July can be one of the best months to enjoy your garden. It is the month in which we see maximum growth with lots of colour from trees, shrubs and bedding plants. The weather (this is usually our warmest month) can often be conducive to gardening or sitting out, relaxing or having a barbecue. The garden continues vigorous growth due to the adequate soil moisture (particularly this June), but the year has turned and plants begin to slow down and mature. Dry weather can lead to drought, but a wet July is also possible and this favours many fungal diseases and action may be necessary.
The high summer can be a time of serious pressure on lawns. A combination of drought, heat and a general slow down in grass growth can leave the lawn looking slightly brown and sad. If the weather remains good, cut fortnightly only and raise the height of cut. Watering is not really worthwhile on lawns in this country because any drought spell is unlikely to be prolonged and the grass recovers within a couple of weeks. If you still have some weeds remaining on your lawn spot treat them with Shell D50 or Verdone to eradicate them.
This is a tricky time for all trees and shrubs etc. planted in the last few months. Quite often woody plants take two full seasons to become properly established. Watch out for plants that are suffering—thin cover of foliage, small leaves, yellowing leaves, crinkled or distorted leaves and even drooping foliage. Watering and feeding will help such plants, remove all grass or weeds from around the base of young trees or hedging and cover with a layer of bark mulch or well decayed compost.
Now is also a good time to clip any of your hedges. Most species will have made most of their growth by now. The woody plants used as hedging begin to harden their stems during July. The cellulose or woody material that stiffen the twigs forms during mid summer. If hedge clipping is left until after the woody tissue has formed, the effort required will be greater. Clipping a hedge now means that it will have a chance to make some new growth before the end of the season, making it hardier to exposure of winter winds. When trimming a hedge rather than cut straight down as many people do, trim slightly at an angel, wider towards the base. This ensures more light at the base of the hedge and you will have a much fuller hedge to ground level.
July is a month of plenty in the vegetable garden, as everything comes to maturity. Many vegetables come together so blanching and freezing should be considered.
In the glasshouse, remove some of the leaves of tomato plants to help the fruit ripen. Continue to sideshoot tomatoes and ventilate well on hot days.
In general, the hot humid weather has brought a lot of pests, so keep an eye out and treat accordingly.
The Easter frosts has affected fruit crops all over the country. If trees have a heavy set of fruit, in the first two weeks of July these should be thinned by half to allow the remaining fruit develop to full size and flavour.
Use garden herbs as much as possible while fresh for their best flavour. Some can be harvested for winter use now. Most reach their peak of flavour before they flower after which they dry out and lose their pungency. Varieties such as sage, thyme and marjoram can be successfully dried and retain their flavour, others are better frozen. Herbs for drying should have good sized sprigs pruned off on a dry day, towards evening when he heat has waned. They can be placed in a cool dry airy place where a good draft of air dries them out quickly. Artificial heat tends to reduce flavour and they are best air dried. On the other hand they must not be allowed to turn musty. Herbs for freezing include the softer leafed kinds such as basil, parsley and french tarragon. Pick coming up to flowering but before they flower. Pick sizeable sprigs and strip the leaves from the stems immediately and wash them. The leaves can be then frozen in ice cubes or on their own. If the latter method is used the leaves should be stirred occasionally to prevent them freezing solid.
Bedding plants can continue to be planted. Earlier plants can be fed with any general purpose liquid feed but perhaps only every 3 weeks or so. Many people ask about keeping geraniums or fuschias for next year. Here is a step by step guide:
- Cut young shoots off the mother plant.
- Remove flower shoots and leaves.
- Trim the base of each shoot just below a leaf joint.
- Fill the pots with 3 parts compost and 1 part sand mixture.
- Dip the base of the cutting in rooting powder, and tap off excess.
- Insert the cutting in the mixture to halfway on the stem.
- Firm the cuttings and water them.
- Cover with a plastic bag and place in a bright place out of direct sunshine.
Finally, somebody told me recently about receiving flowers on her side salad on a recent outing to a restaurant. She was reluctant to try them as she was unsure. I reassured her by telling her not to worry that there are quite a few edible flowers and many restaurants use them for decorative or garnishing purposes. The following is a list of edible flowers: Wigella Miss Jekyll, Crambe Mantma, Violas, Nasturtums, Climbing Bean flowers, Swiss Chard, Monarda, Marjoram Chives, Thyme and Rosemary.
That’s it for now, happy gardening,
Bosco McDermott, Jnr,
Glynn’s Garden Cenre,
Tel: 091 799135