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

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

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