July feels like a quiet time in the garden, but as any gardener knows, there are no quiet times; you always have something to do. We think it’s true to say that gardening in July has a particular air about it – great if there’s enough rain, not so great if we get extremes, too much heat or rain.
Typically or at least in the last few years, July in the southeast of England is more overcast and humid than summery; summer seems to arrive early and leave before the school summer holidays only to reappear in September.
Gardeners who want to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labour must remember to do the following before they break out the Aperol Spritz or iced coffee.
Those gorgeous borders you planted back in March, or your perennials need some love, cut your lavender back; you could even cut and dry it and use it in your wardrobe to keep your clothes moths-free.
Dahlias need feeding, as do Hydrangeas; keep them well watered so they keep flowering well into autumn. Weed your borders regularly (every other day is ideal) so weeds don’t have time to take and lay down seeds; if you have seasonal flowers like Sweet Peas and Geraniums, deadhead to encourage growth.
Cut back your summer perennials to encourage a second flush of blooms. This is particularly true of delphiniums and Liatris spicata, which respond really well to an aggressive cutback.
It feels too soon to think about autumn bulbs, but it’s not; Autumn is only around the corner, so if you want colour in your garden that extends right into the end of October and early November, get planting.
Think about dahlias (if you don’t have them already), begonias, lilies and eucomis (pineapple lilies). The combination will keep your garden interesting right through to winter.
Monty Don loves nerines, sternbergia (autumn daffodil) and colchicums, but there are plenty of choices if you are picky about colours. You could also sew some biennials such as honesty, forget-me-not, hollyhock, wallflowers and foxgloves ready for romantic blooms next year.
You must feed your roses and deadheaded them now; if you want them to bloom again, they will never reach their full potential if you let them grow over. Cut roses right back at the end of the summer for better blooms next year.
Only water your roses at the root and not on the steam, and they love a magnesium-based feed like Tomorite. Consider digging some banana skins into the soil; this will feed your roses plus keep the slugs at bay. Rotted-down banana skins make an excellent insect repellent.
July in the garden is all about tidying and preserving; for instance, topping up bird baths, ponds, and water features is necessary for the garden’s look and wildlife. Birds rely on gardeners at this time of the year.
Sort your pond out; remove any pondweed and algae that will clog up the water (especially if you have fish). Set up automatic watering systems to see you through any dry spells or look after your plants while on holiday.
Trim your hedges and keep mowing your lawn, leaving longer grass on the edges to catch the water and protect your borders. Hanging baskets and patio pots need regular watering. If you haven’t already, invest in a rainwater bucket; even an old bin will do – just in case there’s a hosepipe ban.
Look out for pesky pests that like to feed on your garden; deal with them now so that you’re not battling with them in October when the weather gets cooler. If you have apples or fruit trees, pick them up, the windfall, or you may end up with vermin.
If you have a heavy fruit crop on your trees, July is the best time to show them some attention. Thin out any damaged or malformed fruit to allow the remaining crop to thrive on the tree in time for harvesting in late August.
Prue your plums as silver leaf fungus disease will rear its ugly head when the weather cools, so the dry weather promotes growth, but it is also a good time for a maintenance prune. Plum trees (deciduous trees) will benefit from some bark mulch around the base to keep in moisture.
If you’re growing vegetables like tomatoes, now is the time to feed them with any crops in pots or grow bags.
Make your own fertiliser. Your garden has all the ingredients to make a chemical-free fertiliser from things you would otherwise throw away.
If you have comfrey growing in your garden, you can utilise this nitrate and potash-rich weed to make your own fertiliser to feed your plants and deter insects. Here’s how…
Pack your comfrey leaves into a bucket using a black bucket to attract the heat (no gaps, really pack them in). Fill your bucket to the top, and DON’T add any water.
Add a lid and leave in a sunny spot for 3-5 weeks; you get a concentrated fertiliser at the end, and all the fibrous tissue has broken down, leaving a strong-smelling brown liquid. Strain what remains and add any leaf mulch left over to your compost heap to continue to rot down.
Your fertiliser is ready to use. Dilute it with water in a 1:4 ratio. Use this on your summer beds for a boost to your garden.
Spure, chickweed, or any annual weed will also work; ensure the summer weeds you use do not have any seeds. You don’t want to spread weed seeds over your garden; that defeats the purpose.
Finally – if you decide this is all too much and need a hand, why not call us? We would love to help. Planet Turf will look after your garden while you go on holiday; we can work out a monthly or yearly plan and even an ad-hoc session.
What’s more, if you have or want an artificial lawn, we can help with that too. Our garden experts have looked after gardens in Kent, South East London and the surrounding areas for over 30 years.