13 Backyard Duties to do in July

The Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year) marks the official start of summer! But for most North American gardeners, the hot growing season has been in full swing for a while. Long, sunny days and warm nights mean summer crops are at their peak. But July is not only for harvesting!

As your plants flourish, so do weeds and pests. It’s crucial to stay on top of garden maintenance to ensure a tidy, healthy, and high-yielding garden for the remainder of the year. Let’s dig into 13 July garden tasks you don’t want to skip!

What Maintenance Does My Garden Need in July?

The most important July gardening tasks include weeding, pest monitoring, flower deadheading, side-dressing fertilizer, pruning vining crops, and preserving your harvests. These simple activities can take less than one hour per week. But if you neglect them, your garden can quickly become overgrown and difficult to manage. Summer is the season for enjoying the fruits of your labor, but your consistent management will keep the abundance flowing!

13 July Garden Tasks

Many beginner growers mistakenly believe that gardening is a “one-and-done” hobby. Seed, plant, harvest, done—right? While you can grow food like that, this mindset is not the best recipe for long-term success. 

It’s much more productive to look at gardening as a marathon rather than a sprint. If you want to enjoy flavorful harvests and fresh flowers throughout the season, it’s easier to spread out your maintenance, planting, and harvests. An hour or two per week is typically more effective than a five-hour garden workday once per month. Similarly, it’s easier to do the dishes after every meal instead of letting them pile up until the end of the week.

When you stay on top of weeds, pests, pruning, and harvests, gardening becomes an easygoing part of your routine. It’s relaxing instead of stressful. While peak summer is certainly the time to kick back and enjoy yourself, these simple tasks will keep your yard tidy and ensure long-lasting yields for months to come.

Keep Up With Weeds

Managing weed seeds decreases future weeding needs.

Flourishing crops often means flourishing weeds. If your garden beds have a large “weed seed bank” or a reservoir of buried weed seeds, it may seem like the weeds keep sprouting no matter how often you pull them. Thankfully, you can reduce the volume of the weed seed bank so weeding becomes easier over time.

But first, you must remove any weeds currently growing in your garden beds. We all know weeds are bad, but it helps to recognize why. Most weeds create unnecessary competition for your crops. These unwanted species snatch away water and nutrients from your desired plants. If you let the weeds grow too tall, they can block sunset from your valuable crops. Even worse, large patches of weeds can become a harbor for pests. If you let them go to seed, their populations multiply rapidly.

Best Weed Removal

Close-up of a gardener with a hoe weeding a garden bed with growing strawberries.Remove weeds when they’re small for easier garden maintenance.

The best time to remove weeds is the bean-thread stage. This is when weedy plants are tiny seedlings about the thickness of a bean sprout. It is easy to pluck them or hoe them away. A scuffle hoe is very easy to move back and forth on the soil surface, slicing the tiny weed seedlings at the base.

Of course, you can (and should) remove weeds at any time. But as they get larger, it becomes more difficult to remove them. You may have to hand-pull large weeds. A hori hori knife can be useful for digging into taproots. If you have weeds with extensive root systems, it’s important to hold your crop in place to avoid disturbing its roots while removing weeds.

Protect Bare Soil

Close-up of rows of young cabbage plants in a well-tended garden bed, neatly arranged and covered with a layer of straw mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds.Cover bare soil with mulch to suppress weeds and enrich soil.

Next, it’s important to cover bare soil where weeds once occupied. Nature actually uses weedy, fast-growing plant species to cover the ground. Natural ecosystems rarely have bare, exposed soil. They either have an “O” layer or groundcover plants. An “O” layer is like the organic matter layer of a forest. It usually includes fallen debris like pine needles, cones, and mossy decaying residues

But if the ground is disrupted, such as on a roadside or a forest clearing, nature quickly tries to colonize the area. Dandelions, rhizomatous grasses, thistles, and other “weeds” are the first to colonize disturbed ground because they grow and spread rapidly. As ecological succession continues, these plants are usually replaced by perennials like shrubs and trees.

So, if you want your garden soil to flourish, learn from nature and keep the soil covered. Mulch or groundcover plants will protect the fragile soil from erosion by wind or water. Imagine how quickly the sand in a barren desert blows away without any plant roots to hold it in place! 

You can pull visible weeds, but thousands more can hide under the surface, waiting to germinate. To prevent more weed seeds from germinating, you must cover the soil. Add a layer of mulch, such as leaves, straw, or compost. This density will prevent more weeds from germinating and simultaneously enrich the soil over time. In warm climates, mulch is extra beneficial for keeping crops cool in the July heat.

Monitor and Remove Pests

Close-up of a gardener in white gloves picking up colorado potato beetles from damaged potato plants into a large white bucket.Regular pest monitoring prevents damage and ensures healthy garden growth.

Pest monitoring is an essential part of garden management. It’s much better to prevent infestations than panic when it’s too late. If you peruse your garden several times a week, you should naturally notice bugs. Check under the leaves, in the flower blossoms, and around the plant base. 

Early signs of pests include:

  • Holes in leaves, like tiny shotholes of flea beetles
  • Ragged chomps removed from leaves, indicating slugs, rabbits, or deer
  • Lots of insect eggs on the undersides of leaves, such as clusters of orange squash bug eggs on zucchini
  • Large clusters of white aphids or scales crawling on the undersides of leaves
  • Flying pest moths, such as white cabbage moths
  • Large visible caterpillars, such as tomato hornworms, crawling on vines

Keep in mind that a small amount of pests is OK. In fact, some pests are necessary if you want to rely on biocontrol (natural predators) as your primary pest control. The “good guys,” like ladybugs and lacewings, must have something to eat. A small amount of aphids is just fine because predatory bugs can take care of them.

However, monitoring becomes very important when you notice large amounts of plant foliage, flowers, or fruits getting damaged by pests. You want to take action immediately to prevent the pests from expanding their numbers. Some bugs can lay dozens of offspring every single day. It’s important to identify the pest right away and hand-remove the bugs that you can easily access. 

Sometimes, you can cut off infested leaves or physically pick up bugs (like squash bugs or Colorado potato beetles) and drown them in soapy water. Larger infestations may warrant an organic spray like neem oil, horticultural oil, or a biological pesticide like Bt.

Water Consistently

Close-up of a drip irrigation tube with steady drops of water gently soaking the soil surrounding lush, green strawberry plants. Monitor soil moisture to prevent dehydration in hot weather gardens.

Hot weather means that plants dry out more quickly. Container plants are especially prone to dehydrating in July’s heat. It’s very important to check the soil moisture regularly. Some crops, like zucchini and squash, may wilt in the midday even when their soil is moist. It is natural for the large leaves of these plants to slightly droop in the hot sun. To avoid overwatering, you must check the soil moisture before irrigating again.

Other crops, like tomatoes, peppers, melons, lettuce, strawberries, root crops, and herbs, are sensitive to drying out. While tomatoes have deep root systems, inconsistent watering can cause issues like blossom end rot. Peppers and melons need a lot of moisture to produce prolific fruits. Shallow-rooted plants like lettuce, strawberries, and root crops can dehydrate more rapidly because the upper layers of soil are more exposed to the drying effects of UV rays.

Consistent moisture is key for success with all of these thirsty plants. Stick your finger at least six inches deep in the soil to check the moisture. The ideal consistency is like a wrung-out sponge. Some gardeners may need to water every day in the heat of July. Others can water every two to three days depending on conditions. Mulching and improving the organic matter of your soil can improve water-holding capacity, which means your soil stays wet longer.

Long droughts are increasingly common, so you cannot rely solely on rain to irrigate your crops except in reliably moist areas. If you don’t have an irrigation system, now is the time to install one! Drip lines or soaker hoses are ideal for raised bed gardens. If you only have sprinklers, they will suffice, but they may waste a lot of water and increase the risk of foliar plant diseases.

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Side-Dress With Fertilizer

Midsummer fruit production requires a lot of nutrients. Some crops, like tomatoes, strawberries, melons, cucumbers, and winter squash, are heavy feeders. Adding an extra dose of fertilizer in July can be very beneficial for enhancing yields. However, you must be sure to side-dress with the right type of fertilizer for the flowering and fruiting stage.

The Right Nutrient Ratios

Close-up of a gardener's hand carefully applying organic fertilizer to robust tomato plants thriving in a sunny garden. Focus on phosphorus and potassium for fruiting plants during summer.

Nitrogen (N) is more important in the rooting and vegetative (leafy) stage. You don’t typically want to add a lot of nitrogen fertilizer in the middle of summer because it promotes more leafy growth. Instead, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are the most important nutrients to add during a plant’s reproductive (fruiting) stage. 

For plants that are already yielding lots of fruits, side-dressing with an organic slow-release flower and fruit fertilizer is an easy way to enhance late-summer yields. Higher phosphorus and potassium ratios ensure that the crop receives balanced nutrition. Espoma Organic Tomato-Tone (3-4-6) is perfect for sprinkling around tomatoes, squash, peppers, and melons in July.

Caveat for Lawns

Close-up of burlap full of granular fertilizer and a garden trowel on a bright green lawn.Consider organic slow-release nitrogen for greener summer turfgrass lawns.

The only exception to this rule is with some turfgrass lawns. If you want to keep your lawn very green in the summer, you can apply an organic slow-release nitrogen fertilizer such as Feather Meal

However, this is only recommended in mild climates. Over-applying fertilizer during extreme heat stress can actually harm the plants. In Southern regions, it is natural for grass to go dormant in the summer. A lawn alternative may be a better option for maintaining greenery during the heat of July. 

Deadhead Flowers

Close-up of a female gardener deadheading a rose bush using green pruners.Encourage continuous blooms by removing spent flowers in July.

Lots of flowers are blooming in July, but many blossoms may be withered from early summer’s profusion. Deadheading is a slang term for removing spent flowers. With many flowering plants, cutting off the withered blooms stimulates more flower production. Moreover, it keeps your summer garden attractive and tidy, preventing plants from becoming messy or self-seeding into large, unruly patches.

Perennials like roses, yarrow, agastache, salvia, lavender, rosemary, Jupiter’s beard, coreopsis, dahlias, larkspur, and dianthus all benefit from consistent deadheading

Annual flowers like marigolds, petunias, zinnias, gerbera daisies, and geraniums also respond to pruning spent blossoms. Some varieties of supertunias and calibrachoa, as well as euphorbia, begonias, and portulaca, “self-deadhead” or self-clean, which means they drop their spent flowers and grow new ones on their own.

Edible flowering herbs like chamomile, lavender, and hyssop are easy to deadhead while harvesting. Pluck the blossoms for drying or infusing in tea, and watch the plants produce even more delightfully fragranced blooms!

Preventing Self-Seeding

Close-up of a woman's hands deadheading faded Salvia blooms using green pruning shears.Manage self-seeding by regular deadheading during the growing season.

Deadheading is also a useful tool to prevent plants from self-seeding. It is fine to leave withered blooms in place, but the dried petals usually turn brown and fall to the ground. In their place, seed heads form. If left to mature, the seeds will eventually drop to the ground and grow into new plants.

Leaving seed heads is great for flowering plants that you want to naturalize, such as milkweed, calendula, zinnias, or coneflowers. However, you must remove spent blossoms and seed heads from plants that you want to keep contained. 

To prevent spread, aggressive self-sowers like mint, bachelor’s button, bee balm, and lamb’s ear should be deadheaded throughout the season.

Pinch Plants to Prevent Bolting

Close-up of a man's hand pinching off the flowering shoot tip of sweet basil to prevent bolting.Enhance plant growth by pinching herbaceous stems for bushier growth.

Pinching is as easy as it sounds, but it makes a huge difference for plant growth. Herbaceous (leafy, non-woody) plants like basil, cilantro, mint, oregano, and dill all benefit from pinching. Many flowers, such as cosmos, phlox, and snapdragons, also perform better with a pinch.

This practice technically removes the upper growing tips of a plant’s stem. The growth tip contains a concentration of “stem cells,” which rapidly replicate and grow the plant longer and taller. When you remove the growth tip (scientifically called the apical meristem), it tells the plant to bush out rather than up. Bushy growth is beneficial for leafy herbs because it means more harvestable plant matter.

Better yet, pinching prevents bolting. Bolting happens when a plant thinks its life cycle is over, and it starts to produce elongated flowering stems. Basil and cilantro are particularly prone to bolting in the heat of July. When you pinch the top leaf clusters of each stem, it slows the development of flowers and helps keep the plant in its leafy vegetative growth stage. 

Use your fingernails or fine pruners to cut the upper leaf clusters of herbs and watch them grow bushier!

Harvest Regularly

Close-up of female hands delicately harvesting ripe cherry tomatoes, glowing orange-red in the sun, amidst lush green foliage in a vibrant garden setting.Consistent harvesting encourages continuous growth and higher yields in gardens.

Regular harvests are key to promoting more growth! Plants want to produce as many leaves, flowers, and fruits as possible during the growing season. But if you don’t harvest things when they are ready, the crops won’t direct their energy to new growth.

After working so hard to tend crops in the spring, some gardeners fall into scarcity mode. They are afraid to harvest too much because they don’t want the plants to stop producing. Thankfully, most garden crops are eager to produce continuously. Regular harvests actually stimulate more growth! You can promote even more yields from your favorite crops by cutting greens, pulling ripe tomatoes, and twisting off summer squash.

Squash and Nightshades

Close-up of a woman in a denim dress holding a white basket filled with freshly picked zucchini and summer squash.Harvest frequently to enjoy tender vegetables and encourage more growth.

Plan to harvest your garden several times per week in July. Crops like zucchini and yellow summer squash should be checked every few days. If you let the squash get too large, it becomes bitter and seedy. Harvesting at the right time (when squash is about five to six inches long) ensures that the squash is still tender. Better yet, it signals the plant to produce more flowers and fruit!

It’s also important to check your tomatoes, eggplants, tomatillos, and peppers consistently. If you leave these nightshade-family plants for too long, the fruits can over-ripen and rot. This is especially problematic with tomatoes because rotten fruit can spread diseases and attract pests.

You want to catch the tomatoes at the “breaker” stage of about 50-60% ripeness. Pulling them at this time ensures that they develop their vine-ripened sweetness but retain their texture as they finish ripening on your countertop.


Close-up of a gardener's hands gently picking plump, ripe blueberries from a bush laden with clusters of blue fruits, set against a backdrop of green foliage in a bountiful garden.Regular harvesting prevents pests and ensures quality fruit from berries and trees.

Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries all benefit from regular harvests. If you leave berries on the plants, they may attract birds and pests. Moreover, rotten berries become a harbor for mold and mildew, which can easily spread to new fruits. Depending on the age and productivity of your berry plants, check them at least twice per week in July. Ready-to-harvest berries will fully change color and pull easily from the vine. If the berry clings to the vine or it is hard to pull off, it probably isn’t ripe.

Fruit trees also benefit from consistent harvests. You don’t want fallen apples, pears, peaches, and plums to rot at the base of your trees. While harvesting doesn’t always stimulate more growth, it does ensure the best quality fruit possible.

Many gardeners also “thin” their flowers or fruits in July to enhance yields later in the summer. Thinning involves plucking newly developed fruit before it is ripe. This helps the plant channel its energy toward higher quality harvests later in the season, while also improving airflow and reducing the risk of disease. Sometimes this means less overall fruit, but the fruits may be larger and more flavorful.

Greens, Flowers, and Herbs

A close-up of a gardener's hands harvesting lettuce, featuring large, broad, rounded green leaves with a slightly wrinkled, waxy texture.Frequent harvesting ensures abundant greens, flowers, and herbs throughout summer.

Summer greens like chard, lettuce, mustards, sorrel, amaranth, and Malabar spinach all benefit from regular harvests. The more you cut, the more you get! For plants prone to bolting, like lettuce, the “cut and come again” method prolongs leafy production.

All you need to do is use a knife to cut the leaves one to two inches above the ground. This allows you to harvest the plant while leaving the growing tip intact. With water and sunlight, the lettuce should regrow within a couple of weeks.

Don’t forget to regularly harvest your favorite cut flowers for bouquets, arrangements, and drying. Most flowers produce new stems after harvest. Herbs operate under the same rules. As long as the base of the plant is preserved, cutting back leafy, fragrant stems ensures more delicious harvests later in the season.

Prune Vining Crops

Close-up of a gardener pruning suckers on a cucumber plant with wide, jagged dark green leaves and oblong, oval fruits characterized by dark green, pimply skin.Snip vining plants to enhance fruiting and garden management.

Vining annuals like indeterminate tomatoes and cucumbers perform best when pruned. Luckily, the process is super quick and easy. Both of these plants produce suckers (side shoots) that try to ramble away and grow into new plants. Every side shoot has the potential to pull away tremendous amounts of energy from the main plant. Removing the suckers helps concentrate plant efforts on growing and ripening tomatoes and cucumbers!

Suckers form between the “elbow ditches” of a vine, where stems intersect with the main stalk. You can pinch small suckers away with your fingers. For larger shoots, use sharp, sanitized shears to cut the side suckers at the base

Sucker removal has many major benefits, including:

  • Neater, cleaner garden growth
  • Easier trellising and plant control
  • Readily accessible fruit
  • More plant energy is devoted to flowering and fruiting
  • Less overgrowth of foliage
  • More airflow
  • Reduced risk of disease

Check Your Trellises

Close-up of a raised bed with lush cucumber plants climbing on a sturdy, mounted wooden trellis, their vibrant green leaves and twisting tendrils reaching upwards for support.Check and reinforce trellises to support heavy vining plants.

Vining plants sometimes overgrow their trellises. July is an important time to check the structural integrity of trellises to prevent disasters down the line. You don’t want a vine loaded with fruit to fall to the ground and destroy your harvest.

Trellis enforcement is especially important for plants with heavy fruits. For example, I once grew butternut squash on a pretty cattle panel archway between two raised beds. But I accidentally planted a full-size squash variety. By late July, the trellis was already crippling under the weight of the prolific vines, but the squash was still small! I had to reinforce the trellis with rebar and wood posts to ensure it was robust enough to support the squash as they reached full size.

The same principle applies to large heirloom tomatoes, heavily-fruiting pepper plants, and cucumbers. Stakes and tomato cages sometimes fall apart, so it’s best to check and reinforce them before disaster strikes.

Perennial climbers like espalier fruit trees, clematis, and kiwi vines also appreciate an extra boost of trellis strength. Pole beans and sweet peas are typically lightweight enough that they won’t topple a trellis. 

Remove Diseased Leaves

Close-up of a gardener's hands in gray gloves delicately trimming diseased and damaged tomato leaves, placing them into a large red bucket.Regularly remove diseased foliage to effectively prevent garden pathogen spread.

This simple July garden task is self-explanatory yet so important. Dying and diseased leaves are the major source of pathogens in the garden. If you leave blight-covered squash or tomato foliage to rot at the base of your plants, you can create problems for years to come! Just five minutes of garden cleanup can work wonders for disease prevention.

Wear gloves when removing diseased foliage or wash your hands thoroughly after. Carry a trash bag to dispose of infected leaves. Avoid shaking them, as this can spread fungal spores. Don’t forget to thoroughly sanitize your pruners and knives with a diluted bleach solution to kill any pathogen propagules. You can even spray your garden boots! Many plant diseases spread through the garden by traveling on tools and clothes!

Turn Your Compost Pile

Close-up of a gardener wearing gloves, using a pitchfork to turn over a compost pile in the garden, revealing a mix of decomposing organic matter.Enhance compost quality and reduce odor by aerating regularly.

If you’ve been piling up kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and plant prunings all summer, it’s probably time to turn your compost pile! Turning a compost pile incorporates oxygen into the decomposition process, which is super important for creating quality compost. 

Even more importantly, it prevents your pile from stinking up the neighborhood! Turning the compost prevents it from going anaerobic. Anaerobic (lacking oxygen) conditions welcome harmful bacteria and microbes that cause the plant scraps to rot into a nasty-smelling mess. 

Use a pitchfork or shovel to flip the pile around, bringing the bottom layers to the middle and the middle layers to the top. Whether you have a regular pile or a 3-bin composting system, it helps to shovel layers over into a new area as you go. A compost turner makes the process extra easy because you only need to crank the handle.

If the pile is exceptionally smelly, wet, or slimy, you need to add carbon! Carbon-rich materials include dry leaves, straw, newspaper, and sawdust.

Start Preservation and Canning 

Close-up of homemade pickles in glass jars filled with brine infused with garlic, dill, and horseradish, displayed on a wooden board.Make the most of summer harvests by creatively preserving crops.

What are you going to do with all those green beans, cucumbers, okra, zucchini, tomatoes, and herbs? Preserve them, of course! July is a great time to get your kitchen accessories out and start preserving the harvest. Fermenting, freezing, sun-drying, dehydrating, pickling, and canning are just a few of the delicious ways to make your summer abundance last until winter!

If you’re the type of gardener who dreads endless days of autumn canning, it’s easier to spread out the efforts through the summer. Your winter meals will be so much better with homemade pickles, sauerkraut, dried herbs, canned sauces, and frozen chopped veggies.

Start Seeding Fall Crops

Close-up of a woman's hand delicately sowing seeds into the rich, sunlit soil of a vibrant summer garden, with various plants in the background.Succession planting keeps your garden productive all season long.

We typically associate July with harvesting, but seeding can be just as important this month. Believe it or not, many fall crops actually get their start in mid-summer. You don’t have to plan for only one cycle of each crop. Most year-round growers practice succession planting to keep their garden cranking for as long as possible! 

Succession sowing means staggering your planting dates to ensure long-lasting yields. At any given time, you may have three different paintings of a single crop:

  1. A mature group of plants you are harvesting from
  2. “Teenager” plants that have recently been transplanted
  3. Seedlings or freshly sown plants that won’t produce for several months

For example, green beans are the perfect plant to succession-sow. You may be harvesting your first green beans now, but those plants may peter out their production in a few months. If you want beans throughout September and October, you should plan to seed more successions in the middle of summer.

Here are some perfect vegetables to sow in July for abundant fall yields:

  • Corn
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Malabar spinach
  • Beans (pole or bush)
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumbers
  • Turnips
  • Chard

The right timing for these plants will vary based on your growing zone. Northern growers may have the perfect window to direct-sow frost-tender crops outdoors, but it may be too hot in the South to reliably germinate brassicas. Use a soil thermometer probe to ensure your garden soil is in the right temperature range for your selected crop.

Final Thoughts

Make the most of July’s garden profusion by staying up your weeding, watering, and fertilizing tasks. Don’t forget to deadhead flowers and prune vines to keep the garden tidy. Harvest and preserve as many fruits as possible to ensure continuous production throughout the summer.

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