every stellar performance is a talented stage manager, and that would be you: deadheading, weeding, watering and mowing behind the scenes. Here's a tip or chore for every day of July to ensure a standing ovation of bouquets and sustenance all month long.
1. For bigger pumpkins, remove all but one flower from each plant and fertilize once a week.
2. Harvest green beans every day; the more you pick, the more will grow.
3. Water the lawn only in the morning, and remember: Less-frequent deep irrigation trumps a daily sprinkle. Aim for 1 or so inches per week, accounting for rainfall.
4. Happy Fourth of July! It's time for fireworks and fertilizing the lawn.
5. When tomatoes, eggplants and peppers set fruit, give them another dose of fertilizer.
6. Drain and clean birdbaths, and replenish with fresh water at least twice a week.
7. For fuller plants with more blooms next year, shear creeping phlox, sweet alyssum and candytuft.
8. Curtail algae in ponds by adding a bunch of eelgrass per square foot of surface water.
9. Remove suckers--tiny stems that grow between branch crotches--from tomato plants to encourage larger fruit.
10. To help prevent powdery mildew, thin crowded plants, water only in the morning, and aim water at roots not leaves.
11. Remove side shoots from dahlias' main stems to force energy into producing larger flowers.
12. Join the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge by sending a photo of yourself with your plants, along with your growing strategy to email@example.com.
13. Going on vacation? Don't forget to arrange for someone to water your plants.
14. Keep mower blades sharp to reduce lawn diseases, and set them to 3 inches high (1 to 2 inches for zoysia). Regardless of variety, never cut more than one-third of grass height at once.
15. Today is the last safe day to shear hedges this year; doing so later risks damage.
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16. Cut chrysanthemums back by one-third to encourage more blooms on fuller plants. Don't be afraid to remove buds; more will grow.
17. Water the compost pile and give it a turn.
18. Want more vining houseplants? Trim 4- to 6-inch pieces off stems, dip cut ends in rooting hormone and plant in a 50-50 mix of peat and vermiculite.
19. Fertilize flowering perennials with a 5-10-5 product to keep the blooms coming.
20. Harvest potatoes when leaves begin to die back.
21. Remember to keep watering newly planted trees; they should get at least 1 inch of water per week.
22. Pick flowers in the morning and they'll last longer in a vase, but clip them late in the day if you plan to dry them.
23. If you pick them more will come! Harvest squash when fruit is 5 to 6 inches long. Otherwise, plants will stop producing.
24. Sow seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach and radish directly into the garden for a fall crop.
25. Spray tree foliage with an anti-desiccant to protect from wind.
26. Hunt for tomato hornworms, pick them off by hand and drop them in a bucket of soapy water (or feed them to chickens, if you have any).
27. Pick melons when their skin turns yellow and stems feel loose.
28. To protect against vine borers, mound up soil around the bottom few inches of squash and cucumber stems.
29. Divide bearded iris and replant with the tops of crowns exposed.
30. Deadhead summer-blooming shrubs and perennials.
31. For the best flavor, harvest herbs in the morning, just after the dew has dried.