Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

Almanac: What to do in the Garden in July & August

by janem on July 10, 2013

Oh those sultry dog days of summer!

In the garden we can find either feast or famine depending on Mother Nature’s whim.  Will we have rain or will it be dry? We can’t say, but whether the garden is still growing in full throttle or in a lull, there is plenty we can do.

If you took Holly Wise’s advice in the last issue and started a compost system you’ll find that in the dry heat of summer, it might need a little moisture to keep cooking.  A soil thermometer inserted in the pile will help you determine if there is any composting action going on.  If the temp is below 120 degrees, it is time to do some sleuthing to see if it needs more moisture, more air or if the center is actually finished compost.

If you also took her advice and set up a rain barrel, you might have some free water for your compost bin. If not, a garden hose can be employed to add moisture to your pile when you turn it.

Lawn Care

Scout for sod webworms and chinch bugs at this time.  Treat only if necessary.

Renovate small areas or the whole lawn if needed.  The best time of the year to establish lawn from seed is mid-August through October 1st.  The soil is still warm enough for the seed to germinate and rain will be more frequent to help keep the seedlings going.

Keep mowing at 3.5 inches and keep that blade sharp.


Continue to fertilize annuals (unless you used a slow-release at planting) and deadhead to keep the colorful show going. Some, like alyssum and lobelia can be sheared quite severely.  They will reward you with a new flush of color.


Deadhead just about everything to keep blooms coming.  Collect seeds from your favorites to try starting in the spring.

Delphiniums are heavy feeders, so give them a little nudge of fertilizer in July. Cut back after flowering to encourage fall blooms.

Side-dress your herbaceous peonies with bone meal and in mid-August, divide and replant the crowns only 2 inches deep for bounteous blooms next year.

Iris can be lifted and divided in July and August.  Replant only healthy rhizomes, each bearing a set of leaves.  Label them so you remember what colors you are putting in which location.

Prune climbing roses after bloom.  Remove old canes to the ground or cut back to vigorous new wood.

In August, start dreaming and making out your perennial and bulb orders for fall planting.


Weed, weed, weed and mulch to keep the weed seeds from germinating.  Replant areas vacated by early crops or let vine crops fill in the spaces.

Scout for pests including flea beetles, aphids, tomato hornworms, squash vine borer and Colorado potato beetles.  Keep an eye out for tomato early blight.

Harvest garlic when half the lower leaves are yellow and dry and the bulbs are of good size.  Pull plants and let them dry for two to three weeks.

In August, plant beans, beets, peas, lettuce and spinach for fall harvest.  Cut out old raspberry canes after harvest.

Trees and Shrubs

Early July is the preferred time to perform major thinning operations on crab apples, callery pear, ornamental cherries and plums, honey locust, spruce, willow, and poplars to reduce susceptibility to trunk cankers. It’s a good time to rework the interiors of tree-form dogwoods to remove overly shaded, crisscrossed, or weak branches.  Hedges can be rejuvenated in early July.

STOP pruning mid-July to avoid the stimulation of new shoots that may not properly harden before winter.  Pruning can resume safely for most shrubs and trees in the late fall.

Transplanting of most types of shrubbery can be done now. (Exceptions: spicebush, buddleia, Japanese snowball and althea)


If your houseplants spent their summer vacation under a tree in your backyard, keep an eye on the forecast and bring them back in the house when the night temps are consistently in the 50’s. This will eliminate the ‘shock’ of the indoor environment.  Wash off the leaves and inspect to be sure there are no pests before re-introducing them to the house.  Put them in a bright window for a few weeks before putting them back in their usual locations.

For help with any gardening or pest question, call the Gardening Helpline at 585-473-5335 Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until Noon.

—Karen Klingenberger, Consumer Horticulture Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County

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