The combination of sun and heat takes a toll on gardens during the summer.
The duo, especially when accompanied by dry winds or a vacation absence, strikes a deadly blow to plants.
So, it comes as no surprise that the No. 1 gardening chore in July is watering.
The lawn is the thirstiest of garden plantings. Without sufficient water it will slip into dormancy until the rains and coolness of fall reawaken it.
Water the lawn weekly, letting the moisture seep to between 6 and 8 inches beneath the soil. Place small containers at various locations within the range of the sprinkler to check the amount of water reaching the turf, noting how long it takes to collect an inch of water, which is generally considered sufficient.
Most Kansas lawns do not absorb more than about a half an inch of water per hour.
Know your vegetables' watering needs since different vegetables require different watering conditions and amounts. Tomato plants, for example, are sensitive to moisture fluctuations. Keep them regularly watered to help prevent blossom end rot.
In addition, cracking of the fruit can occur when an unexpected rain or sprinkling occurs after drought conditions.
Sweet potatoes grow rapidly in July. Their deep roots require less frequent, but more thorough watering, up to 2 inches.
Sweet corn, too, needs up to an inch and a half of water per week, soaking soil to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. Adequate watering promotes heavy yields.
Many flowers, especially those prone to fungal and other diseases, are best watered by applying the water directly to the soil rather than sprinkled from above.
In addition, the cells of foliage can be damaged when cold water splashes on the heated leaves. Grab the soaker hose for these plants.
If you do not have a soaker hose, water your plants in the morning. This gives their foliage a chance to dry off during the day before dark.
Container plants are special cases. Because their roots can not spread to surrounding soil in search of moisture they have intense watering needs, sometimes requiring twice a day watering. Keep the container plants well fertilized also.
Picking and snipping
Many vegetables are coming into their peak during this month. Harvest and serve them for dinner the same day or within a day or two of picking.
Annuals should be deadheaded regularly to encourage a continual display of blooms. Deadheading is the removal of spent flower blooms. To remove them, snip off with scissors or pinch them off between your fingers.
The spent flower heads of perennials should be cut off, too, although, typically, they will not rebloom. You may want to cut the perennial flower stalk as far down as possible to give the plant a cleaner look.
The cutting edge
Mowing is not a favorite chore in the hot temperatures of July. Fortunately, turf growth slows down during summer. Even so, summer heat stresses cool season grasses.
Mow fescue grass to a height of 3 to 3 1/2 inches to help insulate the ground from the heat.
The grass can be mowed a little shorter if it becomes too coarse or mats down. Warm season grasses, like zoysia and Bermuda grass, can be mowed as low as 1 inch.
July is the ideal time to test the soil of newly planted lawns for pH, phosphorus and potash. Dig several 4-inch deep holes in various spots in the garden and scoop a few spoonfuls of soil from the side of the holes.
Put the soil samples in a sealed plastic bag and take it to the Extension Service.
When the results return, make the soil adjustments in August.
Whew! That's plenty of work. Take a break, have a cool drink and relax. You deserve it.
Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and home and garden writer for the Journal-World.