The garden in July is a fruitful place, here's how to make the most of summer flowers and get ahead for bountiful Autumn harvest
It’s high summer and nature is blooming in its full glory. It’s a time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour from the previous year but there are a few garden jobs for July that need attending to.
Give bees a boost
If June has been as predictably hot and wet as usual then nectar-rich flowers could be few and far between so help out the honey bees by planting lavender, jasmine and bergamot. Make sure the flightpath between flowers – and, if you have one, a beehive or bee house – is free from overgrowth.
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The bees will be doing their best to harvest the pollen so the last thing they need is to have to risk losing their precious load in the long grass. The RHS have a helpful list of garden and wild flowers that are perfect for pollinators.
Don’t forget to drench
Water plants regularly to ensure they stay healthy – daily for containers and a thorough soaking once or twice a week for the rest of the garden. Camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons also need sufficient water now to produce flowers next spring.
Encourage better blooms
Deadhead flowers to prevents the plant from setting seed, encouraging further blooms. Remove spent roses by cutting along the stems above a leaf stalk to encourage new growth.
Plant a bold display for autumn
Think about planting out your autumn borders now. For a bright, bold look try mixing blocks of colours that clash together – think pinks, reds and oranges. Experiment with different textures, such as the various forms of dahlias combined with the long stems of Veronicastrum.
Propagate your plants
Take cuttings from tender plants, herbaceous perennials and shrubs, including viburnum, hydrangeas and pieris. Look for fresh, firm shoots and remove with secateurs or a knife, then plant in damp compost.
Enjoy the fruits of your labour
Start harvesting your fruit and veg by picking ripe plums and removing blemished or small apples and pears to encourage the best fruit to mature. Lift potatoes when plants start to flower and store in a dark, dry place. Net soft fruit to protect from birds, being careful to keep nets taut to prevent wildlife from becoming entangled.
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Harvest any ripe produce as often as you can eat and store well. Courgettes will turn into marrow if left on the plant, so you can choose which you prefer to eat – both are good.
Sow for the future
If you really want to get ahead, sow biennials such as foxgloves, Sweet William (pictured above), wallflowers, honesty and forget-me-nots, to plant out in autumn for a stunning display next spring. Sow into large seed trays or a dedicated seed bed, then separate seedlings when large enough to handle. Sow late summer and winter crops such as leeks, carrots, cauliflower, sprouting broccoli, cabbages and dwarf peas. You can also continue to sow lettuces, radishes and beetroot in between the rows of slower-growing crops.
Lend a hand to your animal friends
Care for birds and wildlife by cleaning and topping up birdbaths and feeders. Avoid pruning your hedges until the end of August at the earliest. As the RSPB says, the main breeding time for garden birds is between March and August so give them time to rear their young. Conifers in particular provide nesting sites for blackbirds, robins, and greenfinches, as well as larger birds such as sparrowhawks and crows. Top up ponds, ideally with rainwater and remove dead foliage from aquatic and marginal plants. Blanket weed can also be a problem – carefully remove using a garden fork and leave by the side of the pond so any creatures can crawl back into the water.
Collect and store seeds
Collect the seed of flowers that you want to grow again next year. Store the seed in paper bags or envelopes, labelled with the plant name and harvest date, in a cool, dry place.
Tidy up regularly
Check supports for climbing plants; the strong winds and torrential rain will have put considerable pressure on everything but regular tidying in the garden is easier to deal with than leaving it all until the end of the summer. Check for weeds in flower beds and prune wisteria, box hedges, honeysuckle and bay laurel.
Position bulbs thoughtfully
Start planting autumn-flowering bulbs this month. Take note of each type of bulbs flowering time and position them in your flowerbeds, pots and lawn so that you can enjoy the blooms for as long as possible; as the early bulbs bloom and die, the mid-season collection will appear, bloom and die, and so on.