Summer can throw up some surprises but here are a few things that you can think about doing in the garden in July.
As well as putting food out for garden birds, water is also important and bird baths can dry up or get clogged with algae at this time of year. Give
them a good clean out and keep them topped with water. It’s not only the birds that will thank you. Insects also need water and you can often find
honey bees taking a welcome drink back to help cool the hive. Keep borders tidy by cutting off the spent flowers from perennials such as geranium, campanula, lupins and alchemical. This will encourage more flowers in many cases and help put strength back into the roots. If you cut back container plants make sure that you give them a good feed and water afterwards to keep them blooming for weeks to come. It is also a good idea
to remove the heads of lilies once they have flowered. This will help to bulk up the bulbs for next year.
Doubtless rain is on everyone’s mind but if a sudden summer storm should strike plants can easily be flattened. Staking delphiniums and phlox or
tying in climbers such as clematis will help them to resist getting battered by a sudden downpour.
Prune the whippy growths from wisteria back to five buds from the old growth unless you need them for tying in. Wisteria sinensis will flower again
giving out its delicious honey fragrance on summer evenings. The rest of the plant’s energy will go into building up flowering spurs for next year.
Deciduous magnolias can be pruned now as can plums, cherries, apricots and preaches. Pruning in hot dry weather will help reduce the incidence of silver leaf on the latter group. Keep an eye out for blackfly on cherries especially and either wash off with soap or use insecticide. Fruits grown in
containers need a regular dose of high potash to keep them looking good and in robust health. Acid cherries such as Morello or dessert cherries such as Stella will be fruiting so protect them from birds using bird scares or by netting them.
Fruits such as raspberries, Tay berries and Loganberries will all be fruiting and despite the current abundance they will be over in the blink of
an eye. They are all shallow rooted so will appreciate being watered generously. See what you can do to preserve as much of the harvest as possible. Jams are always an option as is freezing on trays before bagging them up. Another alternative is to make a fruit cordial or syrup that can be
added to your favourite tipple to make a refreshing drink. Wash the fruit if needed and place in a large bowl and crush with the back of a spoon. Then add about 1/2 pint of water for each 6lb of fruit for juicy fruits such as raspberries and blackberries or 1/2 pint to every 1lb for currants. Cover and leave to soak for 2-3 days then place the bowl over a bowl of boiling water until the juice runs out of the fruit. Strain through a muslin or tea towel and add 350g of sugar to every pint of fruit. Let the sugar dissolve and pour into sterilised bottles. It will last up to six weeks in the fridge or
can be frozen in ice cube trays.
Having said all of that, in the current dry spell most of your time will be taken up with watering so consider any changes that you might make for next year. Planting drought resistant plants will help cut down watering next year. Sedums have succulent leaves that help them to endure dry spells. Kniphofia are a South African genus with whorls of aloe like leaves and thick flower spikes which rise above the foliage. ‘Tawny King’ is my
favourite although ‘Green Jade’ is also attractive. If you want to splash out in a different sense then buy a garden hammock, a sun hat and a good book and enjoy the summer evenings outside. This is England remember and just like our World Cup dreams the good weather won’t