With things starting to slow down in gardens everywhere, Head Gardener Imogen is here to remind us all that now is the perfect time to begin taking it easy whilst appreciating the sights, sounds and smells of summer, which are all just waiting to be discovered as you potter around your plot.
July is the time for harvesting the fruits of your labour, or sitting back and enjoying the beauty that you have created, in whatever size garden, balcony or window box you have. The days are long and (usually!) hot, depending on where in the country you are, and long balmy evenings are perfect for sitting out and relaxing in your outdoor space. This is when many gardens are looking their best, so take the time to enjoy your garden and any others you are able to spend time in. If you pay close attention to the sounds in your garden, or out in nature elsewhere, you will notice the bird song is more relaxed at this time of year. No longer are the birds vying for a mate or defending territory. Notice the scents too – maybe you have sweet peas or strawberries, scented roses, lillies or pineapple sage. Take time to really focus in on these scents and let your mind wander with the aromas. Memories are closely linked to scent, so can take you on an amazing trip down memory lane.
If you have children or grandchildren July is such an exciting time for them, with so much to harvest if you have fruit and vegetables in your garden.
There will still be lots to do – here’s a few ideas of what you might need to do in your garden in July.
Keep weeding – there shouldn’t be as much now as earlier in the year, but don’t let up and at least make sure they don’t have a chance to set seeds. However, don’t forget that a weed is often simply a wildflower, and often the best and most perfect flowers for the native wildlife. Bees adore herb robert for example, so think twice before you rip it out!
Fruit and Vegetable Garden
Harvest: beans, peas, tomatoes, chillies and courgettes. The more you harvest the more your plants will produce.
Early potatoes, garlic, onions, shallots, aubergine, beetroot, cucumbers, and salad leaves. In the fruit bed: raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, nectarines and currants.
Water: especially tomatoes and beans – keep it regular for the best quality fruit. Rainwater is the best for mature plants, so if you are able to collect rainwater this is a really important thing to do, both for the planet and your plants. In times of drought greywater, meaning used washing up or washing water is fine for the garden. Make sure you are using biodegradable washing up liquid, or soap.
Sow: salad leaves and spinach. Quick growing crops where spaces appear within your veg patch, such as salad leaves and radish.
Plant out: Kale, chard, brussels sprouts, leeks, broccoli.
Pinch out outdoor tomatoes when 4 trusses have been reached and remove all sideshoots.
Keep watering young plants.
Sow perennials and biennials such as wallflowers, rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) and clary sage (Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica) all great cottage garden flowers that the pollinators will thank you for next year.
Keep deadheading to encourage more blooms. With roses use sterilised secateurs to prune down to the first leaf axil below any rose that has finished flowering. If you have a floribunda, or many rose blooms together on one stem, when they have all finished flowering prune further down to the next leaf axil. If your rose has beautiful ornamental hips, do not deadhead.
Prune early flowering shrubs such as Forsythia and Philadelphus.
Try the ‘Hampton Hack’ to rejuvenate your border – cutting back certain plants in the first week of July to give you a second flush of flowers, less leggy, floppy plants with smaller more numerous flowers. Astrantias, herbaceous geraniums, pansies and violas will all have a second flush if cut in early July, and Alchemilla mollis and Iris siberica look much better for a severe trim at this time of year.
Take semi-ripe cuttings from shrubs and herbaceous perennials, such as Viburnum plicatum, Buddleja, Daphne or Penstemon.
Take softwood cuttings from honeysuckle, Nepeta (catmint) and Pelargoniums
Trim conifer hedges, but be extremely careful as many birds are still nesting at this time of year.
Make sure you provide fresh water for birds and hedgehogs in a place where cats can’t surprise them.
If you have a wildflower meadow, now is the time to mow it, but take good care in case there are frogs, hedgehogs or any other animals hiding in there. It is often a good idea to mow half now and half a month later. Leave the seed heads to dry and scatter where they fall, and then collect the clippings to ensure you are removing all the nutrients as wildflower meadows thrive on poor soils.
If you feel that your garden has got away from you and you have struggled to keep on top of it, try focussing either on a small area and make the most you can of that, or embrace the weeds as wildflowers and notice the bees and other insects that love your unkempt plot!
May we always continue to celebrate old memories of time spent outdoors and enjoy making new ones this month too!