July in the garden
We can only hope that July is a little sunnier than June. Flash floods, rain washing out cricket matches around the country, and roses sticking firmly in the bud and rotting before unfurling. But, and there is a plus side, everything is growing so quickly outdoors. Soft, leafy growth should ensure the potatoes produce a great crop. Most are flowering now indicating that tubers are present ( or coinciding with the beginnings of a crop) and now is key to a bumper harvest. If it doesn't rain, and even if it does the canopy of leaves may well stop everything but the most persistent of downpours from reaching the soil, you will need to water either the soil around the plants or the sacks the plants are growing in. Seeds can still be sown with short rows of carrots guaranteed to produce something before autumn.
The same goes for salad onions and lettuce. Beetroot can be sown now. Soak seeds for a few hours before sowing and rinse the seeds prior to popping in the ground. This washes out germination inhibitors and increases your productivity. Each seed is usually a cluster of seeds so expect bunches of seedlings appearing. In other words, space them out so as not to waste seed. Inside the greenhouse, everything is growing like crazy. Cucumbers are fast becoming my favourite crop as they are so prolific and produce unexpected bounty. Nestled in amongst the vines you will find fruit, sometimes straight but other times banana- style. All taste delicious. I've also added a few of my old favourites to the greenhouse. Cacti and succulent were my first plant love many decades ago, and now I have the capability to house them again. Only a modest four or five to start with but no doubt this will grow. And along with every other greenhouse owner at this tie of year, the question being asked is 'Is one greenhouse really enough?'
Key activity for July in the garden
Even though June was wet, plants in the greenhouse and pots still need watering. This is accentuated as we start to hit holiday season. Even on cloudy days, the temperatures soar in the greenhouse and water is rapidly sucked from leaves. One trick is to water the hard flooring in the greenhouse. Damping down is the technical gardening term and it works. It increases humidity and reduces transpiration through leaves. It also has the benefit of making infestations of red spider mite less likely as they thrive in warm, dry conditions. If you are a slapdash waterer like myself ( watering tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and aubergines until water runs out of the bottom of pots) then damping down occurs anyway! But a gallon or so of water sprinkled onto the floor in the morning will do the trick. Them around midday, pop into the greenhouse and tap the sticks supporting your tomatoes. This is the peak time of day that pollen is released – and pollen fertilises the flowers that then turn into juicy fruit. Cucumbers, fast becoming my favourite crop as they are so prolific, don;t want to have fertilised flowers. If a male and female get together it results in stunted, bitter fruits. So, if yours produces little flowers that don't have a small cucumber behind, nip them off. Female flowers will develop gorgeous fruits without any troublesome males, and they have little cucumbers behind the blooms. Lots of varieties these days only produce female flowers to save you the hassle of checking but have a daily look to prevent any unwanted surprises.
Hints and tips
- Nip outside shoots in tomatoes before they rob the plant of energy. Side shoots only form when the leaves join the stems.
- Watch out for aphids both in the greenhouse and garden. It will only take a day or so for them to become established and ruin plants. Ants crawling up and down plants are an early indication that they are hiding somewhere.
- Plants in containers are getting hungry around now so add a splash of seaweed extract when you water ( according to manufacturers instructions)
- If the weather is dry enough for long enough (!) mow the lawn twice a week. It will encourage well-branched growth and a lovely looking sward.
- Harvest veg as it matures – early carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers should all be gracing your table now!
- Keep a careful eye on all waterings – even when it rained – as leaves may stop water reaching the soil.
- Your lawn will be hungry so add a quick acting fertiliser (organic types are available) to green it up in days.
- Water well – especially containers as developing leaves stops rain from reaching the compost.
- Hoe off annual weeds and to prevent the soil surface forming a hard cap or crust after heavy summer showers.
Q: A rose is covered in white powdery stuff on the leaves. Help.
A: Mildews can be a problem with roses and attack plants not growing strongly or that are, perhaps, not growing in ideal conditions. Ensure you have plenty of air circulation around the plant ( this may mean cutting a branch or two out and definitely clearing any area around the rose of weeds) You may want to spray but I do think you may want to move the whole plant in autumn to a more open position.
Q: My lawn has mushrooms on it in the morning. Is something wrong?
A: Not necessarily – there will be plenty of organic matter beneath the surface of the lawn and spores will grow on this. In turn, if left undisturbed, they will form their fruiting bodies ( the mushrooms) Firstly, don't eat them (unless you are a mycologist and know exactly what it is) and secondly try and brush them off before they open and spread more spores. It jay mean getting up early in the morning.
Q: Can I move a shrub that is growing too large for the position it is in?
A: I'm not a fan of moving anything in summer if you can help it. The stress on the plant is often too much – but it is usually a great way to guarantee a sunny spell! Wait until autumn when the soil is moist yet still warm.
Events and shows this month
RHS Tatton Park Flower Show in Cheshire is an absolutely delightful show to visit. You will see up and coming garden designers and lots of plant stalls. www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-flower-show-tatton-park