July in the garden tends to be about watering and deadheading as the temperature rises — the cool of the evening is the perfect time to keep on top of these tasks and relax to enjoying your garden as it reaches its peak.
Summer weather can still bring a few surprises and although the occasional downpour is often welcome it can cause damage to taller plants and climbers in full flower. Make sure you use Plant Supports where they are need in the bed and tie in any climbers to a sturdy obelisk or garden structure so they are well supported in case of bad weather.
- Water at dusk to reduce evaporation and use mulch to retain moisture around plants - Watering the soil around the base of plants rather than the foliage ensures that the water is directed straight to the roots where it’s needed.
- Pots and Containers can dry out particularly quickly so aim to water twice a day in hot weather – Terracotta pots can be dampened to help keep roots inside cool and damp.
- Cutting back growth in hanging baskets and containers can encourage new flowers and foliage and will revive the display especially if you feed well after doing this.
- Regularly deadhead all of your flowering plants to encourage new blooms for as long as possible and cut back faded perennials to keep borders tidy and allow other plants the space to develop. Deadheading perennial plants helps to stop them self-seeding and encourages further flowering.
- As your penstemons fade, cut them back to just above a bud to encourage more flowers and cut back hardy geraniums, lupins and delphiniums after the first flush of flowers to encourage new growth and further blooms. Keep an eye out for bright red lily beetles on lilies — remove and crush any you see!
- Continue to tie in roses and climbers and train new growth onto an obelisk or garden structure – this will enable you to enjoy later flowers that might otherwise get lost in amongst other border planting. When dead heading roses to keep them looking tidy you may choose to leave some flowers in place where the rose variety produces produces attractive hips which can bring some late summer colour and food for overwintering birds later in the season.
- Wisteria should have a summer prune now - remove the whippy side-shoots from the main branch framework to about 20cm from their base or five leaves from the main stem. If you need to prune a mature magnolia now’s also the best time to do it.
- Sweet Peas will be in their prime now – pick them daily to encourage more flowers and water well to support the abundant growth - an Elegance Obelisk will help you make the most of the spectacular display.
- Look out for clematis wilt – if you notice wilting leaves and black discolouration on the leaves and stems remove the affected growth and dispose of away from the compost heap.
In the Kitchen Garden
- Tomatoes and Peppers will benefit from being potted on into progressively larger pots as the fruits develop and they become hungrier - the bigger the better.
- Train cucumbers on Obelisks or Trellis to make the most of the vertical space available.
- If you're growing aubergines make sure there is good air circulation to avoid botrytis and pinch out the growing tip once they have 5 or 6 fruits which will be ready to harvest in mid summer.
- Pick out the growing tips of squash and courgette plants to encourage branching and remove side shoots and lower leaves from tomatoes to improve air circulation and prevent disease – plants that look a little weak or yellow can be boosted with a regular feed at this time of year.
- Deal with Blackfly on broad beans by pinching off any affected growing tips – it won’t impact on the crop at this point but removes the tender part of the plant that the aphids enjoy.
- Cabbage white butterfly eggs and sawfly larvae under leaves can be removed by hand and squashed before they develop or jet them off with water– a crop cage with butterfly or insect net will help ensure you have a pest free crop.
- Pick your courgettes and beans while they’re small and tender Regular picking encourages the plants to crop for longer rather than developing seed.
- Harvest beetroot, peas, carrots, chard, potatoes, lettuce, and tomatoes this month and enjoy the unbeatable freshness of home grown food.
- Now is the time to stop harvesting Rhubarb and leave it to recharge the roots ready for next spring.
- Earth up or use a mulch on potato plants to stop tubers near the surface from turning green. If you're growing potatoes in containers gradually add more compost until the bag is full.
- Thin out the fruits on your fruit trees to produce good sized crops – leave 2 fruit to develop on every spur and prune your ‘stone’ fruit trees – plum, peach and cherry - now to reduce the risk of silver leaf disease.
- Strawberries will be fruiting well now – use a cage to protect them from feasting birds and raise the fruit off the grown with a Strawberry Grow Through to keep the fruit away from slugs and reduce the risk of them trotting. If you want to cultivate more for next year peg down runners and pot them up once a good root system has developed.
- Soft Fruits are fairly shallow rooted so will need plenty of water as their crop matures – prune the fruiting branches of blackcurrants after harvest and support raspberries to make harvesting the crop easier - a Telescopic Raspberry Support also allows you to net the plants at the crucial time to protect the crop.
This is the time of year when all the preparation, planning and hard work literally comes to fruition and you can enjoy the abundant produce and beautiful borders. It’s also the best time of year to start you planning for next year – make a note of what worked (and what didn’t!) what crops were grown where so you can rotate for next year and also what you might like to add for next summer – a fruit cage to increase you harvest or maybe a Gazebo or Arbour to create a relaxing spot to enjoy the garden from.
Take photos and visit some gardens such as those open under the NGS Open Garden Scheme to get inspiration for what you might like to do next year – a garden is never truly finished!