Hot and dry July weather can cause havoc in gardens, so use water wisely and keep up with plant maintenance so gardens look their best this month, say experts at Agromin, an Oxnard-based manufacturer of earth-friendly compost products made from organic material collected from more than 50 California cities including those in Santa Barbara County.
» Water wisely: You can still have a beautiful garden without using a lot of water, even during the summer. Early morning watering allows for deep soil penetration (6 to 8 inches) and reduces evaporation. Consider using a water probe to check moisture levels. Use soaker hoses for gardens and water in the early morning as well. Be sure to add mulch. Mulch will retain water, which is important during the year's hottest months — and keeps roots cool even during the heat of the day. It also reduces erosion so its use on hillsides and slopes is recommended.
» Remove “dead heads”: A daily July task in a flower garden is to cut back droopy or brown flowers. This will not only keep the garden looking fresh, but will encourage new flower growth for the remainder of summer.
» Add color to your garden: Stop by any nursery in July and you will see an array of plants with brilliantly colored flowers. If there is a bare spot in your garden, an easy quick fix is to add already-blooming annuals. The color will not last long, however, typically through early fall.
» Harvest vegetables: Pick vegetables as soon as they are ripe. Also, remove any overripe fruit immediately since this fruit quickly attracts bugs. Do not let zucchini get too big. They are at their best when 4 or 5 inches long. Watermelons will be ready to pick when the vine leading to the fruit turns brown, the watermelon skin becomes dull and its bottom (the part touching the ground) is a yellowish color.
» Still time to plant vegetables: Add vegetable plants to your garden for a late summer, early fall harvest. These vegetables include beans, beets, carrots, corn, cantaloupe, okra squash and spinach.
— Diane Zakian Rumbaugh is a publicist representing Agromin.