July and August are often the warmest months of the year but they can also be the wettest months of the summer (as we are all too aware!) – perfect conditions for plant and weed growth, but also for the spread of plant disease, so be vigilant and respond quickly to any problems. It is also the time that many of us will take our holiday and desert the garden for a few weeks just when it needs us most! Here are a few reminders of what do to in the garden over the summer months and some tips on looking after plants while you are away…
Trees & Shrubs
Trim privet, conifer and other fast-growing hedges regularly to keep them tidy and encourage thick, healthy growth (make sure no birds are still nesting!). When cutting a hedge, taper the sides slightly as you cut, leaving the base a little wider than the top, this will allow more light to reach the lower levels.
Continue to stake and tie all your plants as necessary as wall shrubs and annual climbers grow amazingly fast at this time of year.
Ipomea ‘Morning Glory’
By now your garden should be full of colour so take a little time to enjoy it. Deadhead and feed flowering plants and trim straggly specimens from containers.
Plant out biennials such as Sweet Williams (about 9-12” apart) in a sunny spot in the garden.
If you are going on holiday and don’t have anyone to look after your plants while you are away, cluster your pots in a sheltered, shady place open to the rain and give them a good soak just before leaving and if possible, stand them in bowls of water. Apply the same rule to hanging baskets – take them down and make a trough in the soil in a cool, shady spot and sit them in it, drenching them before you go. If you are away quite a lot, it may be worth investing in an irrigation system.
Give Wisterias their summer prune (removing long, whippy growths) to prevent excessive growth.
Wisteria sinensis ‘Prolific’
Bearded irises can be divided this month if congested after flowering.
Warm and wet are the perfect conditions for garden pests. Try to build up diversity in the garden by growing a variety of plants that will attract beneficial insects and other wildlife, to create a healthy balance between pests and predators. Yellowing and distorted leaves, stunted growth and an unsightly black sticky substance on the plant may mean that you have Aphids.
Try to hoe between your vegetable crops during dry weather to keep the weeds down. If you do it when the ground is wet, the weeds may re-root and you will be faced with the same problem again in a few weeks’ time.
Keep vegetables well-watered to prevent bolting. Harvest early potatoes and onions. After harvesting early summer crops like broad beans and shallots, fill the spaces with follow-on crops such as cabbages, or use the space for winter and early spring crops such as sprouting broccoli, spring cabbages and leeks.
Herbs can be picked while in abundant growth and dried for use over winter.
Apricots should start to ripen by the end of July, as should peaches and early plums, depending on the variety. The fruits should feel slightly soft to touch before picking. Continue picking soft fruits such as redcurrents, strawberries and raspberries as they will be at their best this month. You can always freeze some if you can’t eat them all at once!
Trained fruit trees will need to be summer pruned to allow light and air to the fruits and to make picking easier. Earlier apple varieties will be ready for picking in August.
Top up ponds if necessary in hot weather. Using a spray attachment on your hose will aerate the water and provide welcome oxygen for the fish and any water plants. Remove dead foliage from water lilies and continue to remove blanketweed. Always leave anything you remove from the pond by the side for a few days so that any aquatic creatures can return to the water.
Damp down the greenhouse regularly to increase humidity and deter red spider mite. Pick Cucumbers regularly as old fruit delays further flowering.
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