Why I Like July


IMG_3874 No responsible person would plant shrubs and move perennials in July–too hot!–but I never said that I was responsible.

While the whole rest of the world is swimming and–if the activity outside my window at 2 am is to be trusted–drinking copious quantities of beer, I am working very hard in the garden.

Here's what I like about July.  It follows April, when the gardeners in my part of the world anxiously watch the weather and fret, Can I start gardening now? Can I? Can I?

It follows May, which begins with endless back-building wheelbarrow work, as mulch and compost are spread, and ends with a huge planting push.

It also follows June, when the gardener corrects all mistakes made in May, rethinks what vegetables she might want to use in some recipe or other, crams in more crops, and replants in the wake of cut-worm devastation.

In July, however, the mind and the wallet clear.  I am finally free to have a look at my ornamental beds, to make executive decisions involving Swedish bowsaw–that sprawling holly that's been annoying me for 8 years is finally slated for execution–and to shop.

The nurseries are now empty, as the rest of the world pursues swimming and beer.  They get a little desperate and slash prices. I just bought currants and gooseberries at two for $10.  I just bought a bunch of dahlias for $1 each and blue gladioli for even less. Under ordinary circumstances, gladioli are annoying because they keel over in the garden, but aren't really tall enough to justify staking.  But at a dozen for $1.50, who cares?

As things get cheaper, I get more experimental and come home with all kinds of unneeded shrubs and perennials, some of which will work and some of which will develop heat stroke and expire.

Only in July am I really free as a gardener.  By August, the vegetable garden will be generating so much that I'll been intensely focused on cooking.  But right now, I am as light as a feather.  Maybe it's the beer.


  1. Wow I am currently doing the same thing though my unofficial goal is to have round one of purchased plants in the ground by end of July. I have been digging out masses of self sown perennials and ones that are my favorites any more and have already purchased some sale plants to put in their place. Beer is usually my reward of a job well done (well started anyhow!)

  2. I have several pots of $2 yarrow and a flat of ground covers sitting on my porch for JUST THIS REASON.

    They’ll survive if I water them religiously. Right? Right.

  3. I like July because there’s just something so gratifying about reaching down into my sheet mulch and feeling how moist it still is – while the neighbor’s bark-mulched garden is visibly upset – allowing me to drink beer while he’s out watering all day.

  4. I end up doing the same thing. The height of the growing season is pretty much July. If things don’t look good in the herbaceous border or shrub garden, they’re gone! It’s the perfect time to refine your styling and make executive decisions. I know my mom just brought home a slew of perennials she plans on growing.

  5. I envy you your Julys. Around here (north Texas) almost everything has stopped due to heat exhaustion. I’ll get some beans, a few peppers, maybe, but the squash won’t come in until much later and the tomatoes have gone “off line” until September. It’s just too bloody hot to do much now, except wander through the garden in the early morning, do a bit of revival watering after a sweltering day, and stay indoors writing about not gardening. I guess I can enjoy your garden vicariously–but I will always miss Julys in Chicago, when everything was at its peak.

  6. I do just what Owlfarmer, above, does in July. I also do a lot of swimming and frowning at and pondering about the surrounding garden. Actually this July I’m going to rip out some drought-shriveled plants and add some yuccas. Luckily they can take a summer planting. But can I?

  7. I’m planning on hitting the two for one sale next week. I really want more Digitalis grandiflora.

  8. I transplanted an entire (small) garden last week in the middle of a heat wave. My July goal is to keep those poor plants alive through the rest of the heat. It will be September at the earliest before they can flourish in their new homes. Maybe I should hit the nurseries & see if there are some deals now. Just in case I need replacements, y’know ?

  9. I love July as well. Just visited the garden store today and saw the beginning of SALES. Once I return from vacation, I will be judiciously planning my new backyard shrub/perennial border without feeling the high prices seen a few months ago. I also love plant shopping in the fall!

  10. What a beautiful hymn in praise of the less-appreciated garden wonders of July. I also love July for the fact that the first frosts here are probably three months off, so the experiments I try now will probably come to full flower.

  11. Julyy is weed month and japanese beetle smashing month. And looking around and realizing I have NO room for any nice sale items so I avoid the nursury. Which means it also the ruthless month. That is to dam’ big for that location. Whhat idiot planted it there? The answer is alway me. So I need to yank out things then go to the sales.

  12. I so am in tune with this post. Now my big perennial bed is showing what needs to go, what needs to be moved, and what needs to be added. I love transplanting and moving in July, and it’s true that sales are starting in the nurseries. Love July in the garden.

  13. I move things around in July too, even though I know transplanting things in hot dry weather is a bad idea. Trying to keep the things I’ve relocated alive just makes it more challenging. A few weeks ago, I moved a buddleia I bought last July when it was on sale… It’s almost recovered.

  14. You write:
    “While the whole rest of the world is swimming and–if the activity outside my window at 2 am is to be trusted–drinking copious quantities of beer, I am working very hard in the garden.”

    Are you working very hard in the garden at 2am, or is it that there are people drinking too much beer at that time? How many activities are happening, in that paragraph, at 2am?

    I understand that it’ll be cooler then, but one needs delayed sleep onset and terrific night vision!

    Why, yes, it IS 1.3 PDT, and right after I catch up on this blog’s entries and right before I go to bed, I’m going to dunk myself in the pool to cool off enough to get to sleep.

  15. You sound like me. I rush every year to finish planting by July. Planting in the heat is bad for the plants and me. However, I just can’t stand to wait till fall when I see something new at the nurseries or if a planting bed has become less exciting than hoped. Funny, the local nurseries here are still bringing out beautiful blooming plants every week. In fact, one told me he sells perennials better in bloom. I can’t even find some things I want at retail in spring because of this. Stay hydrated (you and the new plants).

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