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Gardening Tips for July and August
* Bachelor buttons which have finished their first blooming period may often be made to flower again by shearing at least six inches from the tops of the plants.
* Dahlias require little artificial watering in a normal season but should be given water enough to soak the ground deeply once a week starting in late July.
* Keep the dead and dying foliage of hollyhocks cleared away from the base of the plants to help cut down on the transmission of diseases.
* Columbines in many varieties can be grown from seed, which should be sown an eighth of an inch deep and firmly pressed into the soil. The seed take three to four weeks to germinate and can be collected when the seed pods dry out.
* Most climbing roses are best pruned as soon as they have finished blooming. If they send up new shoots from the roots (not a grafted rose), you can prune most of the old canes out.
* Cuttings should be made of coleus, geraniums, ever-blooming begonias and any other plants that may be needed for the house next Winter. Root them in moist sand. Geraniums will root easier if you let them dry in a shady, airy place for several hours before putting them in the sand.
* Oriental poppies have become dormant by late July and can be divided with excellent success. Even if the roots are divided into 2 inch pieces and planted in a good soil, most of the will develop into new plants within a short period of time.
* Bearded irises may be divided and new plants set out at any time during the next two months.
* Peony seed pods should be removed. It will be beneficial to mix into the soil a high-phosphorous fertilizer which will help in making good strong eyes for next year.
* Wisterias can be pruned now and will be benefited by a hard pruning instead of a lighter trimming.
* It is not too late to start annuals for Fall blooming, including annual lupines, stock, godetias and Drummondís phlox.
* Watch grafted plants to see that no suckers grow up from beneath the grafted area. Such sucker should be removed at once by hand picking.
* Set your cutting height higher for your lawn during the hotter summer months. This will help shade the roots by keeping the ground cool, and give the plants more water storage area in the leaves.
* July is usually a dry month and watering is most likely necessary. Do not merely sprinkle the surface of the ground, but soak it thoroughly for the most benefit. A light sprinkle will only draw the roots closer to the surface.
* To have forget-me-nots in bloom early next season, the seed should be sown this month. They make an attractive underplanting for spring bulbs such as tulips.
* The Virginia bluebell, Mertensia virginica, can be divided at this time because the plant is in its dormant stage.
* The foliage of bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis, which has died and become unsightly should be removed and disposed of in the garbage.
* Peonies should be ordered now for September planting. Many Japanese varieties are choice and little known.
* Cuttings taken from English ivy now will produce good houseplants this Winter.
* When dividing irises, make a careful inspection for the iris borer and destroy any infested roots.
* Begin to order your Fall bulbs now. It is better to order early than to be disappointed when they are out of stock.
* Potatoes can be dug as soon as the tops have died. You can dig them as needed for they store better in the ground than in your house.
* Eggplants and peppers are now bearing. Keep the matured fruit picked so the younger ones will develop.
* Tie up cauliflower heads now by pulling the leaves over the top and fastening with a string. Then they will blanch properly.
* Save tomato seeds from the most healthy, heavily fruited plants to start for next year.
* You can sow lettuce seeds now for a late crop this Fall.
* The old canes should be cut from raspberries now that the fruiting season is over.
* Begin to prepare dead spots in your lawn for reseeding at the end of this month. If the grass is brown and standing upright, it is just dormant waiting for cooler and wetter weather in the Fall. Remove any dead areas and one week before seeding apply a high phosphorous fertilizer to help the new seedlingís root development.
* There is no reason why the coldframe cannot be used from now until Winter for growing crops such as lettuce and beets.
* Many of the herbs can be cut and dried at this time of year to prepare them for Winterís culinary uses. Store them in a cool, airy and shady place for best results.
If you have a particular question you would like the Gardening Guru to answer, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check to see if your question has already been asked on the Question and Answer Message Board. Good Luck!