Gardening in July

We’re moving along into High Summer, which means if the weather holds, at the weekend and once the holidays start, you’ll likely be spending more time outdoors than indoors.

The perfect English summer is what we all dream of and now is the time to get the garden in peak condition so you can enjoy an early morning cup of tea listening to the bird song and admiring your strawberry patch or wind down at the end of a long day watching the sun go down with a long, tall glass of pimms. See where I am heading here? This time of the year is all about the romance of the garden – the heady scent of a second flourish of sweet peas, the fluttering of delicate rose petals falling in a light breeze, the buzzing of bees, the glimpse of a young Hare (if you’re lucky) streaking across the summer lawn at dawn or dusk.

Right, that’s enough of the romance; let’s get down to the work.

You can boil your July garden tasks down to roughly three key areas; feed, feed and feed again; prune and make sure you ‘health check’ your plants. The latter is important because we’re not the only animate creatures that love summer – so do the bugs and bacteria that will ruin an entire veg crop or blacken an otherwise perfect bloom if you’ve failed to spot the signs of infection. Let’s start with the feeding. If you have a lawn, you should be feeding it on a weekly basis now. If you have roses (and what English country garden would be complete without a rambling rose or three?) then feed fortnightly this month with a nutrient-rich blood, fish and bone mix and if you are growing sweet vine ripened tomatoes of your own, then give these a high potassium liquid feed.

Pruning in the flower garden simply means deadheading and not only does this make the garden look better cared for, it also encourage repeat flowering with plants like sweet peas and repeat-flowering roses. (If you have roses that you know turn to hips in the autumn then don’t deadhead these). Take ahold of your nerves and cut back perennials, lupins, early-flowering geraniums and other perennials, including astrantia. You really will need to hold your nerve because when I say cut back I mean right back, to the base. It will feel drastic and it is but water deeply (if needed) and I promise you will be rewarded by a second burst of foliage and flowering in High Summer.

Finally, your garden ‘health check’ is just that. Keep a weather eye on the early telltale signs of infection and remember that prevention is always better than cure. Check leaves and between leaves and stems and petals and branches and fruits. Check everything and if you spot the start of rust or mildew or a pest infection, take immediate action. Protect summer fruits like strawberries, currants and gooseberries by throwing nets over them (this will work just as well as Fruit Cages if you don’t have these). If you have an orchard and fruit trees, keep an eye on the fruit load and if it looks overloaded then it probably is so shake to reduce the burden on the trees

It is summer (it must be, we’ve had Wimbledon) so let’s not talk about the rain that so many of us have been experience in recent week – let’s be optimistic and say if we do get some sunny spells then watering is also key to maintenance this month but think smart and use recycled domestic ‘grey’ water from the kitchen or bath because water, wherever you live in the world, is a precious commodity and deserves to be treated as such.

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