Slide into full summer: Flaming June has been and gone. Sizzling July has arrived with no sign of a break in the weather. There is a decided shortage of the wet stuff. We in north-western climes are unfamiliar with drought. We usually have the opposite problem – unrelenting rain. So it is distressing and surprising to see mature plants wilting in the heat. Any plants planted this year will be under severe stress. Well established herbaceous plants might look terrible but you will be amazed by their ability to revive once the rain comes. So give your attention and cold washing up water/bath water to those plants which haven’t had time to establish deep roots. And of course anything in a container. Containers could be moved to the shadiest place in the garden: that will help with heat stress and evaporation.
Consider collecting rainwater. This is easily done; a rainwater butt can be attached to the downpipes from guttering on sheds, greenhouses as well as the main house. Even the smallest roof can collect gallons of water over the winter. Rainwater is just right for plants and ponds – and it is free.
Mulch is a wonderful way of keeping moisture in the soil, as well as all the other beneficial things that it does. However do not mulch the soil now when it is bone dry, wait for later in the year when equilibrium has been reached. Future additions of this Newsletter will remind you. However, a layer of pebbles on the surface of pots is worth applying now.
This is a good time for pruning, particularly shrubs that have finished flowering such as Philadelphus and lilac. In the case of philadelphus cut out the branches which have flowered right back to the ground. This will allow space for the fresh new growth to mature and produce flowers next year. Cut back wisteria: all the soft shoots to about 5/6 buds. Pinch out shoots on vines, and thin emerging bunches of fruit. You are aiming for fewer but bigger grapes.
Please don’t cut hedges mechanically just yet, there may still be birds nesting. Songbirds need all the help they can get, as I am sure you know. So hold back on activities that may disturb them. There is no reason why you can’t cut back the odd growth that is blocking a path, but the hedge trimmer can be left in the shed until August.
To keep roses and annuals looking good deadhead all the dried and finished blooms.
In the Kitchen Garden:
Lift garlic for drying once the leaves start to yellow.
Pinch out tops of climbing peas and beans once they reach to top of the supports. Keep up the watering.
Herbs: Take cuttings of woody Mediterranean herbs such as sage thyme rosemary and lavender. Trim sage and thyme. Cut sorrel, chives and mint to the base to encourage fresh foliage.
Tomatoes require water and feed. Pinch out the side shoots to make sure all the growth goes into the flowers and fruit.
One man went to mow: Leave the blades high when mowing the lawn. Give your grass a break during the dry weather. It is time to mow the meadow. Look out for frogs which crouch down low rather then hopping away as you would expect. Once the cut grass has dried and the flower seed dropped take the mowings away for hay or compost. Sow yellow rattle early in the month, this is a useful plant that is a parasite on grass. The grass is weakened and allows other meadow plants to thrive. Sow in bald patches, or remove small areas of turf to allow the seed to germinate.