July is when spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils and tulips are finally dormant, so this is a good week to lift the dry bulbs and store them in a cool, dry spot until fall planting time arrives. Carefree gardeners can just leave the bulbs in the ground all summer but over time the mother bulb will form babies that will diminish the blooms. Persnickety and penny-pinching gardeners will dig the bulbs now and remove any side bulblets so the mother bulbs can concentrate on blooming, not making babies.
Q. How late can I plant vegetables from seed? We got off to a late start this year. L.H., Puyallup
A. Dig in and grow for it. You can plant seeds of beets, bush beans, radishes, scallions, chard, kale, spinach and many herbs this week and still enjoy a harvest before the fall frost. You might also find started vegetables in pots such as tomatoes, zucchini and peppers and those can be transplanted into your garden bed as well. Just make sure to keep the seed bed moist when you do summer planting.
Q. Can my husband fertilize our lawn in July? It is looking a bit pale and he forgot to feed it in the spring. He says feeding in the summer will burn the lawn. I think he just doesn’t want to bother. Wife, email
A. Yes, you can fertilize your lawn in the summer and early July is good time to green up a pale lawn using one-half to one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of grass. You must water in the fertilizer after it is applied, especially during summer months, to prevent burning of the lawn. A fertilizer that uses slow-release nitrogen (more likely from organic sources) will be less likely to burn or to leach excess nitrogen into the groundwater. There are now several companies that make slow-release lawn fertilizers. Most lawns in Western Washington will stay green with just one application of lawn food each fall. If your soil is poor than you may need to feed your lawn twice a year in fall and spring. The July feeding is only recommended to perk up a pale lawn that has not yet been fertilized this year.
Q. When does one prune raspberries? We enjoyed the berries but now the plants seem to be growing wild and crazy and some branches are turning brown. F.H., Tacoma
A. Prune your raspberries after they produce berries by cutting back the canes or branches that just bore fruit. You will be able to tell, as these will be the branches turning brown. Take control of the wild new growth by tying the long canes to horizontal supports as these will be the branches that give you berries next summer. If you have ever-bearing raspberries that make fruit all summer, prune back the top half of the plants after they bear fruit and begin to dry up. Raspberries send out shoots or runners so are best grown away from other plants so the runners don’t sneak into other beds.
Mulch around the roots of raspberry plants this month to keep down weeds and to seal in moisture. Gardeners in Western Washington are lucky because raspberries grow better here than just about anyplace else in the world and a vine ripened, sun-warmed, off the vine, sweet raspberry is a flavor treat most people will never experience.