Jobs for the productive garden in August

Get the most from your kitchen garden and cutting garden this month by keeping on top of your seasonal jobs

CUTTING GARDEN
Keep up with cutting, feeding and/or deadheading on a regular basis.  Dahlias don’t open in the vase so only cut them when the flowers are open.

Angelica archangelica

Collect seeds as they start to ripen, and either sow them now or store them carefully to sow next year

KITCHEN GARDEN
Harvest plums & damsons as soon as they ripen to get to them before the wasps and birds do!

Lift and pot up, or re-plant any rooted strawberry runners which you want to keep as new plants for next year’s fruit.

Fruit trees – prune over vigorous growth on wall trained plums, cherries, apples and pears.  Cut our badly placed and weak shoots in order to encourage growth and reduce the risk of disease.

loganberries

Remove old fruiting canes on loganberries and early fruiting raspberries, and tie in new growth.

Sow Oriental vegetables, spring cabbage, and salad onions. And keep sowing cut-and-come-again salad.

Sow green manures in empty beds in the kitchen garden. The crop can be dug into the soil in spring and will feed your soil. This is a great way to add nutrients and improve soil with the minimum of effort.  There’s a really useful video on the RHS website about how to do this.  Recommended viewing!

Contine  to pick courgettes, cucumbers and beans as this encourages further cropping.

Lift onions, shallots and garlic when the leaves turns yellow and papery.  If the leaves haven’t already bent over, do it yourself and leave the bulbs in the ground a little longer.

Potatoes

Harvest second earlies and main crop of potatoes when they start flowering.

PESTS AND DISEASES
Watch out for signs of Tomato & Potato Blight, which are common at this time of year.  If you’re not sure what the symptoms are, take a look at the RHS website which is full of very useful information on this and other pests and diseases.

Picture credits:  Janet Bligh & Firgrove Photographic

Watering your garden efficiently

As our climate seems to be changing and becoming more extreme with periods of both very wet and very dry weather, I thought it would be useful to put together some tips on how to sustain a garden when water is at a premium – and more importantly how to plan for the long term success of your garden with a minimum of effort.

One of the best ways of retaining moisture in your borders is to add a 2 inch layer of mulch on top of wet (and weed-free) borders (without suffocating your plants in the process).  This also has the benefit of keeping weeds to a minimum, and if you are using organic material, in time worms will work the mulch down into the soil adding goodness.  There are numerous materials you could use – well-rotted manure, garden compost, mushroom compost (but not for acid soils), hop manure, cocoa shell, bracken….

Keep up with the weeding – so the weeds are not competing for water with the plants you really want in the garden.

Ignore your lawn – even if they look brown and unattractive, lawns do come back to life with a little bit of rain.  Don’t cut your grass too short, and leave the clippings on the lawn to act as a mulch.

Concentrate on watering plants which need establishing.  Mature shrubs should be fine as they have large enough roots to find moisture for themselves.

 

Fit a water butt (or as many as you can accommodate)  to your house, shed or greenhouse.

Use water-retaining gel in containers and hanging baskets.  Mulching pots with a layer of horticultural grit or other stones such as slate chippings also helps to keep the compost moist. It also looks more attractive than bare soil,   And where practical, use larger pots as they heat up less quickly and don’t dry out as quickly as small ones do.  Think also about planting drought tolerant plants rather than thirsty bedding plants.

Rosemary is a useful drought-tolerant plant for large containers

It’s best to water in the evening or early morning so that less water evaporates – and water around the roots not the foliage.  It’s also better to water less frequently but more thoroughly to give plants a really good drink.  If you only water a little bit,  roots won’t be encouraged to grow lower down in the soil where they will find more moisture and utimately need less watering.

Grey water (from baths and washing up) can be used on non-edible plants but only if it’s not too soapy or greasy!  It’s best to use grey water within 24 hours and not to store it.

When putting new plants in the ground, make sure the rootball is well soaked before planting, and you can build up the soil around the plants to form a small basin which will stop water running away and focus the moisture where you want it.

 

If you have a planted pond, aim for more than half of the surface area to be covered in plants as this will reduce the amount of evaporation.

Bear in mind that some water companies allow drip irrigation systems even during a hosepipe ban, as this is a very efficient way of watering plants without any wastage.

On a long term basis, consider the following:

Consider planting in autumn rather than in spring, giving plants the winter wet to help them establish.

Dig plenty of organic matter in to your soil on a regular basis as this helps retain moisture.

When planting trees and shrubs add a short section of a narrow pipe which reaches from just above ground level into the plant’s roots to allow you to water directly to where it’s needed most.

Don’t just think about watering in summer when the weather is hot – we often have dry periods through the winter and any recent planting will need attention for some time.  Trees in particular will need regular water for 2-3 years until they are properly established, so don’t forget them just because the weather is cool!

And possibly most important of all for the long-term success of any garden think ‘right plant right place’ – a useful and very important mantra to follow as your plants will be much happier and easier to look after if they are positioned in the right conditions to begin with.

Creeping thyme makes fantastic ground cover in free-draining dry soil

Fabulous plants for July

There are so many wonderful plants to recommend at this time of year it’s hard to draw up a short list, but here are just a few of my favourites for July interest:

Clematis Fujimusume AGM

Clematis have to be one of the most popular flowers grown in the UK, and rightly so. There are so many to choose from with colours right across the range, and by mixing varieties you can have something flowering all year round.  They can get a bit big though (!) so I was delighted to discover Clematis Fujimusume AGM a few years ago.

Clematis Fujimusume

This is a compact climber, at about 1.2-1.5m high, suitable to grow in pots and it has MASSIVE flowers!  They are a really lovely blue colour (sometimes described as ‘Wedgewood blue’) with a pale yellow centre, and in my opinion this plant looks good growing next to pretty much anything.  What’s more this is a Clematis that can cope with shade, plus it flowers for months over the summer.  Fujimusume isn’t highly scented, but with everything else it’s got going for it, I can live with that!

Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener’

Rosa The Generous Gardener

I have to admit I’m not an expert on roses but when I was looking for a climbing rose for my own garden this was top of my list. Although ‘The Generous Gardener’ is a tall shrub rose (about 5’ high) I have trained it as a climber on a fairly shady wall, and it’s perfect as it doesn’t get too high (maximum 10’).  New buds are pink and the flowers are a beautiful soft pink, with petals turning creamy white before they fall.  It’s a repeat flowerer too which I think is important for a rose when it’s planted in a key position in the garden.  I chose this variety not just because of its disease resistance, beautiful flower shape and colour (and a great name!), but because it has a lovely scent too – which after all is one of the major reasons for growing roses.

Roses are best grown in good soil with regular moisture and feeding.  Deadheading throughout the season will prolong flowering.

There are so many roses to choose from that it can be a bit bewildering (and I speak from experience!), so it’s important to research ultimate size and vigour of plants as well as shade tolerance and of course the length of their flowering period and strength of scent.  If you can get out to visit rose gardens at this time of year, it’s a great way to see the massive variety of roses at their best.

Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’
Ornamental grasses have become very popular garden plants over recent years. And it’s not surprising given their long period of interest (often right through the winter).

Pennisetum 'Fairy Tails' in July

Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ in July

For a sunny garden with light, well-drained soil Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ is a lovely choice.  More upright than many Pennisetum (or fountain grass) varieties, it has lovely pale pink flowers from midsummer onwards and makes a beautiful low hedge (although its foliage will die back over winter).

Pennisetum 'Fairy Tails' in autumn as the flowers fade in colour

Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ in autumn as the flower colour fades

It’s such a tactile (and neat) plant it works really well next to a path or seating area.

Hemerocallis ‘Stafford’
Hemerocallis (or daylilies) are very easy perennials to grow for midsummer colour (generally yellows, oranges, reds and some pinks).  They form clumps of strappy bright green foliage (which can provide a great contrast in texture to many other summer flowering perennials so valuable on that count alone) and they are generally tough and reliable plants.

Hemerocallis Stafford

Hemerocallis ‘Stafford’ is an evergreen daylily with striking red flowers with a yellow throat.  It makes a real statement in a summer border, contrasting well with hot colours as well as blues and purples.  Happy in average soil and also clay, they really are easy to grow – as long as they’ve got a reasonable amount of moisture and good light levels.

Trachelospermum jasminoides
This is an evergreen climber I wouldn’t be without.  It has glossy bright green pointed leaves, a lovely twining habit (making it ideal to grow through trellis panels) and is covered in clusters of delicate, star-shaped, jasmine-scented white flowers in midsummer. Hardly surprising then that it’s commonly known as the ‘Star Jasmine’ or referred to as an ‘evergreen Jasmine’.

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Trachelospermum jasminoides is quite a large plant so it will need good support and space to spread.

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Also, it’s a little on the tender side – but given a well-drained soil and a fairly sheltered position, should cope very well through even freezing winter weather.  Highly recommended!

To get more inspiration about fantastic plants to grow for midsummer interest, check out a couple of my previous blogs:

Flowering shrubs for hot dry gardens and Make room for Pollinators

Picture credits: Janet Bligh & Firgrove Photographic

Jobs for the garden in July

water your garden

Watering is key during prolonged dry spells at this time of year – and not just for your herbaceous planting.  Don’t forget to keep any eye on any recently planted trees, hedging and shrubs.  Lawns can be left (unless they were laid recently) – even if they go dry and brown, they will recover with a bit of rain.

TREES
Ornamental and fruiting Cherry trees (Prunus) should be pruned in midsummer.

HEDGES & TOPIARY
If you trim your box hedging and topiary now, it should stay looking neat for the rest of the year, though you might want to clip it over lightly in September too.  Avoid clipping box plants in hot weather or bright sunlight as the cut areas might burn and turn brown.

SHRUBS & CLIMBERS
WisteriaPrune whippy summer growth of Wisteria to within five of six buds of the main stems, and cut main stems back if they have outgrown their space.

Deadhead roses and once they’ve finished their first flowering flush, feed them with rose food or general purpose feed (making sure to water in the granules for easy absorbtion).

If you grow Philadelphus, make sure to prune your shrubs on an annual basis after flowering.  Mature congested shrubs in particular should be pruned by taking out the oldest stems at the base to ensure the production of healthy new flowering stems for next year.

Take cuttings of evergreen shrubs such as Camellia and Rhododendrons and prune established Weigela florida after flowering.

PERENNIALS

Cut back hardy Geraniums if they’ve finished flowering. This will encourage new foliage, and possibly new flowers later in the summer

Japanese Anemone by Firgrove PhotographicFeed late flowering perennials such as Japanese Anemone & Asters (sprinkle & water in a general purpose fertiliser).

Cut back hardy Geraniums if they’ve finished flowering. This will encourage new foliage, and possibly new flowers later in the summer.

Divide old clumps of bearded Iris which have become congested, and replant them.

Regularly dead head annuals and perennials such as daylilies (Hemerocallis) and Helenium. Knautia, Scabiosa and Salvia.  Use secateurs, snipping stems as low as possible to avoid leaving unsightly stubs.
Lupins by Firgrove Photographic

Cut back old flower stems of Delphiniums and Lupins to their base.

BULBS
Plant autumn-flowering bulbs such as Colchicum and autumn Crocus.

LAWN CARE
Raise the blade height of your lawn mower in hot and dry weather. Letting it grow slightly longer will help keep it green. Avoid laying any new turf at this time of year.

POND CARE
Top up your pond when the water level drops due to evaporation in hot weather (preferably from water butts not tap water).

CONTAINER PLANTS & ANNUALS
Regularly add liquid feed to pots and hanging baskets.  If you’re going away, move all your pots to a cool shady spot where they won’t dry out so quickly.
NB this information applies to gardens in the UK and of course, you need to take account of your own local weather conditions when carrying out any work in the garden.

If you’re growing fruit & veg. or flowers for cutting, take a look at my blog on Jobs for the productive garden in July.

Picture credits:  Janet Bligh & Firgrove Photographic