Clean and Maintain Hummingbird Feeders
With daytime temperatures soaring, hummingbird feeders can quickly become contaminated with bacteria and mold. Clean contaminated feeders with a mild bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon water) and rinse and dry well before refilling. If daytime temperatures are below 70 degrees F, nectar can last up to a week, but be more cautious in warmer weather. Change nectar every 5 or 6 days if temperatures are above 70, every 3 or 4 days if above 80, and every 1 or 2 days if above 90.
July is the perfect month to repot tropical houseplants that are spending the summer outdoors. Even if they don't need a bigger container, most will benefit from a cleaning and the addition of fresh soil. Soak pots and scrub them with a stiff brush to remove salt deposits while letting the plant rest in a shallow container of water. Then, lightly root prune the plants before repotting with clean soil.
As soon as the last blackberries are picked, cut the oldest canes out of the shrub at ground level. Leave the new green canes, which will bear next year's crop, but pinch their tips when they are chest height to force the growth of side branches. Prune away broken, dead, infested, or diseased canes at any time -- the sooner the better.
Know When to Water
Look for a tell-tale footprint as a signal to water the lawn, as grass blades won't spring back when they are dry. In flower beds, irrigate when the top two inches of soil is completely dry. Individual pants that wilt in late afternoon may be simply suffering from the heat, but always grab a hose if they show signs of stress in the morning.
Heavy spring rains have quenched the Southeastern drought, but we're paying the price with a population explosion of mosquitoes. Discourage these pests by eliminating standing water in plant saucers, buckets, or other water-tight containers; by emptying and refilling birdbaths regularly; and by using mosquito dunks in fish-free ponds. When hanging out on the back porch, put the fan on high to keep flying critters at bay. Don't waste your money on electric bug zappers, though -- it's estimated that less than 2 percent of bugs killed are female mosquitoes (males don't bite).