"4 Things to do for a Fabulous July Garden," by the Whistling Gardener

The dazzling Gazania 'Tiger Mix’ looks hand painted. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
The dazzling Gazania 'Tiger Mix’ looks hand painted. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

According to my weather guru Rufus La Lone of the Weather Café, July is shaping up to be a very pleasant month for gardening. Here are four things to do to make our gardens look absolutely fabulous.

PLANTING: Garden centers are stuffed with summer blooming shrubs, annuals and perennials and the secret to successful summer planting is in how we water-in our new plants. Covering roots up with dry powdery soil is a sure recipe for failure. For any plant in a one gallon, or larger, container I always dig the hole, fill it to the top with water and let it soak in before planting. After the water has drained, I place the root ball into the hole, return half of the soil (with some organic fertilizer and compost), add some more water and then return the rest of the soil. Once all of the soil is in place tamp it down, form a watering well or basin around the plant and fill it with an inch of water at least three times (for good measure I often add a little Liquinox Start with Yucca extract to get the root system growing).

This process insures that there is plenty of moisture around those new tender roots and usually eliminates any sign of “transplant shock.” For smaller plants, just make sure there is some moisture in the soil and after planting, water the general area well.

FEEDING: There is a term we use in the trade to describe how we feed our crops called “polishing.” It basically means tweaking our feed to get the crop to a point of maximum beauty. July is the consummate month to “polish” the plants in our gardens, especially annuals, perennials and vegetables. Anything planted back in May will at this time be virtually out of food and ready for a second helping. Container plants, including hanging baskets, really need to be fed once or twice a week with a soluble fertilizer like Sea Grow (think Miracle-Gro with seaweed extract added). For plants in the ground, I still prefer the organics because they have microbes and humic acid added to them, both of which improve the overall long-term health of the soil.

WATERING: The hot spell we had last week should have been a wakeup call for all of us when it comes to watering. Our summers are dry and if you want a good-looking garden, you need to water. While I would never advocate wasting water, I do believe using it in my garden is money well spent. Remember, those agencies that bring us our water need the revenue to support the infrastructure and ironically, the less we use, the more they need to raise their rates. I would just as soon have the water evaporate from my garden as from the reservoir where it is stored and doesn’t generate any income. Call me crazy but this is my rationale for watering as much as I do.

WEEDING: In addition to feeding and watering, eliminating competition is critical to having a beautiful garden. Get rid of those weeds fast with my favorite tool, the Hula Hoe, and then cover the bare ground with an inch of compost. Better yet, just plant more flowers so there is no room for weeds! The bees, hummers and butterflies will be glad you did.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, Washington, and can be reached at

Our gardening sponsor.


Our featured sponsor

Google ad