For many gardeners, the 4th of July is a sort of seasonal deadline to get a bunch of garden chores done. From cutting back perennials to replacing early crops, see what to do in the garden now!
(I realize that every region has a different schedule! I’d really love to hear what you’re doing in your garden now in the comments!)
- Cut the garlic scapes! Mine start to twirl every year right at the time of the Solstice. By cutting them off asap the plant will direct its energy into making bigger bulbs. Plus, the scapes are a delicious early summer treat in any recipe that calls for green onions or garlic. They make a great pesto too, even without basil.
- Prune spring blooming shrubs such as forsythia, lilacs, wiegela, viburnums, daphne, quince, and deutzia by mid-July at the latest. If you do it any later you will be cutting off next spring’s blossoms. See when to prune shrubs.
- Do the Chelsea Chop! To keep fall bloomers like asters, mums, and phlox shorter and more full and inspire them to have double the number of flowers, cut the plants back by half. Doing it before the 4th of July will give the plants time to form new growth and extra blossoms. (See my article on Chelsea Chop for more info)
- Fertilize. Give shrubs and perennials the last side-dressing of compost, rotten manure, or fertilizer by the 4th of July. This will give any new growth time to harden off before frost.
- Replace early crops. Most spring vegetables such as bok choy, radishes, peas, lettuce, and spinach have been harvested by early July. Pull them out and make room for some new plants. In most areas there is still time to plant more beans, summer squashes, and cukes. Seeds should germinate fast in the warm soil. Check your first frost date and add an extra 2 weeks for fruits to mature since light and heat will start to wane as fall approaches. (See article on Planting Vegetables for a Fall Harvest.)
Lettuce may be hard to germinate in hot soil so I start the plants inside in summer.
- Start seeds of lettuce, chard, and brassicas including broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, bok choy and other Asian greens to have plants ready to pop into beds as they empty. They love the cooler days of late summer and early fall and will be productive until a hard frost.
The following chores don’t have a time limit. They can be tackled whenever you can get to them but the sooner the better.
- Thin the beets and carrots if you haven’t done so already. They need to have room to develop those big fat roots you are craving. If you have an open bed, plant more of these to mature in the fall.
This peony will look much better after the dead blossoms have been cut off.
- Tidy up the spring bloomers. Cut back the iris stalks, pull out tulip and daffodil foliage once it has turned brown and died back, and deadhead the peonies by cutting back to the next set of 5 leaves on the stem.
I try to remove as many old lilac flowers as I can reach.
- Speaking of deadheading, remove spent blossoms from rhododendrons, azaleas, and lilacs to make way for new growth. (See article on 4 Good Reasons to Deadhead.)
- Yank those invasives before they gain a foothold! Oriental bittersweet and black swallow-wort are two twining vines that will strangle any plant they decide to climb. Get rid of them before they have a chance to blossom and set seed. They are on just about every state’s list of invasive plants. Check out the list of invasives for your state at this site.
- Pinch the tomato suckers. You can leave the bottom two suckers on the plant because they will produce fruit but remove the rest as they form in each leaf axil up the stem. This will keep the plant from becoming too bushy and blocking light from reaching developing fruit.
- Add mulch and weed, weed, weed!
Summer is here! Make the most of it!