With such changeable weather recently with a heat wave following by rain, 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 and if you shop our Greenhouse Accessories you will find shading paint and blinds to protect your plants from intense sunlight.
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.
Deadheading and Dividing
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.
Lift and divide bearded irises to keep them looking good. Preserve as much root as possible and ensure that the rhizone is above the surface of the soil. Divide with your hands or a knife keeping a leaf and bud with each section, cut back foliage by about two thirds to stop them rocking in the wind. They love a hot position and work in grit to improve drainage and plant the cutting with the rhizone on the surface, then soak with water.
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.
Continue to pick sweet peas to encourage more flowers and trim box with sharp shears in dry weather.
Take cuttings from hardy perennials. Choose a straight stem without a flower or bud, trim off all foliage except for a pair of leaves at the top, place stems in gritty compost, water and leave in a warm place.
Use a liquid feed to top up nutrients in containers. Do this every ten days or so and only apply to damp compost to make the food more available.
To make free plant food, if you have comfrey, cut the leaves off, let them wilt overnight and place in a large bin. Cover with water and place a lid on top. Stir every day or so until the leaves rot and the water turns brown. This concoction will need to be diluted so that it resemebles the colour of tea and can be used to feed tomatoes, peppers and onions and other potash loving plants. It will keep for months and can be used to feed overwintered crops in the spring.
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. Alternatively, sow green manure such as red clover and dig in to enrich the ground before sowing any winter crops.
Get the last beetroot sown, thin out regularly and, although they will grow throughout winter, lift them when they approach the size of a tennis ball before they taste too earthy.
Leeks can be planted in mid July for the winter, use mesh to prevent allium leaf miner and leek moth. Salad and bulb onions for next spring and summer can be sown until mid-August.
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 Harvesting
Keep removing side shoots and lower leaves from tomatoes to encourage ripening and discourage blight, make sure the plants are properly secured to carry the weight of the fruit. When indoor varieties reach 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. Replacing plants is important as they only crop well for about three years, so peg the shoots in a pot of compost and leave it to root. The new plant can be cut free, ideally, save the first plant from each runner.
Choose a fine day to lift garlic when the leaves start to yellow, don't cut off the foliage and leave in the sun to dry. If the weather is wet, dry the bulbs in a shed or garage, remove any that are infected and store them in a cool, dark, airy place.
Stop picking rhubarb in early July so that the crowns can re-energize. Remove any weeds and add a mulch of manure or compost to feed the plant and retain moisture as rhubarb plants hate dry soil.
Pick young courgettes, they contain less water and hence will not turn to mush when cooked.
If the wind hasn't done its job and the weather is calm, shake sweetcorn to scatter pollen.
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.
Check potato leaves for blight, remove if you see grey areas. Beware of powdery mildew that affects many, especially drought-stressed, plants, there are fungicides available for ornamental plants and you can use 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 height of existing features.
Solar air and fountain pumps operate 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.