July Garden Tips: Beat the Heat

This month, take a pause from yard work as you reassess your grass cutting practices and enjoy the wildlife summer flowers attract.
by Addie Ladner

July marks the start of the dog days of summer, the hottest and most humid stretch here in North Carolina — which is why garden expert Helen Yoest encourages folks to take it easy. “It can be brutal out there and you don’t want to stress yourself out,” she says. For Yoest, whose book Beginner’s Guide to Garden Planning and Design came out last month, that means enjoying her yard from her covered porch: “I like to have coffee in the early morning or a glass of wine in the evening to watch things grow and see what wildlife comes.” Here are her tips for this month.

Prevent Fungus 

In humid months, fungus like powdery mildew can easily spread between your lawn, vegetables and ornamental plants. Keep it at bay by spraying with Neem Oil or Captain Jack’s Copper Fungicide, says Yoest. She also suggests watering first thing in the early morning: “When the sun comes up, it will dry all the extra moisture from the watering and the early morning dew.” 

Rethink Lawn Height  

Fescue is a lush, soft lawn grass in this area because it stays green in the winter, but in the summer, cutting it too short can expose the soil to too much heat and sun. This can damage the roots, resulting in dry patches, slower growth and an overall parched lawn. Adjusting your mower setting — Yoest suggests raising it to 3 inches — can help. “Longer grass will help keep the roots cool,” she says. 

Pause Planting 

Summer typically brings a drought, and that risky time starts this month. So even though you might be eyeing someone’s vibrant dahlias, now is not the time to plant them. Instead, make a list to revisit once the temperature has dropped and the risk has decreased. “For trees, shrubs and perennials, I encourage people to wait until September and October,” says Yoest.  

This article originally appeared in the July 2024 issue of WALTER magazine.