July in the Southern Garden
The early Romans knew July as Quintilis -- with 36 days. Julius Caesar reformed the calendar -- giving this month his name and 31 days.
Larkspur or Delphinium is considered the flower of July. The name "larkspur" comes from the small petal at the back of the flower which looks like the spur of a European skylark. Greeks gave the name "delphinium" because the long, outer parts of the flower resemble a dolphin. Florida gardeners can be successful with these tall spikes of blue and purple even if it's not a native.
A Florida flower for July is the Water Lily -- an aquatic perennial -- rooted in the muddy bottom of shallow ponds. Cultivated worldwide in warm climates, they have been popular since ancient times. Our native, yellow pond lily, called by some "Cow Lily" or "Frog Lily", blooms all summer. Some flower by day, others by night -- and range from pure white to red or blue and intermediate shades. Victoria Regia -- a Brazilian water lily -- has leaves from 4 to 6 feet in diameter. With turned-up edges and structural ridges, this raft-like leaf will support a small child. Its underside is armored with numerous sharp spikes -- to discourage the feeding attacks of large turtles. Its rose-white flowers expand one inch per hour -- to an impressive 18 inch span.
In 1890, the painter Monet created a large pond at Giverny -- fed by a diverted stream. His gardeners planted many water lilies and built a high-backed Japanese footbridge. Here Monet would stand for hours -- studying the lilies with the reflected sky and clouds. This inspiration gave him a rich harvest of 48 canvases -- 300 feet in length -- all on the water lily theme.
July is usually hot and wet. Controlling pests and fertilizing plants will be important.
For your vegetable garden -- plant okra, eggplant, pole beans, southern peas, peppers, sweet potato and melons. Use mulch generously to control weeds and build a richer soil. For a free copy of the Vegetable Gardening Guide for North Central Florida, send a SASE to me:
Jim Notestein, 3701 NW 17 Street, Gainesville, FL 32605.
July is the last month to prune Azaleas. Any later and you'll be removing next springs' flower buds.
Apples, Grapes and Pears will be coming in to the Farmers Market and U-Pick locations. The Market is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday -- in North Gainesville -- near the intersection of US 441 and State Road 121 (near the Highway Patrol Station). Call the Agricultural Extension Service (955-2402) for help in locating the many U-Pick farms in our county.
If you're planning a fall garden -- the first step is a soil test. Take a half-pint of soil to the Extension Office (2800 NE 39 Avenue) and they'll mail test results and recommendations back to you. While you're there, pick up the free literature that interests you.
As a safer alternative to pesticides on your plants -- try the "arm-strong" method -- use thumb and forefinger to remove and crush the offending critters. Gruesome but effective. Encourage song birds with food, water and nesting sites and they will patrol effectively for most varieties of pests. Toads, lizards, wasps and spiders are also on our side against marauding bugs -- so give these helpers some respect and tolerance.
A permanent remedy for July's heat is large shade trees. Plant now and water them well. Think beyond your yard when you think of planting trees. Many of our schools are greatly in need of shade and volunteers to water the young trees during the dry periods. Call TREE WATCH (372-2107) if you want to help cool and beautify local schools and parks.
Enjoy all your mid-summer dreams in the spirit of inter-dependence and enjoy July to the fullest.
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