What to do in your garden in July

PUBLISHED: 06:46 02 July 2020

It's important to give plants just the right amount of water

It's important to give plants just the right amount of water

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TV presenter and author Toby Buckland on what you should be doing in your garden in July

Buddleia thrive in the sun - and attract beautiful wildlife tooBuddleia thrive in the sun - and attract beautiful wildlife too

In the long run

We’re in the midsummer purple patch thanks to the abundance of buddleia, lavender and Jackmanii clematis, and that time in the year when watering pots and establishing plants is essential.

Roses, tomato and potato leaves like to be kept dry as this reduces the risk of disease, while clematis roots thrive under mulch that keeps the earth around them permanently moist.

Then there are flowers that are slow to a thirst; pelargoniums – geraniums to you and me - and lavenders that become more pungent when it’s dry, and buddleias that love sun and happily survive on meagre water rations.

That said, if you give the roots a good soak, your buddleia will have enough to top-up reserves of nectar in the tubular flowers, increasing the chance of a butterfly fluttering-by, one of the summer sights I am sure we all love.

What to do this month

Mix scrunched up newspaper when emptying the mower into the compost heap. The paper stops clippings from clumping together increasing the speed that they rot down.

Trim the spent early cottage garden flowers such as cranesbill geraniums and lupins that have gone to seed. Then water and they’ll bounce back with new leaves and often more flowers. Deadhead spent roses, sweet peas and penstemons to encourage new flowers to form. Prune wisteria, trimming the long whippy side-shoots to 20cm (five leaves) from where they meet the main stem.

On the veg plot train cucumber stems up string or wigwam supports, and remove the first fruit from courgettes and aubergines. This will feel counterintuitive, but stimulates faster growth and a succession of fruit through the summer. Pinch out side-shoots from cordon tomatoes – they’re the ones trained to canes - and remove yellowing leaves from their base. Apply a weekly liquid feed to tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. Stop harvesting rhubarb, then mulch the crowns with manure or compost and water well. A little TLC now boosts reserves for next year’s harvest.

Plant of the month: lavender

Lavender loves sun and free-draining soil, so if you garden on clay grow yours in pots. Prune English lavender (pictured) twice a year, removing the spent blooms and a few inches of the stem after flowering. Like all scented herbs, the aromatic foliage of lavender keeps pests that don’t like its flavour at bay, but that’s not its only purpose. In its native Mediterranean home, the drying combinations of heat and windy weather would soon kill the leaves if the perfume wasn’t there to protect the plants. On sunny days the oil-based aroma rises from the foliage surrounding the needle-like leaves in a thick ‘fog’ of oily air. This slows the breeze and reduces the rate at which moisture is wicked away by the breeze. That’s why on a sunny day, you can smell a lavender hedge before you see it!

If you do just one thing…

Water plants in the evening to reduce evaporation and give plants the best chance of soaking up what they need.

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