Well we’ve experienced some extremes, weather wise over the last few months! A fantastically warm April, a colder than normal May and so far a windy June. However, according to our weather forecasting friends, July is often one of the hottest months of the year and a great time to sit out and enjoy your garden (well we’ll see!). So, to keep plants looking good, regularly dead-head them, and you’ll enjoy a longer display of blooms. Make sure you keep new plants well watered and hoe off weeds, which thrive in the sunshine.
Water thoroughly once or twice a week rather than little and often – this encourages plants to put down roots in search of water rather than coming up to the surface. Remember, though, that containers and hanging baskets need watering every day and sometimes even twice a day if it is hot and windy.
For recently planted large shrubs or trees, leave a hose trickling around the base for an hour. The same goes for establ-ished plants in very dry periods – pay particular attention to camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas which will abort next season’s flowers if they get too dry. Mulch around the roots when moist to help avoid this. Recently plant-ed hedges are best watered with a trickle hose (a length of old hose punctured with little holes) left running for an hour or so.
Ensure trees or shrubs planted in the last couple of years on lawns or in areas of rough grass have a circle of clear earth around them – this must be kept clear or grass will prevent essential moisture getting through. Mulching with bark or compost will help.
Water is a precious commodity – instigate good practices such as using kitchen and bath water
(as long as it is neither too dirty, greasy nor full of detergent) for watering, collect rainwater in butts and investigate ways to recycle water for your irrigation. A good investment might be a water butt pump that you can also use to pump water from your bath, out of the window and into your water butt. May draw some comments from the neighbours, but you’ll be doing your bit to conserve water and if you’re on a water meter like me, you could save yourself some serious money as well!
The key to successful planting, whether it be a shrub, tree, perennial or bedding plant is to water in well. Soak the root-ball in a bucket until no air bubbles come to the surface, dig the planting hole, fill with water and allow to drain away. Place the plant in the hole, fill with soil, firm gently and water well with a watering can – this will give the plant a huge advantage over one planted with a dry rootball in a dry hole and watered only on the surface.
Hoe beds and borders to get rid of annual weeds, like bitter cress and chickweed. If it’s dry, attack perennial weeds like ground elder and the like with systemic weed killer painted onto the leaves and trail tips of bindweed into jam jars full of the same. Remember systemic weed killers are indiscriminate and will kill anything they contact. If you don’t have time to do this, at least cut the culprits down to prevent them from setting seed.
Keep your pond topped up with fresh water – a build up of algae in warm weather can be toxic, if not fatal, for fish.
Pests love warm weather, so be on your guard! Caterpillar and aphid infestations can be dealt with by hand if caught early enough, but should the situation career out of control you will have to resort to insecticides or grin and bear it! Greenfly and blackfly especially love the heat and don’t forget aphids and other sap-sucking insects can transmit viruses so don’t give in to the sympathy vote. Try and attract beneficial insects by growing a wide variety of plants – ladybirds and their larvae are consummate aphid predators, as are lacewings and even wasps.
Jobs to do in your garden for the month of July
Broccoli and calabrese
Cabbages and cauliflowers
Most vegetables should be coming on stream, so you could be enjoying:-
Many fruits are ready to harvest or swelling. Swelling fruit requires a lot of water so ensure they have enough.
July is a good month for summer pruning apple trees and plum trees.
Check clematis for signs of clematis wilt
Place conservatory plants outside now that it is warm
Water tubs and new plants if dry, but be water-wise
Deadhead bedding plants and repeat-flowering perennials, to ensure continuous flowering
Pick courgettes before they become marrows
Pinch out the tops of broad bean plants once they start to flower, to discourage attack from blackfly
Treat apple scab
Clear algae, blanket weeds and debris from ponds, and keep them topped up
Order catalogues for next year’s spring-flowering bulbs
Give the lawn a quick-acting summer feed, especially if a spring feed was not done
Give woodwork a lick of paint or preserver, while the weather is dry
Many new plastic tubs these days come without drainage holes. If you buy some like this, consider drilling holes in the side around 1” above the base. This means that when watered, the bottom 1” will retain water and act as a saucer. However, don’t do this if the tub is going to hold plants that require free draining compost.
You may well be experiencing a glut of courgettes at the moment, so here’s a simple recipe to use up some of them, and to provide a tasty accompaniment to pre-BBQ drinks. You will need: – around 9 large courgettes – topped, tailed and thinly sliced lengthways, 175mls of olive oil, a handful of mint leaves, chopped coarsely, 3 garlic cloves finely chopped, 6 tablespoons of good quality vinegar and some salt.
Place the sliced courgettes on baking sheets and dry in an oven at 140 degrees C for about an hour. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the dried courgettes until golden. Do this in batches if need be. Drain the courgettes on kitchen paper, place in a serving dish and sprinkle with the mint, garlic, vinegar and salt.