1 July 2024

Head Gardeners’ tips
July 2024

Alex Law - Head Gardener, Midlands

This July, try to embody the calmness of a cool summer breeze, relax about the rate at which everything is growing, water wisely to counter the rapid drying out of pots and containers, and mindfully receive the gifts the garden wants to give.

If it feels like the garden’s getting out of control at this time of year, then congratulate yourself for creating an environment where plants grow so well. It’s only right to have overflowing borders, a glut of cut flowers and homegrown crops, and plants bowed under the weight of too many blooms after a rain shower – these are the joys of July.

Whatever the weather brings this July, attend to your plot little and often and you’ll easily keep your head above water. Here’s a few ideas to keep you busy as a bee:


  • Make the most of the lovely light evenings by doing your watering towards the end of the day. Your plants and water meter will both thank you as this is a more efficient time to water than during the daytime, when much is lost via evapotranspiration. Besides pots and first- or second-year plantings that have yet to develop extensive root systems, there generally isn’t as much need for water as you might think and many plants can adapt to growing in tougher conditions, so it’s worth experimenting with being hydro-frugal. And if you’re finding you are needing to water constantly, then make a note in your calendar to add a good mulch this autumn or winter, then keep improving your soil year after year, and fill any gaps of bare soil with suitable ground cover. On top of that you could reassess what you’re growing and move toward less water-dependent species if that’s suitable for your site (look up xeriscaping for some more information and top tips).
  • Keep deadheading sweet peas, dahlias and repeat-flowering perennials. There are a few ornamentals that don’t need deadheading because we grow them for their attractive seedheads, such as Nigella or Lunaria annua, or because they’ll develop seeds or fruits for birds, like sunflowers and species roses, but a great many reward the job of deadheading by producing more and more flowers.
  • Sow a few more quick growing crops and herbs if you have space or are likely to have gaps soon, for example, if you’re about to harvest potatoes. Basil, coriander, carrots and radishes are so easy and rewarding to grow. Ornamental sowings right now will provide next year’s spring blooms of foxgloves, wallflowers and forget-me-nots.
  • Pruning jobs that can be carried out now include wisteria, restricted forms of apples and pears (thin out the fruits while you’re at it!) and early-summer-flowering shrubs. A great many trees, shrubs and climbers require little to no pruning, and are sometimes sadly ruined by the misguided intention to ‘tidy’ them up or limit their size; others need regular pruning to keep them healthy and productive, so it’s best to consult a good pruning manual or search for advice for your particular plant online.
  • For a couple of mindful moments this month I’d recommend getting up at first light one day for a sunrise walk – take in the dawn chorus and try to focus on each individual birdsong as if hearing it for the first time; it’s soul-nourishing. Secondly, if we have rain after a humid and hot spell, we experience that wonderful petrichor scent, caused by the release of plant oils and friendly soil bacteria. I’ll be out there appreciating the aroma when that happens, and I’ll stop being busy and simply let my senses delight in the moment.

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