Dig It with Fulke Andel

GARDENING ADVICE FOR THE NEW (AND NOT SO NEW) GARDENER

June has been a month of contrasts; from glorious sunshine to horrendous downpours in a matter of moments. 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 that’s the kiss of death now! Keep plants looking good by regularly dead-heading, 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.

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Water thoroughly once or twice a week rather than little and often – this encourages plants to put down roots in search of water instead of 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 established 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 planted 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.

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Jobs to do in the garden for the Month of July

SOW/PLANT

Spring cabbage, Chicory, Chinese cabbage, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Peas, French beans, Beetroot, Carrots, Radishes

PLANT OUT

Broccoli and calabrese, Cabbages and cauliflowers, Kale, Leeks

HARVEST

Most vegetables should be coming on stream, so you could be enjoying:-

Broad beans, French beans, Runner beans, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Courgettes, Cucumbers, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Onions, Spring onions, Peas, Early potatoes, Radish, Spinach, Tomatoes, Turnips

FRUIT

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.

GENERAL

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

READERS TIPS

When planting geraniums, plant them slightly higher than the surrounding compost/soil. Only a few millimetres is needed. This helps prevent rot during wet weather

A.J. West Cross

SEASONAL RECIPE

French beans and runner beans should be plentiful now. So here’s a recipe I first encountered while visiting an old school friend of mine, outside Toulouse. You will need French beans (topped and tailed) butter, diced garlic, chopped parsley salt and pepper. Bay Template

Boil the beans for a few minutes, ensuring they remain ‘crispy’ (3 to 4 mins usually). In a frying pan heat the butter and add the garlic and parsley, fry for a minute or two then add the pre-cooked beans continuing to fry until they become imbibed with the butter/garlic/parsley. Add some freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt and serve.

This recipe works just as well with sliced runner beans and you can include chopped bacon and or diced onions to ring the changes.

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