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July garden jobs

01 July 2022

Find out what you can plant in the garden in July, as well as what jobs need doing for a healthy summer garden or vegetable patch.

Deadhead dahlias to encourage continuous flowering throughout summer

What to plant in July

Flower seeds to sow in July

You can start planning ahead for next year by planting perennials and biennials. Delphiniums, hardy geraniums, foxgloves, forget-me-nots, fragrant wallflowers and sweet William can all be sown for a riot of colour next spring and summer. These should be sown indoors or in a greenhouse. Use a seed sowing compost, because this is low in nutrients, and sow them in trays. Prick out into small pots, before planting them outside in late August or early September. Use then in drifts of at least nine, if possible.

Vegetables to sow in July

Keep sowing salads, carrots and beets remembering that if it's very hot you’ll need to plant lettuces and beets in cooler spots. Sow seeds of varieties bred not to bolt and water well.

Radishes and fast-growing herbs such as parsley and coriander can be sown straight into pots or in the ground to harvest within weeks.

Sow Swiss chard and perpetual spinach seeds for winter.

Garden jobs for July

Tackle the lawn

Take the strimmer or mower to cut down tall grasses. Keep grasses clear around fruit cages to prevent seeds blowing in or grasses spreading. If you'd like a meadow then rather than mowing whole areas why not mow or strim a path through. This will allow wild flowers to grow on either side, which will bring in butterflies and bees.

In dry weather mow less and raise the blades higher. Once rains come yellowed lawns will soon recover.

Water the compost bins

Compost bins might need some water added if they are bone dry. The composting process needs warmth, certainly, but the microorganisms and worms that break down the organic matter also require air and moisture. If the heap is showing no signs of life try mixing in some of the lower, already rotted material, into the upper layers. Or you can add in some garden soil and/or wet kitchen peelings. You can also use a watering can with a rose attached to damp things down a little.

Maintain the flower beds

Pull up poppies and other high seeding annuals (eg forget-me-nots) to prevent flower beds being overwhelmed with seedlings next year. You might want to leave a few plants standing to allow seed heads to dry and some seeds to fall or instead harvest the seeds and store them in brown paper bags. Remember to label the bags to avoid getting into a muddle.

Perform a Hampton Hack

Like the Chelsea Chop (done in late May when the Chelsea Flower Show is on), the Hampton Hack is a pruning method for herbaceous perennials in early July (coinciding with the Hampton Court Flower Show). It delays flowering and the resulting stems will be sturdier so reducing the tendency to flop. It’s very useful with plants such as perovskia and sedum that often put on too much growth. It’s also helpful with asters, delaying flowering and stopping mounds getting out of control. The idea is to cut down flowering stems by a third to a half before they bloom. You can cut across the whole plant, or just half the clump, say the front half. Or you can go through the clump cutting every other stem. You decide, depending on the results you’re after. You might want to cut some clumps and leave others of the same species to prolong the flowering season. Try it with sedum, helenium, perovskia, solidago, echinacea, aster, coreopsis and phlox.

Deadhead dahlias

Deadhead dahlias. This is vital. If you don’t they’ll set seed and refuse to continue flowering – which they would otherwise - well into autumn and until the first frosts.

Cut back sterile perennials

Cut hardy geraniums and plants like catmint back once they have finished flowering and are beginning to look rather sorry for themselves. Water well and they’ll soon put on fresh leaf and possibly flower again.

Adding new shrubs

It’s easy to fall in love with a beautiful flowering shrub at the garden centre, but planting in the dry heat of summer puts extra strain on a plant and it’ll need special attention if it is to thrive - don’t risk it at all if the ground is hard from drought. To help a plant get established dig a square hole as it’s easier for the roots to penetrate the soil at corners. This is particularly helpful if you have clay or compacted soil. Giving the shrub a prune after planting to remove excess foliage will reduce the amount of water needed by the plant and help prevent wilting.

In dry weather, the trick is to puddle the plants in by filling the planting hole with water, quickly placing the plant in the hole and swiftly backfilling with soil. As the water drains it removes air pockets. Water well until established.

Divide bearded irises

Bearded irises will have finished flowering and this is the best time to divide clumps. Dig up the whole thing and you will find that it will separate into rhizomes (the lumpy bits that look like root ginger). Discard any parts that are dead or wasting away and replant the rest. Make sure the rhizome is on the surface of the soil as they need to be baked sun to flower. It helps if you cut the leaves in half to stop the wind rocking them and so uprooting them.

Keep vegetable patch free from weeds and diseased growth

Weed between rows, especially in dry weather as the weeds will steal water from your crops.

Watch out of signs of powdery mildew on courgettes and squashes and remove infected leaves – binning or burning but do not add to the compost.

Pick off lily beetles

Pick off the larvae of the scarlet lily beetle, Lilioceris lilii, which devastates all members of the lily family including fritillaries. The larvae are brown with black heads, but are usually hidden by their slimy black excrement, so do wear gloves.

With no natural predator, these Eurasian beetles (a colony was first discovered in the UK in a garden in Chobham in Surrey in 1939) have now spread across the country. The beetles overwinter in the soil, so if you grow lilies in pots, repot into fresh compost in early spring, or lift lilies in the ground, shake off the soil and replant in a new spot.

Tend to beans

Keep watering beans and pick pods before they get too big. If slugs have got to them there’s time to sow some fast growing beans now. Or sow some dwarf beans which will mature by autumn. Capitalise on rain by mulching around the base of your beans.

Pinch out tomato side shoots

Pinch out the side shoots of tomatoes. These are the small leaves that form at the base of the main leaves where they meet the main stem. Feed regularly every 10 to 14 days and make sure they do not dry out or developing fruits will split.

Harvest garlic and potatoes

Harvest early potatoes and garlic. Wait for garlic leaves to turn yellow but lift before all the foliage dries out. Second early potatoes will be ready to lift around now once the flowers have opened or the buds dropped.

Water your fruit

Check soft fruits. Producing fruits makes plants thirsty, currants particularly so. Water at the roots so as to avoid encouraging damp related diseases. Strawberries are prone to these so don’t wet their leaves and avoid overwatering which can also cause trouble such as botrytis.

Mulch around fruit trees and bushes to conserve moisture. Apply a two inch layer of mulch after its rained when the ground is damp, making sure not to let the mulch touch the trunks or stems. Make sure the ground is first clear of grass and weeds.

Fruit in containers in particular will need a thoroughly good soaking when the surface of the soil feels dry. Water until water drains out from the bottom. Don’t water again until the surface has dried out. In dry weather water every fortnight or sooner if the soil is dry a good spade’s depth down.

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Prune trained fruit trees

If you train your apple and pear trees they will be needing a summer prune. This should be done when the bottom third of the new shoots have toughened up and become woody. Depending on where you live this could be any time from now until early August. The idea is to prune to let light reach the fruit.

First: prune new shoots that are growing from the main stem (but only those longer than 8ins) to about five leaves from the base
Second: prune new shoots growing from side shoots to one leaf from the base (not cutting off any fruit!)
Third: prune out vigorous vertically growing shoots

If more shoots grow cut these out in September.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.