July is a month of heady scents, tall grasses and a cacophony of colour. Warmth and sunshine has certainly replaced the lashings of rain and damp we experienced in June, and growth in the garden has reached its peak. July may seem like a low maintenance month, but with watering and dead heading, here are a few more jobs to be getting on with this month…
Maintain and Protect…
Everything may be growing away beautifully, and that’s the beauty of the Summer. All the hard work of Spring, pays its dividends in the form of bountiful growth and blooms in the later months. However, to keep all your success looking fabulous and healthy, make sure that you regularly water containers, and dampen down terracotta pots, to keep roots cool.
We may be basking in glorious sunshine now, but living in the UK, a freak storm may arrive over night, so it’s a great idea to stake tall plants to avert disaster in the form of a snapped stem.
Check plants regularly for pests. You may see the pretty cabbage white butterfly dancing happily over your brassica plants, which means there’s a good chance it’s eggs will be laid under the leaves of said kale and cabbage, giving way to caterpillars which munch holes in the leaves. The best way do deal with this is to protect the entire plant from butterflies, by investing in some support frames ( or bamboo poles tied together) and butterfly mesh. This stops insects from damaging your crop and is not harmful to wildlife, and reusable. It’s great to encourage pollinator insects and garden predators into the mix, as a form of biological pest control. Planting wildlife friendly plants, such as clover and borage really encourages them, and balances out infestations. If you do, however, find a hoard of black fly or whitefly, simply dissolve two teaspoons of Neem Oil into 1 litre of water and spray the affected plant. You will see the pests disappear within a couple of days. Neem is a natural pesticide and fungicide that stops the digestive system from functioning in sap sucking insects, but is not harmful to pets, predator insects or other wildlife. It’s an organic garden hero!
Speaking of fungus… the dreaded Hollyhock rust may have affected your plants this month- if so, remove infected leaves and spray the plant with a fungicide ( conveniently Neem is great for this too). Remember not to compost rust infected leaves as they can spread the disease to next years soil. so rather burn them.
Why not apply a layer of mulch around plants to stop the pesky weeds from growing at such an alarming rate, and also keep them moist during the hottest days? Piling lawn clippings on potatoes does wonders for your crop, and stops the top tubers from turning green.
In the veg garden, remember to keep on top of feeding tomatoes, chillies, peppers and squash while they are still flowering. This will ensure excellent fruit, and keep repotting peppers into bigger containers as they continue to grow.
Prune and Deadhead…
Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying then walking round the garden, secateurs in hand, inspecting each of your plants and cutting for the vase, or deadheading. Either way- cutting spent flowers now, almost guarantees further blooms, and you are preventing the plant from spending its energy turning the flower heads into seed ( unless of course that’s what you want, then leave them!)
Regularly cutting sweet peas, hardy geraniums, delphiniums and cosmos, will ensure you continue to get brilliant blooms throughout the Summer. You can place them in a vase of course, for a beautiful and fragrant display, or if they are spent, be sure to compost them if they show no signs of disease.
Cut back lupins that have gone to seed, bedding plants and roses. Nothing looks or smells sweeter than a healthy rose plant, bursting with beautiful petals. Just remember to keep any diseased leaves away from the plant if they have fallen, and rather burn them than compost them. Heavy roses may need to be staked at this point too.
Wisteria can be pruned now, by removing the wispy side shoots from the main branch, to about 20cm from their base, as can penstemon, which can be cut back to just above a bud, to encourage more flowers.
Sow and Harvest…
There is still time to sow the last beetroot, swede, lettuce and carrots direct. Try ‘Adelaide’ for a fast growing carrot, that should mature in time for Autumn. Keep harvesting peas and broad beans for second harvests and remember to start netting beans as the flowers ripen into pods.
If your squash plants are putting out more male flowers than female, simply pinch them off- they should balance themselves out. Start to harvest garlic when the three bottom leaves start to yellow and dry and the top starts to bend over.
Courgettes should be picked while young, and will produce more the more they are picked- unless you enjoy marrow ( they are good for stuffing after all!) . Have you ever considered growing trailing squash or cucumbers vertically? It’s a fantastic space saver, and protects the fruits from rotting or getting eaten on the ground. Using pallets as a frame is a great and inexpensive way to train cucumbers upwards.
After all the sowing, harvesting and planting this month- don’t forget to save some of your precious fruits for seed next year. Let a portion of your peas dry in their pods, the same goes for broad beans- if you have plant which has done exceptionally well, save that one and keep the genetics for your seed store. The same goes for chillis and tomatoes, the latter of which seeds can be collected by squeezing the pulp out on dry on a paper towel. The seeds will be left and should be left until completely free from moisture so that they store well.
Saving seed is such a worthwhile task, and doesn’t stop at fruits and vegetables. Seeds from flowers, trees and legumes can be saved and can be kept for many years and given as wonderful gifts.