18 Jul July in the garden: Get in shape for the holidays!
July, in recent years, has seemed rather disappointing… dull days and rain at what should be the height of summer. But this week is set to be a scorcher, and my mind is wandering ahead to the summer holidays.
But before I go away there are some important jobs still to do, so that I won’t come home to the garden misery that is dying plants, a brown lawn and spoiled fruit and veg.
Although it’s not the done thing to water your lawn these days, you can help yourself by mowing it just before you go, but with the blades set higher than earlier in the season – this will help it to stay green without watering, although dry weather will slow down lawn growth anyway. Even in much drier weather, try to mow once a week to prevent weeds from colonising, setting seed and causing havoc.
Encourage the plants you have to work harder for you by regular deadheading and feeding – roses, perennials, bedding and annuals. Cut back perennials by half and if you’re lucky a fresh new flush will make an appearance in a few weeks time. Same goes for clearing away untidy old foliage of earlier flowering perennials, such as peonies, which may well have a covering of white powdery mildew by now. A good liquid lunch and there should be some nice new foliage to set off the later summer flowers.
And don’t forget container plants – at their peak right now, but undoubtedly the most vulnerable to a fortnight’s neglect. If there’s no friendly neighbour to visit while you’re away and no fancy irrigation system set up, at the very least soak them and move them into the shade. And, if you’re conscious of security, a pretty good tip is not to display containers in the front garden – dying pot plants in an otherwise well kept garden can make it pretty obvious the owners aren’t home!
Bed and border plants should now be well established meaning weeds are (hopefully) becoming squeezed out… however, get all weeding up to date – you can’t ask your neighbour to do everything! (If you were good and mulched them in the spring you’ll be in even better shape).
And, as for the kitchen garden, we’ve just had our first crop of tender dwarf beans, and I don’t want the rest to wither and waste while I’m away – I’ll be harvesting and freezing all that I can before I go to encourage more for when I’m back. And I really should find the time to prune my old plum tree. Prone to silver leaf disease, spread by rainy, windy conditions, midsummer is the optimum time for getting it back into shape. It’s also a good time to thin out the fruit on our two young apple trees, reducing the risk of coming home to lots of fallen fruit and split branches.
After all this work I think I’ll deserve that sun lounger… Happy holidays!