With more consistent blue skies and warm weather, this month of July is feeling more like summer than ever! From enjoying the warmth of the sun by the poolside, turning on that shiny new grill, catching beautiful sunsets, to roasting s’mores in the fire pit, conditions are perfect for spending time with loved ones right in your own backyard and appreciating the freedoms that we have. Here are some helpful hints to keep your landscape ready for those fun-filled gatherings:

What pests to watch for: The hot mid summer weather seems to have the insects at their peak. Aphids, budworm, tomato hornworm, cucumber beetles, mites, thrips, whitefly and scale insects can all cause serious problem to your landscape plants.

Tips and tricks: Check Ash, Birch and Tulip trees for aphid infestation and treat now to head off a big honey dew problem later. Use Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) to treat bud worm and tomato horn worm. This is a living organism and it is perishable, so be sure to mix up only what will be used that day and store your concentrate in a cool place to preserve it for future use. Aphid, mites, thrips, and whitefly can all be treated with insecticidal soaps that can be easily purchased in the gardening section of local home good department stores. Cucumber beetle control often requires more conventional insecticides for control.

Scale insects are difficult to control chemically this time of year because most of them have reached their adult stage and are protected from insecticides by their shell. Scale insect populations are often controlled by their many predators, however ants will often protect the scale by chasing away the predators. Control these ants using ant stakes, sticky barriers, or granular insecticides around your plants. Lastly, paint the trunks of young trees with light colored interior latex paint to protect plants from both sun scald and borers.

What to plant: It’s the perfect time to plant cosmos, daylilies, ivy geranium, lobelia, salvia and verbena.

Fertilize! Make sure to fertilize your azaleas, rhododendrons, and camellias with a low dose of acid forming fertilizer. Also, give summer annuals 0-10-10 to promote blooming once the have become established.

Prune ’em away! Remove faded flowers from Crape Myrtle to promote a September bloom and lightly prune to improve air circulation through both roses and crape myrtles to reduce mildew problems. Continue deadheading spent annual flowers and removing suckers. For berries, remove the canes that produced berries this year and select new canes for next years fruit.

Lawn Care! Warm season grasses are approaching their peak growth. Cool season grasses will begin to slow down because of the high soil temperatures. Continue to mow two and

a half to four inches high (2% – 4) to save water this summer and keep the root system healthy.

If you applied pre-emergent this spring in February, apply a second application of pre-emergent now for crabgrass control. Apply a slow release, high nitrogen fertilizer to continue steady growth. Please note that pre-emergent herbicide will not affect existing crabgrass, so a second application is not advised if you missed the February treatment.

Also, be sure to look out for lawn moths this month. However, do not treat until you have confirmed the presence of damaging larvae (the moths cause no harm). You can test for lawn moths by simply adding four tablespoons of liquid detergent to two gallons of water and then pouring the mixture onto the lawn where you suspect potential lawn moth damage. Any insects in the thatch layer will wiggle to the surface. Lawn moth larvae are light brown to light green and about one and one half inches long. Apply Diazonon for control, following all label directions carefully.

Note: If you have had problems with white grubs in the past, apply controls to the same areas this month. Use either nematodes or chemical insecticide, but again, be sure to follow the directions on the label.