Well, what a couple of months we’ve had! I, for one, didn’t see the lockdown happening so quickly – so was not at all prepared from a gardening perspective. Very little compost and only last year’s seeds to use. 3 months on, and the garden, despite the shortages, is looking great. Last year’s seeds germinated (apart from the French beans), the veg garden is a treat and the borders are full of colour.
Necessity is definitely the mother of invention. I’ve had to use spent compost for my hanging baskets – but with the addition of some slow release fertilizer, they’re looking good so far (see pic above). Being caught without flower pots forced Max from Hendy (see pics below, the grandson of an avid reader) to make use of yoghurt pots and margarine tubs to sow his seeds – another Monty Don in the making (see readers tips). Talking of Monty, he’s been an advocate of the benefits of gardening on your mental health for a number of years now, and by golly, working in the garden has certainly helped me over the last few months, giving me purpose and forcing me to plan for the future.
Before I get into the tasks ahead, I think I should give a huge thanks to the unsung horticultural heroes that have helped us get through such a difficult time:- Murton Nursery, Jamie at Three Cliffs Café, Cash Hardware (Mumbles), Pontarddulais Garden Centre and my local Gardening Societies (Pennard, Llanmadog) – who’ve responded to the pleas of gardeners for seeds, plants and compost, putting themselves out in order to meet the needs of others. Well done everyone!
Right then – July and August can be busy months, keeping on top of things in the garden. 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 practises 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.
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 – seal with cling film and an elastic band. 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 FOR THE MONTH OF JULY
- Spring cabbage
- Chinese cabbage
- French beans
- Broccoli and calabrese
- Cabbages and cauliflowers
Most vegetables should be coming on stream, so you could be enjoying:-
- Broad beans
- French beans
- Runner beans
- Spring onions
- Early potatoes
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.
Watch out for over-laden plums and damsons. If needed you can support branches by inserting a length of 2×1 timber, notched at the top (like an old-fashioned line prop) to support the branch or tie to the stem with robust twine.
Protect autumn raspberries now with netting from the birds before the fruits arrive and the birds eat the lot.
- 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.
Use yoghurt pots and margarine tubs to sow your seeds (see previous pics) Max (age 5), Hendy
This recipe makes good use of two vegetables that come into their own at this time:- Runner beans and tomatoes. Use as an accompaniment to a BBQ or as part of a mezze. You will need 500g of runner beans – topped, tailed and de-stringed and cut into 6cm pieces, 500g of ripe tomatoes, 2tbsp of olive oil,1 finely chopped onion, 1 garlic clove finely chopped, handful of basil leaves, salt and pepper.
Halve the tomatoes and grate over a bowl, discarding the skins. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and sauté gently for 10 mins until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute or so. Stir in the beans and tomato pulp, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 mins, then add the basil and simmer for a further 5 mins until the beans are tender. Check seasoning and serve hot, warm or cold.