The skies are blue, the air is warm, and the birds are singing. Summer has arrived! For the past few months, we’ve been working up to this glorious season: sowing seeds, potting on, and planting out. And now it’s time to reap the rewards. With flowers blooming and crops ready for the picking, gardens and allotments have never looked so fine. However, pests are lurking and diseases only too keen to spoil your prized veg, so it’s important to remain vigilant!
This is the month for regular weeding, watering and feeding (#feedingfriday) to help maintain a healthy garden. After all, you wouldn’t want to undo all those months of hard work, so keep the watering can and hoe close at hand. Also, if you are going to do any gardening in this weather, think about sun cream, a hat, and keeping yourself hydrated
Take stock of your gardens, feel proud of your veg patch, and savour those summer harvests.
In the flower garden
With temperatures at their warmest, think about the amount of water you’re using. We know the veg plot and garden are crying out for a good drink. Ideally, you should consider watering either early in the morning or at dusk. With the sun out of sight, water evaporation isn’t an issue, keeping your beds and borders hydrated for longer. Also, try to water at the base of plants as water droplets on the foliage could potentially burn your plant, or encourage mildew and other diseases.
Spread a layer of mulch/soil conditioner over your beds to help retain the moisture and reduce your watering workload.
To keep those water bills down, consider getting yourself a water butt to collect rainwater. With a wide range to choose from, you can have them as visible or discreet as you like. Set them up alongside your greenhouse, or next to a drainpipe, and your plants will soon reap the benefits.
By now, a lot of rose varieties will have spent their first blooms. Deadhead and feed them to encourage a second bloom in the coming weeks. For the one-time season bloomers, you may want to refrain from deadheading. Allow their hips to develop, as this will make a welcome attraction in the autumn months.
With blooms flourishing and plants growing, if you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to introduce a plant feed. Nutrients in pots, containers and hanging baskets will quickly deplete, so give them a weekly feed.
Perennials, such as lupins and delphiniums, will have already bloomed. Cut their flowered stems back to the base of the plant, and you could be rewarded with a second flourish later in the season.
Bearded Irises can now be lifted and divided. When re-planting, ensure the rhizome is sat on the soil, half exposed. The warm sun will quickly help to establish them, and ensure they flower next season. You should cut all foliage down by two thirds to ensure the energy is going into the rhizome and is not wasted.
Hot temperatures outside will mean even warmer temperatures for your greenhouse. Just a few degrees can cause your young plants to shrivel and die. So, introduce shading to your glass roof, keep all vents and doors open to encourage a steady airflow, and water the floor daily to deter red spider mite. You may also want to hang up insect-tape for further pest control.
On the veg patch
By now your second earlies should be ready for digging up. If you’re not sure, wait until the plants have flowered, then have a little dig around in the soil to find your spuds. If they’re ready, it won’t take long for you to uncover them.
Dig up what you need, and leave the rest of the tubers to grow on. Or if you’re hoping to use the potato plot to grow a new crop, dig them all up. Try to do it on a sunny day, and place your freshly dug potatoes on the plot surface for a few hours to dry a little. Store them in hessian sacks and keep in a cool, dark room. Check them every so often to make sure they haven’t spoilt.
If you’re dreaming of eating freshly-grown spuds on Christmas day, now is the time to plant them. If you’re not using potato grow bags, consider large containers. As the cold weather returns and the temperatures drop, you’ll need to move them somewhere where the frost can’t get to them.
Many of your plants will be ready for harvesting. Try to pick courgettes, beans and peas regularly. This will ensure the plant continues to produce. Letting these crops grow past their best can encourage pests, or send a signal to the plant to stop growing altogether. Carrots, beetroot, chard and salad leaves will also be ready for harvesting.
There comes a point when you should pinch-out the tops of your cordon tomatoes. Ideally, do it once you have five or six trusses, and before the plant reaches the roof of your greenhouse. Feed regularly, and keep the energy going into the fruit by pinching out all side shoots. Don’t let plants dry-out, or water irregularly, as this can encourage blossom end rot. Put a layer of mulch/soil conditioner over the top of the compost to help retain the moisture and feed the plants. Finally, remove any leaves beneath the first truss of tomatoes, as this will help circulation and prevent the build-up of pests and diseases.
PESTS AND DISEASES
Your squashes, pumpkins and courgettes should be plumping up nicely, but be aware of powdery mildew. If you notice this on your plants, remove infected leaves. Do not place on your compost heap, as this will encourage the bacteria. Either burn, or remove from site completely.
Weevils, blackfly, greenfly, aphids, slugs and snails will be trying their best to ruin your hard work. Avoid the use of chemicals by hosing them off your plants, or spray with soapy water. Another option is to crush a clove or two of garlic and add it to the water in your spritzer bottle, as garlic deters pests. A morning or evening stroll around your plot is the perfect time for picking off slugs and snails.
Both your garlic and onions should be ready to pull. Choose a sunny day, and lay them out on the topsoil to dry. Failing that, dry them in your greenhouse or polytunnel. Once dried, they can be stored and used when you’re ready.
You mention winter, and people shudder. Yet it’s something we need to keep at the back of our minds. If you’re hoping for a harvest of winter veg, then you should be thinking about planting them out into their final growing positions. Vegetables to consider are, brassicas, leeks and swede.
Hungry birds will make light work of strawberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants or blackberries, so net your fruit.
Strawberry plants will now be producing runners. If you want new plants for next year, pin the runners to the soil. Once they establish a root system, cut the runner from the main plant. Alternatively, if you want to maximise this year’s crop, remove the runners to divert the energy to the existing fruit.
This is also the month for pruning fruit trees, such as plum and cherry. The warmer weather reduces the risk of bacteria harming an open wound on a cherry tree, and setting off silver leaf disease. Summer pruning can also be carried out on trained apple and pear trees.
Check plants daily for the onset of pests. Ensure plants haven’t dried out, and if need be, move to a cooler spot. Put some soil conditioner on the surface of the pot to retain the moisture and give your plants a feed.
Taking time to sit and enjoy your plants may also be the ideal opportunity to order those autumn flower and seed catalogues. With a glass of wine or beer in hand, start browsing and thinking about the seeds you want to sow next season.
Thanks to Ade Sellars from Agents of Field for kindly producing all of these tips for July.