July can be a tough month for plants because of the heat, high humidity and increased chances for disease and insect damage.

Some plants like figs, however, thrive in this season of high heat.

These trees grow well with little effort, and now is the time to harvest those fruits that are high in potassium, iron and fiber. The tree, which grows best in full sun, also makes a nice landscape plant with its large, lobed leaves. The best time to plant one is in the fall or winter.

Figs are subject to some common fungal diseases at this time of year. Thread blight and fig leaf rust cause leaf spotting and scorch in late summer and fall.

Since there are no EPA-approved fungicides to use on figs, the best way to manage is with good cultural practices. Plants should be spaced to provide good air circulation and should be watered at the root zone. Remove fallen, infected leaves and throw them away to prevent spread.

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In the vegetable garden, it’s time to start your seeds if you want a pumpkin to carve for Halloween. Average harvest days for pumpkins range from 70 to 120 days. Work backward from there to figure out the best planting date.

Pumpkins are vines and need a lot of room to grow, so plant them 3- to 6-feet apart and on every other row if planting in rows. For smaller bush-type pumpkins, space plants 2- to 3-feet apart.

Giant pumpkin varieties can weigh 80 or more pounds. Recommended varieties are Atlantic Giant, Prize Winner, Big Moon and Big Max.

Large varieties are 10 to 30 pounds and include Aspen, Howden, Spirit, Gold Rush, Cargo, Connecticut Fields and Jumpin Jack. New Moon and Lumina are both white pumpkins.

Medium-sized varieties are 5 to 10 pounds and include Autumn Gold, Big Autumn, Charisma, Cougar, Jack-o-Lantern, Neon and Peek a Boo. Cougar is bright orange and was the second pick at yield in field trials by the LSU AgCenter. Charisma is round and bright orange and was the fourth top-yielding pumpkin during 2016 field trials.

Small-sized pumpkins are Early Abundance (yellow), Darling and Sunlight (yellow to white). Sunlight was the top-yielding variety in 2016 trials; Early Abundance came in second and Darling was third. Also try Baby Bear, Casperita and Gooligan (white), Hooligan and Jack Be Little.

Smaller pumpkins tend to grow better in Louisiana. Wait to harvest until fruit is mature, show their characteristic color and have developed rinds that are hard to pierce. Cut from the vines, leaving a 3- to 5-inch stem attached to improve shelf life.

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If your lawn is in need of a little help, you can plant warm-season grasses throughout the summer. Planting in July gives the grass time to become established before going dormant in the winter. If you fertilized your Bermuda, zoysia or St. Augustine lawn in the spring, you can do a second application now. Don't reapply fertilizer for centipede grass.

During summer, don't use weed killers on the lawn. When the thermometer climbs above 85 degrees, weed killers can cause injury to your lawn. Chinch bugs and mole crickets are a problem this time of year. Follow pesticide labels and directions to treat.

Grasses thrive and grow aggressively in summer. Suggested mowing heights are: Bermuda grass, 1-1½ inches; centipede grass, 1-2 inches; St. Augustine grass, 2-3 inches; and zoysia, ½-1½ inches.

Do not plant trees and shrubs this month if you can avoid it; especially avoid digging up plants and moving them to new locations.

Control aphids on crape myrtles and lace bugs on azaleas and lantanas. For roses, continue a spray program that includes both a fungicide for black spot control and an insecticide to control pests.

Lastly, now is the time to plant heat-set tomatoes and bell peppers for fall harvest. Direct-seed okra, southern peas, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupe and watermelons throughout July, and order fall vegetable garden seeds including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, leafy greens and all your root crop seeds.


Email questions to gardennews@agcenter.lsu.edu.