July's Seasonal Tips01/07/2012 08:00
July is the season of high summer and the garden comes alive...
July is the season of high summer and the garden comes alive during hot lazy afternoons to the sound of bees buzzing, gathering pollen from all the plants that should now be in full flower. It is also a wonderful time to visit other gardens and gather ideas to put into place for next year. It is a good idea to take along a notebook and camera, but do please resist the temptation to ‘acquire’ cuttings or pieces of plants without the owner’s permission.
Caring for your indoor plants
All potted plants need a daily check for watering. Add a full-strength liquid feed once a fortnight or a dilute one more regularly.
Open ventilators and doors every morning, but close them again on cool evenings. Do check that birds or cats aren't getting in, use netting if necessary.
Never let crops in growing bags go short of water. Standing the bags on gravel trays or on reservoirs with wicks through the base can prevent drying out.
Biological pest control can be used at this time of year against whitefly and red spider mite.
Pot on rooted cuttings of pelargoniums, argyranthemums, fuchsias and other plants as soon as the roots have filled their pots. Take cuttings from the non-flowering shoots of shrubs and climbers.
Activity in the garden
Pinch out the growing tips of basket and container plants to encourage them to produce bushy even growth and lots of flowers. Encourage chrysanthemum shoots to branch out and carry more blooms by pinching out shoot tips from June to early July. This technique is called stopping.
Biennials, such as foxgloves, sweet williams, Canterbury bells and forget-me-nots, should be sown as soon as fresh seed is available.
Pests and diseases
Use a forceful jet from a garden hose to knock aphids off water lilies and other garden plants. Spray roses to protect them against problems with mildew, blackspot or rust.
Summer bedding plants
Finish planting out summer bedding plants in borders, baskets and containers. Fill gaps with large argyranthemums, fuchsias or pelargoniums.
Cut down early-flowering perennials
Remove faded flowers on perennials such as lupins and delphiniums. Early pruning often encourages a second flush of flowers late in the season. Cut the flower-spike down to just above a new shoot or leaf, and give each plant a generous liquid feed to encourage fresh growth. Remove the seedheads from aquilegia to prevent them from spreading.
Fruits & Vegetables
Unwanted shoots should be cut off plums and apricots to maintain the fan shape. With figs, prune out the tips of any unwanted sideshoots after the fifth leaf, or remove them completely.
Woody stemmed herbs such as sage and thyme produce lots of fresh healthy new shoots at this time of year, which will quickly root if taken as cuttings.
Harvest beetroot and other crops while they are still young and tender. Early potatoes will be ready to harvest soon. Check one plant first to assess the crop size. Leave them to develop further if the potatoes are too small, and water the rows every week.
Enjoy the fruits of your labours by picking rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, currants, cherries and gooseberries. Remember to net fruit bushes to keep birds away, but it is important to check the netting daily to ensure that no birds have become trapped.
Crops to sow
From June to early July the following vegetable crops can be sown directly outside: lettuce and salad leaves, radishes, kohl rabi, spring cabbage and endive, plus dwarf French beans for a late crop. Winter spinach can be sown from July to September.
Never let onions go short of water or their yield will be severely reduced. Water plants thoroughly once or twice a week if conditions are dry, and keep down weed competition by hand or using a hoe.
Sideshoots on cordon gooseberries and currants should be pruned back to about five leaves or 10cm (4in) long.
The natural June drop will thin out a heavy fruit crop to some degree, but it is worth lending a hand. Pick off any small, damaged or diseased fruits to leave those remaining spaced 10cm (4in) apart.
General care and maintenance
Remove suckers or unwanted shoots
Some trees and shrubs have a habit of producing unwanted shoots from their base, or from the stems of those trained as standards. These can regularly be seen growing around rowan trees, sumach and older fruit trees. Cut them cleanly away with secateurs to prevent them sapping strength from the plant.
Cut out plain green shoots growing on variegated shrubs to prevent them spoiling the appearance of your shrubs.
Keep up the battle against problem weeds, removing any flowering stems before they have a chance to set seed. Many can be removed by hand, digging deeply to get out every last piece of root, or some chemical treatments can be effective. Larger areas can be cleared by smothering them with a large sheet of black polythene, left in place for many months.
Mow it at least once a week, twice if possible, and finish by cutting the edges neatly. Feed lawns, if this hasn't been done already, and treat any weeds and moss. The clippings can usually be mixed into the compost heap, but remember to discard them for the first few mowings after applying weedkillers.
Protect new and established plants by mulching the soil between them with composted bark or ornamental mulch. This will not only look attractive, setting off the surrounding plants, but will reduce annual weed growth and conserve soil moisture. Always mulch over moist ground, never on to bone-dry soil, so be sure to water well first if necessary.
Take action against the following pest problems immediately:
- sawfly on gooseberry leaves
- whitefly on tomato leaves
- greenfly on rose shoot-tips and flower-buds
- red lily beetles on lily leaves
- sawfly caterpillars on Solomon's seal
- red spider mite on greenhouse crops