Dig it

Gardening advice for the NEW (and not so new) gardener with Fulke Andel

After moaning about the early spring weather and the beast from the east, what a delight we experienced during May and early June. My garden has gone from the depths of dormancy to full flower in such a short period of time. Even the BBQ made an unseasonably early appearance. Could this be a reincarnation of the summer of ‘76 – if only it could! But now down to business…in order to keep plants looking good, especially geraniums, regularly dead-head them. By doing so 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 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 in lawns or in areas of rough grass have a circle of clear earth around them – this must be kept clear of grass, which will prevent essential moisture getting through. Mulching with bark or compost will certainly 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. This 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 root ball 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 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 are swelling. Swelling fruit require 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 conserva-tory plants out-side now that it is warm.
  • Water tubs and new plants if dry, but be water-wise.
  • Deadhead bed-ding plants and repeat-flowering perennials, to en- sure 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

If tomato plants are deprived of water during their early growth, they switch to survival mode and produce a large number of flowers. Once these appear, resume watering and you’ll be reward-ed with a heavy crop of tomatoes. IM Murton

Seasonal Recipe

French beans are coming into season now, so here’s a nice recipe for French beans and almonds. To serve 4 you will need: 300g French beans, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 small shallots – very finely sliced, 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, a squeeze of lemon, 2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds. Cook the French beans in boiling salted water until tender, then drain and cool under running water. Set aside. Put the olive oil, shallots, garlic cloves and some salt in a frying pan, then cook gently for about 8 mins until soft but not brown. Tip in the beans and a grind of pepper, toss well, and then warm through. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and the toasted flaked almonds. Enjoy!

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