A life without love is like a year without summer
Forget the talk of laze, hazy days of summer – in the garden this is one of our busiest and most rewarding times of the year when all the hard work you’ve put in over previous months pays dividends in an explosion of colour in the flower borders and goodies in the veg garden.
Key tasks this month include nipping and tucking and tidying to keep early summer growth under control and encourage new flushes of flowers and veg crops. Start by deadheading your roses (unless you have a plant that produces attractive hips which are the plant’s seed pods in which case leave the flowers on the stem) and by cutting back any fading foliage from your flower borders, both annuals and perennials.
Tie-in and train any new growth with your climbing plants and make sure you pick sweet peas daily – this must be the garden scent that really defines high summer for us gardeners – and make sure you water these generous plants which will keep flowering as long as you keep picking the blooms regularly during dry spells. This is also the month to take cuttings from your favourite tender plants, which you will need to over-winter indoors. You can also take cuttings from your favourite shrubs and perennials. If you’re lucky enough to have wisteria decorating your home, you’ll need to prune the plant by whipping out the side-shoots from the main branches. This is not an exact science but try to cut back to about 20cm from the main stem leaving roughly five or six leaves on the side shoots.
I’ll make no apology for mentioning the C word – Christmas – in July but only because you’ll thank me for reminding you that now is also the time to plant your second crop of potatoes which you will then be able to harvest for your Christmas lunch. You can use grass clippings from the lawn as a mulch around young potato plants – this will help to stop those tubers close to the surface from turning green. And staying in the veg patch, if you’re growing squash or courgettes you’ll need to nip off the growing tips of both these plants to encourage branching.
Keep a close eye through the month on your tomato plants. You should be feeding them regularly (once a week) now with a dilute specialized tomato fertilizer and if the leaves start to look pale or yellow, step up your feeding regimen. Also make sure you pinch out tomato side shoots each week and cut off those leaves growing below the lowest-growing of the fruits to help encourage better air circulation and prevent pest infestation. Now is the time to harvest (and reap the rewards of all your hard work) beetroot, peas, carrots, chard, potatoes, salad leaves, lettuce and tomatoes and it’s also a smart move to pick dry and then freeze herbs so you can use them over winter. Pick runner beans regularly to prevent them from becoming tough and stringy but resist the urge now to harvest more rhubarb, however tempting. If you leave the plant alone now it will have the chance to build its reserves for next year’s growing season.
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 Pimm’s.