After all the wet weather that much of the country has experienced over the last few weeks, David Coton is looking forward to summer finally arriving and a chance to get out into the garden, here are some of the jobs he'll be tackling during July.
Ensure that your greenhouse does not overheat by keeping the door and windows open during hot days to create a through draught. Automatic window and louvre openers will help if you go on holiday. Either fit blinds or apply shading paint to the glazing to shade your plants from intense sunlight.
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It doesn't seem like it at the moment but water is a limited resource, so recycle grey water from the bath and kitchen, and collect rainwater in a butt. Make sure your thirsty crops such as runner beans are getting the correct amount of water especially during dry weather. 1-2 gallons per sq yd twice a week is recommended. Spray the beans to encourage pollination.
Most plants prefer a steady supply of water or bolting and ailments, such as tomato blossom end rot, may occur. If you are going on holiday, install an automatic irrigation system and apply mulch around plants to retain moisture. Don't ease up on weeding, they compete for moisture with other plants. Hoe just underneath the soil surface in the morning on a dry day.
Deadhead summer bedding regularly so that all the plants' energy goes into making new flowers. This, together with regular watering and a high potash feed, will maximise the blooms and keep the plants healthy.
Stake heavy dahlias, use shears to cut back geraniums and as soon as delphiniums finish flowering cut them back to ground level, you'll then be rewarded with a second show of flowers.
Ensure shrub roses repeat flower by snipping off the blooms before rose hips form, when the soil is damp apply a mulch and feed.
The flowers from many plants such as borage, courgettes and hollyhocks are edible, collect them and they'll brighten up a summer salad.
If hot weather has frazzles your ferns, just cut off the affected fronds and re-growth will soon appear.
Sowing and Propagating
Try to propagate carnations by layering i.e. choose a young side shoot, remove the lower leaves and make a cut into the stem making an incision about an inch long. Peg into adjacent soil that should be prepared with sharp sand and compost. Keep moist and roots will form after about six weeks.
Plant out cabbages, cauliflowers and brussels sprouts in rich moisture retentive soils between 6.5– 7.0 pH, adding lime if necessary, taking care not to damage the roots. Make sure the cauliflowers are viable i.e. have a central bud. To guard against cabbage root fly use a brassica collar and never plant brassicas in the same place two years in succession.
When early crops are harvested from the vegetable plot, and to fill in the space between winter brassicas, sow quick growing salad leaves or winter vegetables. Crops that can still be sown include carrots, french beans, peas and turnips together with salad ingredients such as lettuce, radish, rocket.
Get the last beetroot sown, thin out regularly, and lift them when they approach the size of a tennis ball before they taste too earthy.
Pick tarragon and mint before they go to seed and freeze if there is too much.
There's still time to plant autumn flowering bulbs in early July. For example, amarines can be planted quite close together in a gritty compost mix and will flower in September and October.
Sow perennials such as heleniums, delphiniums and foxgloves to flower next year. If you have sown wall flowers for next year, prick them out and transfer them to plugs with as much root as possible. Water and leave in a light but shady place.
Thinning and Maintenance
Keep removing side shoots and lower leaves from tomatoes to encourage ripening and discourage blight. When indoor varieties reach the the top of the greenhouse, cut off at the top so that all the goodness goes to the fruit. Bush tomatoes don't need pinching out or staking, but to keep the fruit clean and prevent it from rotting, place some straw underneath to raise it above ground level.
Thin apples, plums and pears. By removing a cluster's weakest fruits, the remaining ones will be much larger and healthier. Summer prune trained fruit trees to restrict growth and retain shape. First, take off unwanted vertical shoots down to two or three pairs of leaves to encourage fruiting spurs. Remove other shoots to allow in light and air.
If you are growing pumpkins but have little room, train them up a tripod made up of stout poles. Cucumbers can also be tied to a wigwam frame.
Pick Broad Beans when they are young and sweet, pinch off growing tips if blackfly arrive. When you cut down Broad Beans, keep some of the pods to use as seed next year and leave the roots in the soil for their nitrogen.
Tie in new canes on summer fruiting raspberries and blackberries, cutting the old ones to the ground as soon as the last berries have been harvested. Prune blackcurrents as soon as the fruit is picked. Place netting around your berries to deter birds.
When strawberries have finished, tidy by removing yellow foliage, straw and unwanted runners. Make sure that you plant some of the runners as strawberry plants need to be replaced every three to four years.
Chillies will grow well into the autumn but they need to be fed with a specialist tomato food or seaweed based fertilizer. Water in the morning rather than the evening to reduce the chances of fungal disease.
Beware of powdery mildew that affects many, especially drought stressed plants, there are fungicides available for ornamental plants and resistant cultivars for edibles.
In The Pond
As on average July is the hottest month of the year, Dan Everton will be busy maintaining his pond to keep the water and fish in top condition. He also knows that safety, especially during the school summer holidays, should also be taken seriously.
Children should never be left alone near ponds and water features. However, as every parent knows they can wonder off unattended and that's why safety measures are so important.
If possible fence off the pond, but this might not be practical and children are very inquisitive, so consider using child safety netting. The netting sits on top of the pond unobtrusively and offers great protection but you must make sure that it is anchored effectively.
Increased Pond Algae Problems
Increased and more intense sunlight will increase the chances of blanket weed occurring. You can combat this by removing as much as possible by hand and using Barley Straw suspended in the water.
Green water is another problem that arises when there's lots of sunlight. Make sure your UV Clarifier is working to full effect. The UV lamp will need to be at full strength, if it's over 12 months old it should be replaced as the UV output will have diminished.
You should also remove any dead foliage from aquatic plants and water lilies, if they are not removed these will pollute the water when breaking down over time. To reduce the amount of future dead foliage, cut back any marginal plants which have grown out of hand.
Reduced Oxygen Levels
As the temperature rises, especially on very hot days, oxygen levels in the pond water will begin to drop, this could lead to problems for aquatic life. Decreased oxygen levels in the water can cause shortened life, fatalities and possibly stress.
To increase the amount of oxygen in the water, either add an air pump to the pond, or create more surface movement. This can be achieved by introducing a fountain or waterfall, or raising the the height of existing features.
Solar air and fountain pumps operate when when the sun is shining and then go off at sunset. As there are no running costs, no wonder these are an increasingly popular option.
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