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Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 1:00 am | Updated: 8:57 am, Wed Jul 2, 2014.

Summer is officially here, so get out and soak up some of that vitamin D. The sun is not just good for plants, but we need it too!

So now the tip for the month of July — Sit back and relax! For many of us, the Fourth of July marks the beginning of the entertainment season. We plan, we phone, we shop, we decorate, we mow, we clean, we check supplies, we shop again, we cook, we carry lawn chairs and coolers outside, and we fret about the weather.

When the guests arrive, it all starts over. Pouring, serving, clearing, fetching and recycling can fill hours, if we let them. So part of the planning needs to include ways to have some time for you to sit back and enjoy your party, too.

Maybe an email sent to everyone can replace two hours of phone calls. Making your event a potluck will eliminate much of the shopping and cooking. Be sure to have everyone bring their own beverages, table service and lawn chairs. And finally, don’t mow. Your lawn will do better with foot traffic if it is left a little bit longer.

With all that settled, all that’s left for you to do is enjoy a good time! Now that we have talked about having parties and enjoying your yard and garden at home, let’s get down to other tasks at hand for July.

It’s not too late to plant shrubs, perennials and annual flowers but you will need to give them a little TLC for the summer. If you haven’t been pinching back your garden mums all summer, cut them back by half as soon as possible and feed them. This task shouldn’t be done much after the Fourth of July. This will help them to grow bushier and bloom in the fall when anticipated until Thanksgiving for late blooming varieties.

Avoid applying weed killers, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers to plants when the temperatures are above 90 degrees. Spray treatments early in the morning when temperatures are below 85.

If Japanese beetles are attacking your plants, you have several options for controlling them, from handpicking (not my favorite) to trapping (the safest) or spraying them. Japanese beetle traps are readily available and do a fantastic job of eradicating the problem naturally.

Remove infected leaves from roses and pick up fallen leaves. Continue fungicidal sprays as needed on these beauties.

Keep deadheading spent annual and perennial flowers for continued bloom.

Keep weeds from making seeds now. This will mean fewer weeds next year.

Hot, dry weather is ideal for spider mite development. Damage may be present even before the webs are noticed. With spider mite damage, leaves may be speckled above and yellowed below.

Evergreen needles appear dull gray-green to yellow to brown. Spray with permethrin to control this critter.

Sweet corn is ripe when the silks turn brown. Blossom-end rot occurs on tomato and peppers when soil moisture is uneven and the calcium level in the soil is not right. Liming the garden will help these issues next year.

Water conservation is of the utmost importance during our dry summer months. These following simple tips can save time and money.

Water where it counts, water at the roots, not the leaves. Drip irrigation systems in landscape beds do wonders for water conservation. Drip irrigation systems are easy for the homeowner to install. Trees and shrubs would also benefit from a deep root watering this time of year. You can use a deep root feeder (without the fertilizer) for this purpose. Water them around the drip line of the tree for best success. Doing this every two to three weeks will keep your trees stress free. Water frequently enough to prevent wilting.

When you mow your grass, cut it less frequently and at a higher level. Cutting it short promotes growth, and growth promotes water consumption. Longer grass blades shade the soil and conserve moisture.

Plant drought tolerant, native plants where possible. Native plants are becoming more readily available in nursery settings.

Check your plant containers daily for water. Put your finger at least one inch down in the soil, if it is dry, water thoroughly. Hanging baskets will need a drink at least once a day, sometimes even twice a day, depending on the weather.

Provide water in the garden for birds during dry weather and they will repay you with wonderful antics and bird song. Enjoy nature and your gardens this summer. You won’t regret it.

This monthly column is written by Sandi Hillermann McDonald of Hillermann Nursery & Florist, Washington.

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