July to mid-August is a good time to visit friend's gardens and to go on garden tours. I also like to walk around the test gardens at NDSU, which is just off of 12th Avenue North on 18th Street. You can get many ideas for your own garden and see what plants do well in our area. Be sure to take along a notepad and pencil to write down names and varieties of your favorites.
You will have to wait until next spring to buy or start the annuals that caught your eye. You can purchase shrubs and perennials now and add them to bare spots in your garden or wait until fall sales. Dig up and divide spring blooming perennials like iris and poppies this month. Mulch them well so they will survive any hot weather that may still occur and give them one inch of water per week. Don't fertilize your perennials at this time of year as it promotes growth that may be too tender to survive the winter.
Deadheading and cutting back plants will improve the overall look of your gardens and prevent unwanted seedlings. Remove foliage that has insect damage and that is dying back. If you cut back some plants, like Blanket flower and Scabiosa you may get new growth for a fall show. Pinch back leggy plants so that they branch out and produce more flowers. Many annuals, especially petunias and alyssum benefit from being cut back hard. They will recover and put on a new show, but you may want to stagger this process in a bed so that everything is not bare at once.
Some annuals, such as purple alyssum, lobelia, snapdragons, pinks and marigolds stop producing when the temperature gets very hot. They will begin blooming again after the weather cools off. This year this is not a problem, but the heat loving annuals like zinnias, vinca rosea, gazania and moss rose are not happy with the cool weather.
If you used a slow-release fertilizer in your garden beds you do not need to fertilize again. Container plants will need additional fertilizer if they start to show less vigor. The frequent watering that is necessary for containers tends to wash out nutrients.
This has been a good year for roses, but we do need rain. Make sure that your roses get and inch of water a week. Slowly dribble it in at the soil level until the top 8 inches are moist. Don't fertilize any more this year. Keep pruning off the spent flowers by cutting the stem back to a leaf with five leaflets. New growth will sprout from this junction for another round of blooms. Remove and destroy any leaves that show blackspot or rust.
Hydrangeas have been absolutely stunning this year. I am looking for a good spot to plant the 'Pinky Winky' hydrangea that I just purchased. It has conical shaped flower panicles that turn from white to pink as they age. Late summer and early fall are excellent times to plant trees and shrubs. However, be sure that the plants you purchase have been well maintained and are not stressed. You waste time and money on those that only die after a few years of struggle.
Spring gardening fever has usually worn off by August, but you should be able to sit back and relax as the annuals take over the show. Phlox, coneflowers and Rudbeckias are the most prominent perennials and the tall sedums, like Autumn Joy begin to change from green to pink.