July Flower border

Garden Jobs in July

At this time of year the garden should be looking great, with plenty of seasonal colour and interest. Hopefully, with more warm sunny evenings on their way, it will allow plenty of time in which to relax and enjoy the garden.

Although there are plenty of jobs to do this month, these can be undertaken at a more leisurely pace.

Flowers

  • Stake taller perennials;
  • Feed, water and deadhead bedding plants and repeat-flowering perennials, to ensure continuous flowering;
  • Cut back early summer perennials, such as hardy geraniums and delphiniums, after flowering for a second flush;
  • Deadhead roses regularly and feed to keep them flowering strongly;
  • Give dahlias a liquid feed and keep them well watered;
  • Water and feed sweet peas regularly, pick the flowers every few days, and remove seed pods to prolong flowering;
  • Look out for pests such as lily beetles, snails, aphids and vine weevils, and remove them before they do much harm;
  • Sow biennials, such as foxgloves, honesty, forget-me-nots and wallflowers for colour next year;
  • Plant autumn bulbs such as nerines and colchicums in pots and borders;

Fruit and Veg

  • Water fruit trees and bushes, then lay a thick mulch of garden compost around their base to hold in moisture;
  • Check crops such as runner beans regularly for aphids, and rub or wash them off straight away, before they multiply;
  • Cover brassicas with fine netting to prevent cabbage white butterflies laying their eggs on the leaves;
  • Peg down strawberry runners into pots of compost to root new plants;
  • Pick courgettes regularly so they don’t turn into marrows;
  • Sow small batches of fast-maturing salad leaves, rocket and radishes every few weeks for continuous pickings;
  • Cut down broad beans after harvesting, but leave the roots in the soil to release nitrogen as they decompose;

Greenhouse

  • Keep well ventilated – open doors and roof windows and apply shading if necessary;
  • Continue pinching out any side-shoots growing from the leaf joints of cordon tomatoes;
  • Water tomatoes daily to prevent drying out, which can lead to split fruits and blossom end rot;
  • Feed tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers with high-potash tomato fertiliser every week to encourage fruiting;
  • Train the main stem of cucumbers up supports and pinch out side-shoots two leaves after a flower or fruit;

Garden maintenance

    • Hoe and hand-weed borders often, in order that weeds won’t have time to set seed;
    • Top up bird baths, ponds and water features during hot weather;
    • Water new trees, shrubs and perennials planted in spring, to help them through dry spells;
    • Keep mowing lawns regularly, but raise the cutting height to leave the grass longer during dry weather;
    • Water hanging baskets and patio containers daily, in the morning or evening is preferable;
    • Deadhead bedding plants, sweet peas and annuals every few days to encourage more flowers;
    • Trim lavender after flowering to keep plants compact and bushy, but avoid cutting into old wood;

There are also some lovely inspiring gardens to visit at this time of year. Currently, due to COVID-19 restrictions, you will have to pre-book tickets in advance before visiting:

Wakehurst Place, West Sussex
Nymans, West Sussex
RHS Wisley, Woking, Surrey
Kew Gardens, Richmond, Surrey

roses in flower

Garden Jobs in June

June is a wonderful time in the garden, the weather is warmer and it’s encouraging flowers to appear in abundance. Here are a few tasks to keep on top of at this time of the year:

Flowers

  • Stake plants that are prone to flopping;
  • Continue planting summer bedding in pots and borders, watering them regularly in order to help plants establish quickly;
  • Tie in new stems of climbing and rambling roses horizontally to supports, this will encourage more flowers;
  • Give a liquid feed to pots and hanging baskets every few weeks to encourage flowering;
  • Prune late-spring or early-summer shrubs after flowering, such as Kerria and Philadelphus, and thin out any older stems;

Fruit and veg

  • Plant out sweetcorn after hardening off, arranging plants in blocks to assist with pollination;
  • Cover ripening fruits with netting or fleece to protect them from hungry birds;
  • Water vegetables and fruit in containers regularly, especially during dry sunny weather;
  • Go on regular snail and slug hunts, especially on damp evenings, to reduce numbers;
  • Apply tomato feed regularly to fruiting vegetable crops, including tomatoes, courgettes, and chillies;

Greenhouse

  • Sow biennials such as foxgloves and wallflowers in seed trays;
  • Shade greenhouses to keep temperatures down on hot days and open vents and doors on warm days. Damping down your greenhouse on hot days will help with increasing humidity;
  • Sow herbs such as coriander, parsley and basil in pots to grow on the kitchen windowsill;
  • Pinch out the side-shoots of cordon tomatoes regularly and apply a weekly feed;
  • Water plants daily in warm weather, ideally in the evening or early morning. Avoid splashing the foliage as sunlight can burn leaves with water sitting on them;
  • Introduce biological controls to the greenhouse if you have pests such as whitefly or red spider mite;
  • Harden off hanging baskets and pots of summer bedding that have been growing in the greenhouse;
  • If your strawberries need a little help ripening, bring them in to the warmth of the greenhouse. This will also protect them against bird, slug and snail damage;

Garden maintenance

  • Keep weeding and dead-heading plants to ensure your borders stay looking at their best;
  • Continue watering any new plants until they’re well established;
  • Water newly laid lawn regularly, for at least the first month;
  • Before starting any trimming or pruning tasks, check hedges and shrubs for nesting birds in order that you don’t disturb them;
  • Treat pots with vine weevil control if you’ve had problems with this pest previously. The larvae become active this month, feeding on plant roots particularly in pots, and the adults feed on the leaves;
  • Dig out perennial weeds such as dandelions as soon as you spot them;
  • Feed lawns with a liquid or granular lawn fertiliser;
  • Remove pond weed as it can quickly get out of control as the weather gets warmer;
  • Place houseplants outside for the summer in a warm, sheltered spot to enjoy the fresh air and extra light;
Phlox flower

The ‘Chelsea chop’

Chelsea chop
The Chelsea chop (so called because it is usually carried out at the end of May, coinciding with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show) is a useful technique that helps control the size, shape and flowering time of certain summer-flowering plants. Late May or early June is the perfect time to do it.

Plants that respond well to the Chelsea chop include:

Aster
Echinacea purpurea
Helenium
Phlox paniculata
Sedum

Many other summer and autumn-flowering perennials can be treated similarly. The degree of cutting back is specific to each species but the closer to flowering time you prune, the greater the delay in flowering. Doing the ‘Chelsea chop’ can delay the flowering of perennials by four to six weeks. You can either prune all the stems on a clump, which delays all the flowers, or just half of them, which spreads the plant’s flowering over a longer period. This can have some positive results:

The plants are not so tall and leggy
They need less staking
The flowers are smaller but more numerous

This happens because the removal of the top shoots enables the side shoots to branch out (the top shoots would normally inhibit the side shoots by producing hormones in a process called apical dominance). Using this method, along with regular feeding and watering, ensures beds and borders look tidy throughout summer.

To carry out the Chelsea chop:

Use sharp, clean secateurs to cut back the stems of perennials by one third or a half, making a sloping cut just above a leaf joint.
If you have several clumps of one plant, try cutting back a few, but leaving others. This will prolong the overall flowering time
Another method is to cut half the stems back at the front of the clump which will extend the season of flowering rather than delay it.

Here’s an example of a Phlox paniculata that I cut back half of the foliage in late May this year:

Phlox paniculata

Phlox paniculata prior to carrying out the Chelsea chop

Phlox paniculata

Phlox paniculata after carrying out the Chelsea chop

Phlox paniculata

Phlox paniculata cut stems after carrying out the Chelsea chop

Wisteria flowers

Garden Jobs in May

Spring is well underway now, which means there are plenty of gardening tasks to be getting on with. Spring bulbs are making way for summer flowers, with the promise of more colour to come.

Get stuck into these gardening jobs this spring in order to get your garden neat and tidy for the growing season ahead.

Flowers

  • Deadhead tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs and feed with a liquid fertiliser to encourage a good display next spring;
  • Remove faded spring bedding such as wallflowers and forget-me-nots and add to the compost bin;
  • Do the ‘Chelsea chop’ (which is towards the end of May). Take the secateurs to later-flowering herbaceous perennials such as Sedum’s. Prune about a third of the stems by a third, another third by two thirds. This delays flowering in those stems, and increases the overall flowering season;
  • Prune spring shrubs, such as forsythia and Ribes, after flowering to keep them compact;
  • Tie in the new shoots of climbing plants such as clematis and honeysuckle to their supports;
  • Plant up hanging baskets, but keep them in a greenhouse for a few weeks to in order to establish, before putting them outside;
  • Sow some fast-growing annuals to fill in gaps that may appear later in the season;
  • Check lilies and fritillaries for lily beetles and their larvae, as they can quickly strip plants of all foliage;
  • Pinch out the shoot tips of bedding plants and young annuals to encourage bushier growth.

Fruit and Veg

  • Protect crops from carrot fly by covering with horticultural fleece;
  • Earth up potatoes, covering the shoots with soil as they appear;
  • Reduce snail populations by going on regular evening hunts, especially during damp weather or use the biological alternative – Nemaslug;
  • Start sowing dwarf and climbing French beans as well as runner beans directly outdoors in warm weather;
  • Thin out seedlings from earlier sowings to ensure you get healthy, strong-growing plants;
  • Keep plenty of fleece handy to protect young seedlings if late frosts are forecast.

Greenhouse

  • Water crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes regularly as the weather starts to warm up;
  • Tie the stems of indoor tomatoes to canes as they grow;
  • Closely inspect plants for pests and diseases on shoot tips and the underside of leaves. Early prevention is easier than curing an infestation;
  • Open doors and vents on warm days and remember to close them in the evening as nights can still be cold;
  • Keep pricking out seedlings as soon as they get their first true leaves, to avoid overcrowding and fungal diseases;
  • Start to harden off tender plants and bedding, ready for planting outside after the last frost.

Garden maintenance

  • As the weather gets warmer, pond weed can quickly get out of control if left, so now is the time to scoop it out;
  • Apply nitrogen-rich summer lawn feed to encourage leafy growth.
Spring Flowers

Garden Jobs in April

Spring is finally in evidence as daffodils, tulips and blossom on the trees start to appear. If the weather continues to improve this month, take a few moments to enjoy being outside in your own garden as this could be the month that lifts our spirits and encourages us all to get ‘stuck in’ (literally) our own gardens.

Flowers

  • Sow hardy annuals, such as Marigolds, Poppies, Cosmos etc;
  • On warm still days, place seedlings that have been started off indoors outside in order to harden them off. Place them outside during the day, but take them in again later in the day before it gets too cold. Repeat this process for about a week or so in order for them to acclimatise;
  • Protect the new shoots of hostas and other vulnerable plants from slugs and snails;
  • Deadhead spring bulbs and bedding in order that they don’t waste energy setting seed;
  • Sweet peas can now been sown outdoors at the base of supports;
  • Spray the new leaves of roses with a fungicide to control mildew, rust and blackspot;
  • Prune hydrangeas, cutting back the old stems to a healthy shoot lower down;
  • Divide and replant mature clumps of hardy perennials;
  • Plant Lily bulbs straight into the ground, adding grit at the bottom of the planting hole for drainage on heavy clay soils.

Fruit and veg

  • Plant maincrop potatoes;
  • Place cardboard collars around the stems of brassicas to deter cabbage root fly from laying their eggs;
  • Sow small batches of salad leaves;
  • Sow flowering companions in the veg plot, such as pot marigolds and borage;
  • Protect emerging seedlings from slugs and snails;
  • Sow fast-growing crops, such as radishes, to make the most of any temporary gaps.

Greenhouse

  • Prick out seedlings growing in pots and trays as soon as they produce their first true leaves;
  • Transplant greenhouse tomatoes into growing bags or large containers and tie in the stems to supports;
  • Plant up hanging baskets and pots with summer bedding, but keep them inside until after the last frost;
  • Sow runner beans, French beans, cucumbers, courgettes etc;
  • Clean greenhouse glazing to let in as much light as possible;
  • Open greenhouse doors and vents on warm days, to improve air circulation.

Garden maintenance

  • Place a bag of barley straw in ponds to discourage algae and help keep the water clear;
  • Lay turf or sow grass seed to create a new lawn and repair damaged patches;
  • Keep on top of annual weeds emerging with a hoe as they grow rapidly at this time of year.
  • Only hoe on dry days – this way any weeds that you hoe will die off and wilt quickly;
  • Treat moss and weeds in turf with lawn weedkiller, and boost growth with a nitrogen-rich lawn feed.
Seed Sowing in th greenhouse

Garden Jobs in March

The idea of chilly days and nights disappearing still seems a long way off at the moment, however March heralds the start of Spring. Let’s hope that the temperatures improve as garden plants begin to spring into life.

Flowers

  • Finish pruning roses this month to encourage strong new growth.
  • This is the last chance to plant bare-root trees, shrubs, roses and fruit trees.
  • Prune shrubs with colourful winter stems to their base such as Cornus and Salix.
  • Start to sow hardy annuals outdoors, including poppies and nasturtiums and nigella.
  • Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as lilies, begonias and freesias in pots and borders.
  • Feed shrubs such as rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an ericaceous fertiliser.
  • Tidy up borders, removing established and newly-germinating weeds, then mulch generously.
  • Scatter general-purpose fertiliser over flowerbeds, around roses, shrubs and hedges, lightly forking it into the soil surface.
  • Plant snowdrops in the green to brighten up your winter garden next year.
  • Lift and divide established perennial plants now to improve their vigour and create new plants for your garden.
  • Trim winter-flowering heathers as the flowers disappear to prevent the plants becoming leggy.

Fruit and veg

  • Sow tomatoes, chillies, sweet peppers, courgetts and aubergines in pots indoors.
  • Make the first outdoor sowings of hardy vegetables and protect with cloches or fleece.
  • Plant early potatoes.
  • Start hoeing vegetable beds as soon as the weather starts to warm up as weeds will germinate quickly.

Greenhouse

  • Take down insulation in the greenhouse once temperatures begin to rise. This will also let in more light.
  • Buy bedding plants for growing on to a larger size under glass, or sow your own in a heated propagator.
  • Pot up overwintering cannas into fresh compost, water in, then place in a warm spot to encourage them into growth.
  • Sow sweet peas in deep pots and keep them frost-free in a greenhouse or on indoors on a sunny windowsill.
  • Take cuttings from dahlia tubers to raise new plants.
  • Open greenhouse vents on sunny days to prevent the humidity building up.

Garden maintenance

  • In mild weather, give the lawn its first cut, with the mower on a high setting.
  • Put slug barrier products around the new shoots of hostas and other susceptible perennials.
  • Check that tree ties aren’t too tight and that stakes are still firmly anchored in the ground.
  • Prune out any wind-damaged branches on trees and shrubs.
  • Keep putting out food for garden birds as the breeding season will be getting underway.
  • Cut back winter-flowering jasmine to tidy it up and encourage flowers for next year.
  • Get rid of slippery patches on the patio and paving by scrubbing with a broom or blasting with a pressure washer.
Snowdrops

Garden Jobs in February

There are signs that Spring is just around the corner! Daylight length is increasing. Early spring-flowering bulbs are  peaking through now and buds are plumping up ready to start putting on a display. With the odd sunny day encouraging us to get outside, it’s time to start thinking about what we need to do in the garden this year. So, with that in mind, here is a list of important jobs to do this month.

Flowers

  • Cut back deciduous ornamental grasses that have been left uncut over the winter before new shoots appear. Cut them back to within a few centimetres of the ground
  • Divide large clumps of snowdrops after flowering (commonly referred to as ‘in the green’) and replant to start new colonies
  • Prune late summer-flowering clematis, cutting stems back to healthy buds about 30cm from the base
  • Divide congested clumps of herbaceous perennials and grasses to make vigorous new plants for free
  • Prune winter-flowering shrubs, such as winter flowering jasmine and heathers, once they’ve finished flowering to encourage new growth for next year’s blooms
  • Prune your Wisteria now, cutting back summer side-shoots to 2 or 3 buds
  • Plant bare root roses for summer colour
  • Prune hybrid tea and floribunda roses, before growth restarts
  • Sprinkle slow-release fertiliser around the base of roses and other flowering shrubs

Fruit and veg

  • Finish pruning apple trees and pear trees whilst they are still dormant
  • Protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches
  • Chit potato tubers, standing them in trays (I use empty egg boxes) in a light, frost-free place
  • Prepare veg beds for sowing by covering with a thick mulch of organic matter and then cover over with a sheet to enable the ground to warm up
  • Check empty pots that may be harbouring any overwintering snails

Greenhouse

  • Sow sweet peas in deep pots and keep them in a frost free environment (I use toilet rolls for this). If you planted any sweet peas in autumn, now is the time to pot them on and pinch them out to encourage side shoots
  • Sow tender crops such as tomatoes and chillies in a heated propagator or on a warm sunny windowsill
  • Plant dahlia tubers in trays to encourage shoots to develop, which you can then use as cuttings
  • Wash greenhouse glazing inside and out to let in as much light as possible

Garden maintenance

  • If we are unlucky enough to have any snow fall, knock it off evergreen shrubs, hedges and conifers to prevent any branches snapping under the weight
  • Improve the soil by spreading organic matter over beds
  • Clear away old plant debris from pond margins and scoop out any leaves that have fallen into the water
  • Clean and service mowers and garden power tools, so they’re in good order for spring
  • As roses are hungry plants, spread a layer of well-rotted manure around them and they’ll repay you later on in the year
Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

Garden Jobs in January

January, a New Year and a perfect excuse to get outside and work off some of the excesses of the festive period!

Here’s a list of important jobs to be getting on with this month:

Flowers

  • Take root cuttings of perennials such as oriental poppies, Acanthus and Verbascums
  • Clear away collapsed stems of perennials
  • Take hardwood cuttings from deciduous shrubs such as forsythia and willow
  • Deadhead winter bedding regularly
  • Continue pruning climbing roses whilst they are dormant
  • Protect plants that are vulnerable to wind and cold
  • Clear out the crowns of plants of damp leaves to prevent rotting

Fruit and Veg

  • Cover soil with fleece or cloches to warm if you plan to sow early crops
  • Prune apple and pear trees to remove any dead, damaged and diseased branches
  • Cover rhubarb plants with a bucket or terracotta pot to force an early crop of tender long stems
  • Order seed potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic bulbs for planting in spring

Greenhouse

  • Sow winter salads in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill and they will be ready for harvesting within a few weeks
  • Move strawberry plants in pots under cover to encourage early fruits
  • Check overwintering plants regularly for pests and moulds and take action where necessary
  • Bring potted peaches into the greenhouse to avoid leaf curl disease
  • Ensure the greenhouse is kept frost free by installing a thermostatically controlled fan heater
  • Start sowing seeds of hardy annuals in pots or trays for early flowering
  • Ventilate the greenhouse on sunny days to prevent humidity building up

Garden Maintenance

  • Top up bird baths with fresh water daily
  • Clean out and scrub bird feeders regularly to maintain hygiene
  • Provide high-energy food for birds to help them through the winter months
  • Keep small areas of ponds free from ice
  • Repair any damaged fences and trellis
  • Service the lawn mower whilst it’s not in use
  • Clean and sharpen your tools, including hoes, secateurs and shears, and spray metal tools with oil
  • Give empty pots and seed trays a thorough scrubbing ready for the start of the sowing season
  • Order seeds and summer-flowering bulbs
Callicarpa bodinieri 'Imperial pearl'

Garden Jobs in December

The days are getting shorter with the temperatures plummeting at the moment. However it can still be a pleasure to be out in the garden, especially on clear frosty, sunny days. The garden takes on a different appearance during winter months, as the layers of perennials have died down it is the evergreens which take up the baton. In any garden it is important to have structure that will provide stability through the seasons.

There can still be colour around too, with winter-flowering heathers, Jasminum nudiflorum and Hamamelis mollis. Along with berries on shrubs such as Callicarpa and Ilex  aquifolium and colourful stems of trees  such as Betula and Acer griseum.

Flowers

  • Continue to cut back faded herbaceous perennials and add them to the compost heap.
  • If the weather remains mild, you can still lift and divide herbaceous perennials. This will increase stocks, and revive tired or poorly flowering clumps.
  • Root cuttings can be taken now, such as Papaver (perennial poppies), Phlox and Anemones.
  • Order seed catalogues, if you have not done so already, to select next year’s bedding and perennial choices.
  • Bring forced bulbs into a warm room to encourage them to flower.

Fruit and veg

  • Place straw around the base of parsnips to prevent the soil freezing, which can make harvesting difficult.
  • Winter prune large fruit trees to control their shape and size, and to increase fruiting productivity for next year.
  • Plan next year’s crops and order seeds .

Greenhouse

  • Pick faded leaves and dead flowers regularly from plants overwintering in the greenhouse, such as pelargoniums.
  • Check that greenhouse heaters are working.
  • If the weather is mild, ventilate the greenhouse.

Garden maintenance

  • Scoop fallen leaves and debris from ponds, leave on the side so pond-life can escape, then add to the compost bin.
  • Insulate outdoor taps and prevent ponds from freezing.
  • Protect terracotta pots from cracking in freezing weather by either bringing them indoors or wrapping in bubble polythene.
  • Raise outdoor patio containers onto feet or bricks to avoid them sitting in the winter wet.
  • Rake up fallen leaves in borders that could be harbouring slugs and other pests.
  • Clean paths to prevent then becoming slippery and repair sheds, fences and trellises.
  • Avoid walking on lawns covered with frost.
Autumnal Tree colour

Garden Jobs in November

Cool, misty mornings and the last leaves clinging to the trees make this a beautiful and melancholy time of year. Ensure that you take some time in between carrying out the tasks below to make the most of this month.

Flowers

  • Plant the last of your autumn bulbs. Tulip bulbs can be planted in pots and borders. Ensure they are covered with at least twice their depth of soil or compost
  • Lift dahlias tubers after the first frost, clean them off and store in dry compost in a cool, frost-proof place
  • Plant bare-root hedging, roses, trees and shrubs, before the weather turns too cold

Fruit and veg

  • Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries to the ground after they have been harvested
  • Plant garlic, shallots and onions, then cover with fleece

Greenhouse

  • Insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap
  • Check greenhouse plants regularly for any overwintering pests
  • Thoroughly clean greenhouse staging and glazing with disinfectant
  • Ventilate the greenhouse when the weather allows, particularly after watering and when paraffin heaters are used at night

Garden maintenance

  • Check bonfires carefully before lighting to make sure there isn’t any wildlife sheltering inside
  • Continue to mow the lawn if the grass is still growing and the weather is mild but raise the height of the blades
  • Collect any fallen leaves, especially from lawns and ponds, and place in bin bags. Add some water if the leaves are dry and then puncture the bag with a fork. Leave them to decompose into leaf mould
  • Raise outside containers onto pot feet to prevent waterlogging and wrap bubble wrap or hessian around pots outside to protect from frost damage