PRUNING FLOWERS AND OTHER JULY GARDENING TIPS
Dr. Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Professor, and
Charlie Nardozzi, Vermont Community Botanical Garden
July is a busy month in the garden, whether you grow flowers, vegetables,
fruits, or a combination of these. It's a month for harvesting, planting
second crops, and keeping up with a myriad of chores from pruning flowers
to weeding and protecting plants from insect pests.
By mid-summer many petunias and other annual flowers can get leggy, producing blossoms at the tips of long, leafless stems. One exception is some of the new varieties of petunias, including the new trailing types that require little pruning unless you planted them too close together.
For most annuals, frequent pruning will keep plants bushy. For best results, prune back one long stem each week or so, cutting back to a set of leaves or a node. The plant will respond by sending out more shoots from that point. Another effective technique is to shear all the stems back by a third. However, you will sacrifice flowers for a few weeks with this method.
This is also the time to prune back perennial salvia, catmint, tall sedum varieties, New England asters, garden phlox, and some other tall perennials. They will still bloom although sometimes a little later in the season. The plants will be shorter so probably won't need staking.
Remove the suckers from grafted roses (which means most roses) and crabapples. These are the quite vigorous shoots that arise from the base of the plant.
In the vegetable garden, indeterminate tomato plants such as 'Better Boy' will produce many suckers. A sucker is that new growth that comes in where a branch connects with the main trunk. Removing suckers will decrease the number of fruits produced but will ensure that the remaining tomatoes will be larger and will ripen sooner.
Continue making succession plantings of vegetables to ensure a harvest well into autumn. If possible, plant cool-season crops, such as broccoli, where they will get a little shade from the hot afternoon sun. Early in the month plant another row of bush beans for late summer harvest.
Harvest bush beans when they're about six to eight inches long. Fillet bush beans can be harvested when they are even smaller. By harvesting beans when they are young, you will enjoy a more tender textured bean, and the plants will be encouraged to produce more beans.
July is pesto time. When harvesting basil, don't just remove individual leaves, but cut back whole stems. This will create a bushier plant that will produce more leaves and less flowers and scraggily growth. Pick basil in the morning for the best flavor. This is when the oil content in the leaves is highest.
We all get behind in our weeding, but it's important to remove weeds before they set seeds. Some weeds will continue to develop their seeds even after you pull them, so remove them from the garden area.
Protect cherry trees and blueberry bushes from hungry birds. As these fruits ripen, the birds will be attracted to them. Place bird netting over the trees and bushes, propping it up with poles or stakes, so the netting doesn't lie on the plants. Check daily for any birds that have slipped under the net.
At this time of year, apple maggot adults are laying eggs on developing apple fruits. To control, place red, sticky spheres in trees to fool the adults into landing on these "fake apples" where they will get stuck and die. Place four spheres per dwarf tree, and check and clean them every few days as necessary.
Take a break from your gardening to visit the Vermont Community Botanical Garden on Dorset Street in S. Burlington. You'll be able to see all the heirloom vegetables and flowers in Grandma/Grandpa's Garden, a continuous display of perennial flower color in the American Cottage Garden, and the latest great new varieties of annual flowers in the All-American Selections Garden. In addition, the newly established half-acre wildflower meadow will be just beginning to bloom. Walk through the meadow and enjoy the beautiful views of Mt. Mansfield.
July garden events in Vermont include the Flynn Garden Tour (802-652-4533), which will be held in the Burlington area this year, and several fun and educational activities at the University of Vermont Horticulture Research Center in S. Burlington, located on Green Mountain Drive off Route 7. The latter are sponsored by The Friends of the Hort Farm and include a plant sale on July 27. Call (802) 864-3073 for more information on Horticulture Research Center events.
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