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A Satisfying Summer


Summer is such a great time for enjoying the garden and appreciating all the hard work of spring. You can now relax a bit and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

However, if newly planted plants are not looked after properly they can suffer and sometimes fail to establish correctly. Ensure that all plants are well watered especially during very warm or windy conditions. A well balanced watering can will make the job much easier, but also remember that these days automatic irrigations systems are inexpensive and very flexible and will ensure all your plants are watered when you are away on holiday.

Plants benefit from being fed and an application of a good quality rose fertilizer around trees and shrubs is highly beneficial. This should be sprinkled onto the surface of the soil and either hoed in lightly with a push hoe or watered in if rain does not fall shortly after application. Rose fertilizer is based on slowly released fertilizers so it will help growth throughout the summer months.

Keep the push hoe busy in the vegetable garden and among flower borders and this will reduce the amount of time spent weeding no end. I hoe through my borders and veg garden once a week and I do not have weeds. When people visit they always comment on how weed free my garden is. Well it wouldn’t be if I didn’t keep on top of the weed seedlings.

As biennials start to form seeds now is the time to start collecting them. Plants such as foxgloves (Digitalis species) and forget-me-nots can be harvested and sown straight away either in trays or in drills taken out with a draw hoe. Once these start growing remember either to prick them out or thin them so that they have room to develop.

The seed capsules of early perennials such as hellebores and Aquilegia will be changing colour from green to brown Now is the time to inspect plants and be ready with paper bags so that as the capsules etc. start to split you can go round and shake the ripe seed into the paper bags.

Remember to put the name of the plants and date on the packets so you know what is inside them. I often, also, put the ideal sowing time on them as well and then put them in the fridge into an old card index box under the month they need to be sown. I also write the plant label at the same time using a waterproof marker pen. This saves so much time when you are busy in the early spring.

Remember also June and July are still suitable times for repeat sowings of lettuce seed, radish, spring onions, Swiss chard, beetroot, French and runner beans. Make the most of your plot by removing early and spent crops such as broad beans and peas and re- sow immediately. This will ensure fresh crops right the way through until the autumn.

Cabbage white caterpillars start to become active at this time of the year so look at your plants everyday and check the underside of the leaves for caterpillar eggs. They are yellowish in colour and are laid in groups so are easy to see. I just squash these. Draping fleece over the plants will also prevent your greens becoming damaged.

For the bulb enthusiast this is a busy time of the year when dormant bulbs need repotting before the roots start into growth. Daffodils and fritillarias should be done in July while crocuses can wait until September.

Repotting prevents overcrowding which can lead to a reduced display and smaller bulbs developing. Use a good quality John Innes no. 3 with some grit added. Remember to throw away any of the bulbs that are showing signs of rotting as this could spread to other bulbs in the same pot.

As the flower borders continue to do their thing regular dead heading will ensure that you have a long season of display. This task, using a sharp pair of secateurs, will ensure that the plant does not waste energy going to seed and will continue to produce lots of new flowers. Without being patronising do remember that if you want to save seed don’t remove all of the spent flower heads or no seed will be produced.

Summer flowering shrubs such as Philadelphus, Weigela, Rubus and Physocarpus flower on wood produced the previous season so now is the time get busy with loppers and sharp tools such as secatuers, pruning knives and saws. Remember to start with the three D’s – dead, diseased and damaged wood should all be removed first, then follow the advice given in a good pruning book as to how many shoots and what proportion of old wood needs to be removed. Just remember that you should look at the plant first and remember its shape. Once you have cut a shoot or branch off unlike modern day surgeons the gardener can’t put it back if it was removed by mistake!

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