July bursts with colour
July is peak flowering time in the garden. Roses, summer flowering shrubs, herbaceous perennials, containers and baskets are all looking their best. It is a time when warm summer evenings allow you to really enjoy your garden, and this is a month to just make minor adjustments to the garden. As early plants such as Delphiniums, Iris and Poppies, fade replace them with plants originating from nearer to the equator.
You can provide colour through summer into autumn with Dahlia, Salvia, Heleniums, Echinaceas, Rudbekia, Cosmos and Sunflowers, which can be planted easily into gaps in your borders. Plant up containers with herbs and salad vegetables, which look good and are very useful near the BBQ area.
Find ideas and inspiration
July is a wonderful time to visit the numerous Gardens and Botanic Gardens, formal and informal, large and small. All have totally different styles and designs for inspiration and ideas for your own garden. Look at the way these gardens attract your attention using colour schemes, leaf and stem textures, flowers scents, or perhaps bold displays using fewer types of plants making the gardens seem less fussy.
Veg glorious veg
This is the month when your vegetable garden provides a harvest of new potatoes, peas, beans, salad crops, beetroot, elephant garlic, carrots and spinach. The mouth-watering flavours of fresh vegetables compensates for all the hard work growing them, and you will definitely appreciate your food more when it’s enhanced with flavours of home-grown herbs!
There is still time to sow maincrop carrots, peas, spring cabbage, kohl rabi, turnips, endive, chicory and pak choi. With fast growing lettuce and radish, sow little and often. As early crops are harvested clear the ground, use an organic fertiliser, lightly fork over, rake and sow new crops. Keep down weeds by hoeing regularly and keep your vegetable and salad crops well-watered to help prevent the vegetables being tough or some types from prematurely run to seed. Harvest vegetables as soon as they are ready – with beans and courgettes, the more you pick, the more you grow!
Plant highlights this month
July plant highlights include Agaphanthus – large bell-shaped flowers in blues and whites. The large African agapanthus, with evergreen foliage is best grown in pots, for winter protection. The narrower foliage herbaceous types are a lot hardier and more suitable for planting out.
Hardy Fuchsias were discovered by a French monk, in the Dominican Republic, in the late 1690s. Many originate from South America and several are native to New Zealand and have different shaped flowers. They like a shaded, sheltered position in moisture retentive soil. The flowers’ decorative teardrop shapes appear in a range of colours including white, dark red purple, pink and even orange throughout summer and autumn. The Fuschia is a popular plant seen at many garden shows.
Penstemons have spikes of colourful trumpet-shaped flowers in wine reds, blues, purples, creams and pinks, which look good planted next to grasses with frothy seed heads, or with tropical foliage plants. They like a well-drained, fertile soil in a sunny position.
Crocosmia are multi-flowered perennials that come in a range of fiery colours. With grassy leaves, they have sprays of red, orange and yellow flowers. Depending on the variety it likes a protected sunny position in well-drained soil.
Rudbeckia is a native of North America with showy yellow or golden flower heads with central black on green cones, flowering mid to late summer. Herbaceous or some annuals, commonly known as Coneflowers or Black-eyed Susan look good with other prairie style perennials, Heleniums, Echinaceas, and grasses. Rudbeckia is easy to grow, doesn’t need staking and is loved by bees and butterflies. Other summer favourites include Echinacea, which needs humus-rich but well-drained soil in full sun. It does not like wet heavy clay in winter or being transplanted.
Keep your roses blooming
Roses have looked particularly good this year, but once the first flush of flowers is over, dead head regularly as this stimulates development of side shoots and further flowering. Cutting buds back to a leaf or side shoot also gives the plants a boost combined with a general-purpose feed, rose feed, or a tomato feed high in potash as a liquid is easily taken up by the roots if the weather is dry. The more you feed roses the less stressed they get and are less prone to black spot, rust and mildew.
Water, dead head and feed
Regularly dead head bedding plants in containers and hanging baskets, as this encourages energy into producing new flowering buds rather than producing seeds. Keep tubs, containers and hanging baskets well-watered and feed weekly to keep plants looking their best. With both Delphiniums and Lupins, cut back flowered stems as they go over and feed to encourage further flowers later in the season.
In dry weather a white coating can appear on clematis, spiraea, roses and honeysuckle caused by powdery mildew, which although unsightly is not harmful to plants. Spraying with a fungicide helps but look at the cause of stress. For dry soil feed, water and mulch to keep the soil damp. The more you feed soil, the more you indirectly feed the plant for strong growth. Also tidy up fallen leaves, and flowers to help prevent pest & disease problems. Honeysuckle, a woodland plant, is particularly prone to mildew. If these are growing in containers, keep roots cool by placing in the shade or put other pots of plants in front shading the roots from the warm sun. Ferns and Epimediums give a natural look.
At this time of year, depending on type, houseplants need weekly watering and feeding, every other week.
With summer holidays round the corner, start preparing the garden by watering well. Consider an automatic watering system for tubs, containers and hanging baskets. Pick your fruit and feed your greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.
Enjoy your English summer garden at its best!