July

It’s July already, the nights are drawing in and so far it’s shaping up to be a better summer than the last two. You see it depends on whether you are a holiday maker needing hours of endless sunshine or a gardener who needs the rain but we gardeners are quite happy for it to rain at night and be dry by day!

There is still lots to do out there in July and apart from the weeding and mowing here are a few tasks you might like to tackle which are a little less obvious.

Try harvesting flowers for drying. Obvious choices such as papery flowers like stachys and helichrysum are relatively easy. Pick them at their best, just before they are fully open. Hang them upside down in a cool place with plenty of circulating air. They will shrivel in a kitchen or greenhouse. Less obvious but worth a try are achillea, amaranthus delphiniums, golden rod, zinnias and of course lavender. I don’t like decimating my lavender hedge so I pick it a bit later before it goes over and dry it flat on newspaper and use the stripped heads for lavender bags. A powerful reminder of summer on a cold winter day.

It’s worth dividing flag irises now as the centres become bare after three or four years. Cut off the old flower spike, lift the clump and shake off the soil and cut the rhizome where you can see a good shoot at its end. Replant several segments together to make a new clump and leave the rhizome visible on the surface. They don’t like to be too deep but prfer to bake in the sunshine.

I am not a fan of pinks and carnations, mine always straggle and look untidy and they prefer a chalkier soil than I can provide. But if you are keen then take stem cuttings now just by pulling away the top 3” of stem, remove a few lower leaves and place in a pot of soil-less compost with a plastic bag covering to hold in moisture.

Many shorter lived shrubs can be propagated now while temperatures are higher, I shall be doing lavender and euryops this month from stem cuttings and clematis which are a wee bit more tricky from internodal cuttings. Just cut between leaf joints on the stem to leave a long stem and push into a pot of soil-less compost. All cuttings should be kept moist and in a cooler place out of the sunshine in some good shade.

Keep feeding and side shooting the cucumbers and tomatoes. It’s worth establishing and sticking to a regular watering regime to prevent blossom end rot, dark mouldy patches on the bottom and to keep water off the fruits to prevent halo blight, the little light coloured circles that appear on the skin.

A local commercial grower had apoplexy when he saw me side shooting at lunch time. Since his lecture last year I have always done this job first thing in the morning before the ‘sap’ starts rising. He also suggested that you remove the lower leaves starting just below the first truss and working up as they develop. Tomatoes and cucumbers do not need as many leaves as they produce so removing them methodically as the trusses develop leaves the goodness for the fruit rather than diverting it to too any leaves.

Early flowering herbaceous plants are now looking a bit tired and prolifically producing seed – no family planning involved here! Short lived perennials like lupins are best with the dead flower spikes cut off. All their energy goes into producing seed and the less they produce the longer the plant will last.

Early flowering perennial geraniums can be sheared off and if done early enough may flower again, particularly with a bit of water and feed.
If you are not sure which plants will benefit from a haircut and which may not like it then just part the leaves, look into the plant and those that are showing new ground shoots will enjoy the snip.

If you can still see where the clumps of daffodils were, you can lift congested ones now, leave to dry in a shed ready for replanting in September.

And finally, whilst talking about haircuts take a look at the herbs in your garden. Any that are straggling now will benefit from a good haircut and produce new tasty young shoots for the summer salads! Marjoram, mint, tarragon and sorrel will produce new shoots which are much tastier than the old leaves.

So no time to sit back yet, plenty to do but the evenings are still long enough to sit down with a cold one at the end of a hard days work!

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