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Fertilizing and Other July Tips

By Donna Dawson
7/9/2013 9:00:51 AM

Give container plants a dose of fertilizer if you haven't done so for a while. First, moisten the soil by watering until it comes out the drainage holes. Then use a water-soluble fertilizer of your choice, according to label directions. This is particularly important for many of the new annuals which require heavy fertility to have good growth and continual bloom, but don't fertilize shrubs and trees now, as this may keep them from hardening off for winter.

If you come home to a dried-out container planting, don't despair. Some plants will wilt dramatically but come back once moistened. If the water you add from the top pours right through, place the entire container in a saucer or tray of water and let the water soak into the soil from below. If it's still hot and sunny out, place the plant in a shady, cool spot for a few days. Remove damaged foliage and see if it develops new growth.

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Don't let the wind or heavy rains knock your dahlias to the ground. Stake individual stems or place several bamboo poles around a large plant and wrap twine around the poles to provide support.

When Oriental poppies have died down, check around the clump for new seedlings. These can be transplanted to new weed-free locations. Keep them moist.

Early morning and evening are good times to go after Japanese beetles because they are sluggish. Knock them into a pail of soapy water. Check the undersides of foliage, too.

Collect seeds from early-maturing plants, such as lupines, and either replant immediately or place in tightly sealed glass jars in a cool, dark location. You also can allow the plants to drop their seeds naturally, then transplant new plants next spring.

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Strawberry plants need about 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water per week, if not provided by rain, even after they have finished producing. Also, fertilize with a balanced fertilizer after fruiting to give plants a boost. Next year's crop is dependent upon the water and fertilizer the plants receive this summer, especially in August and September when the weather is still warm.

A long stretch of rainy weather will mean soggy soil and plants. To avoid spreading disease, try to avoid walking among your plants when they are wet, and avoid working soggy soil. It's not too late to spread straw (not hay, as it often contains weed seeds) as a mulch, which can help keep disease spores from splashing up onto plants. If you don't mulch, lightly hoe the surface of the soil when it dries out to break up any crust that could impede water penetration. Harvest fruit frequently so they don't rot on the plants.

Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are easy to flash freeze for winter smoothies. Rinse the berries and let them dry on paper towels. Spread them in a single layer on cookie sheets or whatever size pans will fit in your freezer. When frozen, pour them into labeled freezer bags or plastic containers, and pop them back in the freezer.

Stop pruning most trees and shrubs now, and allow roses to form hips. Pruning, similar to fertilizing, stimulates new growth that may not have time to harden off before the first cold snap of autumn. Leaving spent rose flowers so they form hips signals roses that they, too, should begin winding down.

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