July Garden Almanac
July brings the first full month of summer in Sonoma Valley. The full moon in July is known as the Thunder Moon (let’s hope it’s accompanied by rain this year).
In years of drought, there are a few simple things we can do to conserve water in the garden: Keep weeds pulled; they steal soil moisture from other plants. Mulch and use compost, ground bark, or small rocks to keep irrigation wa- ter from evaporating. Water early in the morning (or late at night) when the air is still, and install drip irrigation or a soaker hose to use less water.
Annuals: Bare spaces in the flower bed can be filled with summer-through-fall flowers now: alyssum, celosia, cosmos, petunias, portulaca, and zinnias. For shady spots, plant coleus and impatiens. Transplanting from large six-packs with established roots will protect the young plants from heat and drying winds. Water deeply and protect the soil from evaporation with a two-inch thick mulch.
Perennials: Dead-head or prune back blooming perennials to encourage re-blooming. Control aphids by washing them away with a stream of water or spray with a canola-based horticultural oil.
Bulbs: Stake dahlias and gladiolas and other large-flowering summer bulb plants so that they won’t topple under the weight of their own flowers.
Roses: If you fertilized your roses in spring, now is the time to fertilize them again. Water garden roses to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. Container roses may need water daily when the weather is hot.
Shrubs: Conserve water by placing drip irrigation emitters that release two gallons per hour at the base of shrubs. Avoid overwatering established native and drought- tolerant shrubs. Use a pre-emer- gent weed control around shrubs to eliminate the next generation of weeds.
Trees: Prune away suckers flush to the point of origin and spray with a plant growth regulator to suppress sucker re-growth. Es- tablished trees should be irrigated to the edge of the tree’s canopy and beyond where absorbing roots are located. Deep water newly planted trees; roots follow the water, so do not water shallowly.
Vegetables and herbs: Har- vest vegetables at the peak of flavor. Sacrifice a tomato for the taste test. Summer squash, zucchini, and egg- plant are ripe when their skin is eas- ily nicked with a fingernail. Water when foliage is droopy in the eve- ning or do the finger test for soil moisture: stick your finger in the soil to three inches and if it feels dry, water.
Fruits and berries: Prune berry vines after harvest. Remove all wood that produced this year’s crop. Tip prune cane ends to force out laterals that will bear fruit next season. About mid-summer apply organic, granular fertilizer to all fruiting plants. The perfect height to prune dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees is to the height of your outstretched arm over your head.
Garden maintenance: Holes in foliage or flowers may be caused by budworms and caterpillars. Se- vere infestations can be treated with Spinosad, a chemical produced by bacteria that is effective against most chewing insects but is safe for beneficial insects. Spray in the late afternoon or early evening after bees have returned to their hives. Spray Spinosad every seven to 10 days.Native plants: Be careful not to overwater native or drought- tolerant plants. Natives in bloom in July include showy flannel bush, buckwheat, blue-purple blooms of coyote mint, pink mariposa lil- ies, native morning glory, clarkias, California lady’s slippers, Pacific bleeding hearts, brodiaeas, scar- let monkeyflowers, and western azaleas.
Nature alerts: Wild rhodo- dendrons and wild azaleas are in bloom now in blossoms of whites, pinks, and reds. Look for wild rho- dodendrons and azaleas along the edge of redwood forests and stands. In the Sonoma Valley, you’ll find wild azaleas growing along the Azalea Creek in Hood Mountain Regional Park.
Kenwood Weather Averages: Temperature: Average High 82°F, Average Low 52°F, Mean 67°F; Average Precipitation 0.01 inches; Record High 110°F (1972), Record Low 40°F (1948).
Sunrise and Sunset: Sunrise on the 1st 5:51a.m., Sunset on the 1st 8:39 p.m.; Sunrise on the 31st 6:12 a.m., Sunset on the 31st 8:22 p.m.
Moon: Full on July 2 and 31; Last quarter/waning on July 8; New on July 16; First quarter/waxing on July 24.
Steve Albert is the author of The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide available at Amazon.com. He teaches in the landscape design program at the U.C. Berkeley Extension. He lives in Oakmont.