Summer is here and it’s time to be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour in the garden… but we all know there’s a lot to be done behind the scenes.
It’s been a confusing time for our plants in the run-up to summer; spring started early this year but then sharp frosts in April damaged large amounts of young growth, setting everything back again. On top of that it’s been very dry which stressed some plants and meant watering had to start much earlier than usual.
Lots of people have mentioned that the frost had damaged young growth on oak and walnut trees which is a very unusual occurrence and WW! editor Sally has lost two much loved Buxus balls, previously thought to be indestructible. So our poor gardens really don’t know what’s hit them…
Stunning pots and hanging basket heroes
As we move from June into July and August there’s still time to plant larger pots of geraniums, fuchsias, cosmos and dahlias to fill in any gaps in borders. Water to get established and feed on a weekly basis. Dead head regularly and you’ll have colour through to the first autumn frosts, which hopefully will be late starting.
Hanging baskets need liquid feeding weekly – even with the slow-release fertilizers added to composts, you’ll see the extra benefits from liquid feed. Baskets soon dry out especially when they’re sheltered from rain at the side of a house so watering morning and night in very warm weather is a must.
Salad crops and the vegetable plot
Tomatoes and cucumbers need water regularly during hot weather – preferably in the morning as this keeps the atmosphere humid and prevents the plants staying damp overnight which can cause problems with powdery mildew or botrytis – this is especially true for cucumbers as they can be very susceptible to mildew. Remove any badly infected leaves. Good growing conditions will help to prevent spread – good light for plants, low humidity particularly at night and the use of resistant varieties. There are no chemical controls for diseases on fruit and veg available so good husbandry is very important.
Keep sowing or planting salad crops such as lettuce, spinach, spring onions and radish in the veg patch to get a continuous harvest. Use very fine netting to cover cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots and other particularly susceptible vegetables against flies, pigeons and butterflies. Harvest peas and runner beans regularly while they are young and tender; freeze any spares for the winter months. Keep beans and peas moist and spray over the foliage to encourage pods to set.
There’s plenty of choice in the herbaceous sections at the moment as well as the ever popular lupins – espcially the newer West Country Range, there’s the salvias – Hot Lips being a good one, cleome and the butterfly loving verbena bonanariensis and the ever popular perennial geraniums. Hostas are good for a shady spot with their coloured foliage… watch out for the slugs though. Make the most of a warm sunny day and pull or hoe up any weeds still lurking in your borders.
Keep roses in good condition by spraying every 10 days with Roseclear or Multirose to keep any aphids under control as well as dealing with powdery mildew and black spot. Woolly aphid is a pest of fruit trees that is becoming more and more common. It appears as fluffy white cotton wool like patches on fruit tree stems and ornamental trees. The insect is hidden under the fluff and sucks the sap from stems. Use Provado Ultimate Fruit and Vegetable Bug Killer as a control, but follow the directions as you’ll need to leave it a while before you harvest your fruit.
There’s still time to treat moss on lawns with MO Bacter if the weather is not too dry. For smaller areas of moss try the new Bio Press from the same supplier, which can be watered onto the lawn.
For new potatoes in October or at Christmas, plant seed potatoes in tubs in July and August. Growth will finish in October, but leave the tubers in their pots until required for cooking. Remember they’ll need frost protection once the winter frosts appear in November and December.
To complete another gardening cycle – or start a new one depending on how you look at it! – spring flowering bulbs will be appearing in garden centres from the end of August. If you want hyacinths in flower for Christmas, they must be planted and put into a dark cool place in September. Most varieties require an eight to 10-week cool period followed by two of three weeks of warmer conditions to bring them into flower. Use a compost specifically for bulbs as it will contain charcoal to keep the soil sweet.
Have a lovely summer everyone!