July Newsletter & Garden Sustainable Management Practices for the Southeast


Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest is still accepting membership for 2019. Our next Forum is Saturday, July 6th. Click here for details. The topic is on safely controlling Japanese beetles in your garden.

Bee Better Naturally will be offering several workshops for the Raleigh area. They are as follows:

Certification in Sustainable Gardening

Gardening for Hummingbirds

Pollinator Gardens

Forum membership registration for 2020 will start soon. Our tentative discussion topics are:





HOW-TO Grow Oyster Mushrooms

We are excited to announce our Certificate in Sustainable Gardening Program starting in January.

Click HERE to learn more.

This is an important message for those of us who raise monarch butterflies to adulthood. A recent study was released suggesting monarchs raised in captivity lost their ability to navigate south. It is VERY important to note, these eggs, larvae, and adults used in this study were purchased from a breeding house from elsewhere. The study does NOT address eggs and caterpillars collected from our own back gardens and raised in a protective chamber outside. The headline is sensationalized journalism. I wrote to the author the following:

I read your article, Monarch Butterflies Reared in Captivity Lack a Crucial Ability, with great interest. I must say, your title is misleading. Are you suggesting educators like myself are contributing to the problem of monarch migration because we raise monarch eggs or larvae in chambers two to five feet from the milkweed (Asclepias spp.)?

More data are needed. A story like this will spread like wildfire within the environmental, naturalists community when yes, shipping eggs, larvae, or adults from breeding houses may very well be a problem, yet the local educators rearing eggs or larvae laid on their own local milkweed isn’t. You story sensationalize it such that it will make a leap that it is!!! Please make a retraction, clarifying your article.

Saying Reared in Captivity also suggests those raising monarchs locally. Do you see my point?

Helen Yoest

Environmental Scientist, M.S.

However, given the results of this study, Bee Better Naturally with Helen Yoest recommends to ONLY raise butterflies from your own location and not purchased from a breeding house. Thank you..

Bee Better Teaching Garden released two adult butterflies yesterday! This is my middle child, Lily, age 19.

Bee Better Teaching Garden released two adult butterflies yesterday! This is my middle child, Lily, age 19.

The Bee Better Teaching Garden is peaking now. There always so much color from mid-June on. In early May, our garden was scouted for a tour group from VA. They wondered where the color was. Ha! I’ve been writing about this since 2001. May is our color of green. As hard as I’ve tried, May is green—mostly—at least for us. Come June, watch out; and July, fireworks on the ground!!! So we turned them down. We don’t want to disappoint. Now if it were in June, that would be different.

I’ve added an new category to this website to hold how-tos we have developed over the years. Here are three links we have up already:

How-To Make a Moss Dish

How-To Make Tweet Treats

How-To Make a Bird Bubblier

Thursday, June 27, 2019, I spoke at the Science Cafe for the NC Museum of Science Museum. It was a wonderful evening!

Thursday, June 27, 2019, I spoke at the Science Cafe for the NC Museum of Science Museum. It was a wonderful evening!

July Garden Management


July is your prize after many months of gardening — from fall prep to spring planning — and you now get to reap your rewards with fresh fruits, vegetables, and fragrant flowers.

It is a time of abundance.

July is not the best planting month for southeast gardens, but it’s a good time to plan and prepare. The weeds will not let you rest, but they might slow down to a manageable pace during the dog days of summer. Rainfall will best determine how much time you’ll spend weeding. Little rain, fewer weeds. More rain, more weeds.

What are the dog days? The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. So watch yourself!!!

As a side note, January and July are my two worse months. For January, it is too dark. For July, it is too hot. On this first day of July, I’m counting the days until August.

In the Bee Better Teaching Garden The first week in July is as busy as a week in spring or fall. July is when I do annual cutback, clearing paths for better passage, deadheading and deadleafing of every plant in the garden. The big job is to cut back the hardy mums. A haircut in by the Fourth of July keeps the mums stouter so when they bloom, they aren’t so floppy.

Volunteer sunflowers

Bee Balm, cleome, crinums, coreopsis, lantana, salvias, phlox, ruella, coneflowers, mountain mint, milkweeds, plus the annuals are blooming, especially the petunias and zinnias! Also in bloom are the gardenias, black-eyed Susans, and the crape mrytles are in their full glory. I’m particularly happy with the Phlox ‘Jenna’. I planted in in the fall and it is peaking now.

Deadhead flowers. Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies, and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s time to deadhead; you will get another flush of flowers throughout the fall.

As I may have mentioned, I have thing for Oakleaf hydrangeas, Hydrangea quercifolia. The ones I have in my back 40 (feet) are the straight species, and have been there for 20 years. The newer varieties show nice shades of fading pink for a longer period of time. Mine go pink then brown rather quickly. I still love the color, especially since my garden accents are a rust color.

The Oakleaf hydrangea peeling bark gains some attention in the landscape as well. As the stems age, the outer bark rolls back to showcase the orange or cinnamon colored inner bark. I like that.

During the month of July, I send time doing an all-plant maintenance once over. I literally groom each plant whether it is dead-leafing, dead-heading, cutting back for a sturdier plant in the fall. This is also the time I thin plants, and share them with the Bee Better Forum members. 

In the Bee Better Teaching Garden The first week in July is as busy as a week in spring or fall. July is when I do annual cutback, clearing paths for better passage, deadheading and deadleafing of every plant in the garden. The big job is to cut back the hardy mums. A haircut in by the Fourth of July keeps the mums stouter so when they bloom, they aren’t so floppy.

One of the big efforts for the Bee Better Teaching Garden is pinching back by a 1/3 each stem of the Hardy Chrysanthemum x rubellum ‘Sheffield Pink’ or the affectionate name Sheffies for those of us who love this late fall bee pollinator. It makes a huge difference if not cut, getting too leggy. It is my Fourth of July tradition!

There is always weeding to do, even though I’m a reliable mulcher, crabgrass happens!

Cut back annuals: Cut back summer annuals so they don’t get leggy. A good time to do this is right before you go on vacation; this way, you’ll be gone as the plants get a fresh start. Petunias benefit from this kind of summer pinch. Cutting back from the ends of the stems encourages branching, resulting in a bushier plant.

Do those yellow leaves of the daylily make you see red? They do to me. Not only do I deadhead my daylilies, but I also deadleaf. I don’t like the look of yellow or decaying daylily leaves.

Divide irises: Did you have success with your new iris planted this year or in the fall? If not, it could be due to several factors: too much shade, too much fertilizer, too deep a planting, or crowding. July is a good time to correct any of these problems by lifting and relocating or repositioning to a more favorable location.

Plant the iris high with the rhizomes along the surface of the dirt. They can be covered finely and lightly with mulch, but not soil. Make sure you can either see the rhizomes or have the ability to brush away the mulch exposing the bulb.With the exception of Louisiana variety, irises need six- to eight-hours of sunlight to bloom and require good drainage. If you have a damp, partial sun location in your garden, plant a Louisiana iris.

Well, do I really need to say, July isn’t the ideal planting time? Guess who planted several things in the garden yesterday? My rule of thumb is that anything can be panted as long as it gets watered. So why was I planting perennials? I have a waterwise design, and I’m not a fan of paying for water.

Select and pre-order your spring-blooming bulbs now while supplies are plentiful. Don’t put off today what will be gone tomorrow. The most unusual bulbs sell out fast. Try something fun such as the species tulip, Tulipa clusiana.

I always like to try something new. After the 4th, I’ll open the Brent and Becky catalog to see what will tempt me this year.

I just received an email from Eden Brothers offering a 60% sale on spring planting bulbs!


2019 garlic harvest.JPG

Harvest summer edibles: Here is 2019 garlic harvest. Bulbs are a bit small, but we also had a LOT of rain.

Harvest tomatoes when they are ripe. There is nothing better than sinking your teeth into a ripe tomato, warmed from the summer sun.

Didn’t plant tomatoes? Visit your local farmers market for a selection of fresh, field-grown varieties.

Did you know you can plant a second (or first) crop of tomatoes now? Yes, you will have tomatoes through first frost!

In your home garden, keep an eye out for early blight. Blight is a fungal disease that will cause spots to develop on the foliage. The leaves begin to yellow and then drop. Pinch off foliage at first indication. If too severe, there are several fungicides that can be used to reduce the symptoms.

This from Craig LeHoullier:  “There are two types of common fungus, Alternaria (early blight) and Septoria cause leaf splotching, with brown spots or lesions, sometimes showing yellowing as well….it can splash up onto lower foliage – so mulching is important to delay this inevitable occurrence, especially where its really muggy and hot. Even with mulching, it does start low and move up the plant–removing blemished foliage slows the progression, and the plants continue with top growth to keep them going. I examine my plants and remove the blemished foliage every few days. Check this resource for common (and uncommon) tomato issues – it is really useful.”

We have a bumper crop of tomatoes right now. Loving them! Yet, I still haven’t had a BLT. I need to fix that soon!

Garlic and onions were harvested; too much rain caused my garlic to be small.

I only ever only want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden.

I finally have paw paws, Asimina triloba, the second year in a row. I guess I’m on a roll! They took their sweet ole time. My trees are nearly ten years old!

The blueberries are very small this year. I should probably give them some water, but the birds will get them anyway, and they will be fine for my feathered friends. P.S. I went out to water, and well, I think I lost half of my plants! I should have taken better care of them. Even as a native, they need water. Yikes!!!

The raspberries in the Bee Better Teaching Garden are ever-bearring. Although I don’t know for sure, I believe they are ‘Southland’. The first big flush was in late May. Throughout the rest of the summer, I’ll see a few here and there. After the blackberry and raspberry harvest, remove the old fruiting canes to make room for the new canes that will produce next year’s crop.

I like the taste of a real apple, thus so many in the grocery store are not satisfying to me. In the fall, I love going to the Farmers Market and trying all the different varieties.

We grow ‘Transcendence’ crabapple. It was one recommended by J.C. Raulston. Did you know the only difference between an apple and a crabapple is the size? There are lots of fruit in our front yard tree, and I’m already looking forward to my first bite of the season.

We are entering a very dry month. Make sure your birdbaths are full and replenished every 4-5 days.

Echinacea purpurea is a pretty pollinator in Southeast gardens. After it’s finished flowering, keep the seed heads for the birds to feed.

This is our first year with volunteer sunflowers. The native bees are very happy!

To learn more about the Mysteries of the Monarchclick HERE!


Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden, was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have, is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained. and the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

This is true year round, and particularly true in July and August: Remember, waterwise means using water wisely. It is not xeriscaping! Water new plantings until they are established. At the BBTG, we recommend:

Annuals: Best planted after the last frost. Most annuals will last through first frost. Every day the first week, ever other day the next, and weekly after that in the absence of rain. Give them an inch.

Perennials: Best planted in the fall or spring. Every other day the first week, every third day the two next two weeks, and weekly after that in the absence of rain. Give them an inch.

Shrubs: Best planted in the fall. In the absence of an inch of rain, water deeply weekly for the first year. I bet you don’t do that. I’ve lost shrubs by forgetting this sage advice.

Trees: Best planted in the fall. In the absence of an inch of rain in any given week, water deeply weekly for two years. I bet you don’t do that either. It’s a good idea to begin some new routines!

Practice wise watering methods: July can be a month with limited rainfall. When nature stops providing regular rain, you may need to supplement. Here are some tips to help your garden during a dry season:

  • Chances are your container plants will need to be watered every day. Check by doing the finger test. If the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to water. Water thoroughly. Small pots will dry out faster than larger pots, and containers in the sun will dry out faster than those in the shade.

  • Add mulch. A layer of mulch, three to four inches deep, will moderate soil temperature and reduce evaporation. Organic mulches include: composted leaves, shredded pine or hardwoods, and even nuggets. Mulches will also reduce weed production and keep the garden looking tidy.

  • First season plants — those fall and spring additions — will need more frequent watering than established ones. Water new additions two or three times per week until the plants are established. Established plants typically require watering once a week.

  • Conserve water by running (if you must) a sprinkler during cooler hours, typically in early morning. This will help reduce water loss due to evaporation. If possible, set up a drip irrigation system or a soaker hose to minimize waste. Watering in the morning hours also allows the water to dry on the foliage, minimizing fungal formation.

Manage pests: 

Bagworms: Do yourself a favor and never look into the “eye” of a bagworm. Bagworms have got to be the most disgusting looking pests ever — to me anyway.

Bagworms can be treated by removing them by hand and dropping into a bucket of soapy water. If the bagworm infestation isn’t within easy reach, they can be sprayed with Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt for short.

Bt is a microbial insecticide that’s commonly used to control various caterpillars such as the red-headed azalea caterpillar along with many other caterpillars, as well as those nasty bagworms. But remember, it will kill our moth and butterfly larvae, as well!

Mosquitoes: Are mosquitoes ruining your summer cookouts? Click here to learn more about safely controlling mosquitoes.

Mosquitoe dunks Short answer: yes. Mosquito Dunks and similar products containing the natural insecticide Bt really do live up to their promise. ... Bt is fatal when larvae eat it, but is harmless to humans and other animals, including fish and frogs. Dunks and Bits kill larvae in standing water like this drainage ditch.

Japanese Beetles: July is also the month of the Japanese Beetle. Popillia japonica. Japanese beetle, is an invasive plant pest that was first introduced to eastern North America from Japan in 1916. The adults are active flyers, but natural spread is slow and they are not able to travel long distances on their own. These beetles may move long distances as hitchhikers on plant material, in roots or soil, or even on cars, trains or planes.

Japanese beetle larvae feed on the roots of turf grass and other plants. Adults are heavy feeders, attacking the flowers, foliage and fruit of more than 250 plant species, including roses, blueberries and grapevines. Japanese beetle skeletonizing a leaf

Don’t be so quick to squish!

This from my Facebook friend, Lynette: “Be sure to check them FIRST to see if they have any tanchid fly eggs on their shoulders. If they do, let them go and the flies will hatch out and consume them from the inside — and produce more flies to dispatch more Japanese beetles. If you see those opaque white dots — one or two or three or more — let them go.”

As summer peaks, you probably can’t see much ground. Consider your plants as a green mulch.

During July, I perform a  full-plant-maintenance. A what? I go into each bed and begin an inspection of each plant. Does it need staking, dead-heading, dead-leafing, or pinching back for sturdier fall presence. These herbaceous materials, or biowaste added to the back 40 (ft.) sheet compost bed. Here, I lay a layer of green and then cover with a brown. Im my case, it happens to be some of the pinestraw I gathered from willing friends.


Learn about the mysteries of the monarch here.

Ready for Monarchs.JPG


We had a predator attack.

We had a predator attack.

Not sure what or how they got in. I got in my messiest garden gear and crawled from one end of the run to the other to see where the predator entered. I found nothing. The coop is fine to. as is the tunnel. Today, they are spending time in the coop until I can figure this out. Lost one of our girls. :(

You grew them, bring them inside.

The topic will be on controlling Japanese beetles without sprays.



 Believe it or not, I started the NC State Fair demonstration garden preparation. This year’s topic will be attracting bluebird.