Here Comes The Sun… Summer Gardening by Enzo Montella

Its turning out to be a cracking summer so far, after a winter that had the horticulturally tricky combination of waterlogged ground followed by sub-zero temperatures, it’s all come together nicely!

The cold spring held back many plants, but that’s had the effect of everything flowering at once which has been spectacular. It’s been less spectacular for my outdoor grown apricots… the cold damp weather right when they were flowering pretty much did for this year’s crop, but they are a ‘pushing your luck’ crop outdoors and a bonus when the stars align in their favour.

The peaches and nectarines in my cold greenhouse have done well as usual, though the lack of pollinators in the cold spring has meant there was less thinning of fruit to be done.

Right now, the cold and wet are not my problem. We’ve not had any proper rain in weeks, and mainly gardening on sand and chalk, I’ve had to water since May. A good mulch in the spring helps matters of course, locking in some of the winters rain.

One advantage of the dry weather is the delay in roses succumbing to black spot. Being a fungal disease (Diplocarpon rosae) it’s worse in warm wet conditions, and this summer’s dry weather has meant very little need to spray.

I try to avoid using sprays, generally there are ways of minimising pest and disease damage to plants. Like people, roses have immune systems. If they are feeling stressed and run down they are much more likely to get ‘ill’. In my experience if you can keep their roots cooI, well fed and watered they are far more resistant to blackspot, mildew etc. In clay soils that’s quite easy, but on sand and chalk the answer is lots of organic matter and a good water when it starts getting dry. Good hygiene helps to reduce infection and a mid-spring prune to thin out the centres of the plant helps airflow, it’s the still, humid air that fungal diseases like best.  The other common rose problem is greenfly, I find them much less of a problem than blackspot, if they aren’t too numerous a hose jet can keep their numbers down.

The aphids that attack lupins (Macrosiphum albifrons) on the other hand are a problem. They came in in the early 80’s and are much bigger and really destructive. They over winter on the plants, so when I cut them down in the winter I burn rather than compost them, as I would anything that could be a store of pests and diseases, such as rose and fruit tree prunings. Like roses, one well timed spray in the spring can have a greater effect than weekly sprays later in the year.

The dry weather has also meant that I can actually trim box hedging and topiary at the traditional time of year with less chance of box blight (Cylindrocladium buxicola )  being a problem. Last year’s damper weather, and the spread of the disease more widely meant that it caused me more problems than ever before. Luckily there are now products on the market that I keep in stock so at the first sign of a problem I can spray and minimise the damage. So far they are proving really effective. I had decided to move to a winter trimming regime, as the fungus is inactive in cool weather but that compromises how crisp the plants look, a dry summer is a much better option!

Enzo – garden maintenance supervisor