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Tips for caring for a summer garden

03 July 2017

Top gardening experts share their tips for looking after a garden in summer, including tips on feeding, harvesting, deadheading and much more.

Deadheading flower
Regular deadheading will encourage more flowers throughout the growing season

Dividing and propagating

An old nursery-man’s trick is to prune plants back and wait for the re-growth before taking cuttings. A good haircut on dahlias gives new shoots with solid rather than hollow stems – these will hold water for longer and root reliably. With lavender, cape daisy and rosemary, the regrowth after a brush with the secateurs is free from the flowers that will otherwise sap energy and invariably rot before the cuttings have time to root.
- Toby Buckland gardener, TV presenter and author

One of the most useful things to take from the kitchen to the garden shed is the bread knife. Not only is it excellent for opening compost bags but it is also a perfect tool for splitting plants. Far less physically taxing than using a spade, the knife makes grasses and other densely rooted perennials easy to divide and you can be far more accurate.
- Philippa Burrough, Garden Owner, Ulting Wick, Essex.

Take cuttings of herbs like rosemary. These root easily, bulking up numbers and saving you money.

Peg down strawberry runners to propagate new plants for free.
- Donald Murray, Head of Landscapes and Horticulture at Mount Stuart Gardens, Bute

Read our guide to dividing perennials

Visit our Home and Garden section for gardening guides, home improvement tips and much more.

Pest control

Every morning you walk around your garden only to find your most expensive and prized plant has been eaten overnight. You mutter, 'Do they know how much it is worth?' Do they care? No is the answer, so you must guard it.

Create a barrier to slugs by putting the potted plant in a saucer and filling it with water. You can make it even more effective by placing the saucer on a brick. Use pellets sparingly and only when your patience has run out – they contain a mollusc attractor so you only need one or two a week.

Snails like the dark side of a pot and slugs like to hide underneath them, so turn and tip your pots regularly. Providing a hideout for them in the form of an empty flowerpot that you can then collect them from is also effective.

Buy a head torch so you can hunt slugs and snails hands-free in the dark when they are more active, then dispose of your harvest in a civilised manner – throwing them over the fence does not help, they will be back! If you are lucky, the local hedgehog will help you out. I do not use any poison in the garden and while I always hope that I am on top of my pests, the truth is I never will be!
- Jonathan Hogarth, Chelsea Gold Medal-winning holder of the Plant Heritage collection of small and miniature Hosta

Take a 2-litre black plastic pot; cut out the bottom and put it over the base of a clematis. This will protect the plant from being eaten by mice, which is a problem if your garden has old walls, and it will also shield the base of the clematis from the sun.
- Susie Pasley-Tyler owner and gardener at Coton Manor

- Keep a close eye on the hopeful buds of your Hemerocallis – the Hemerocallis gall midge is a new pest in town. It’s easy to spot maggot-infested buds as they become distorted. Pinching them off and putting them in the bin should prevent the spread.

- If you’ve grown a great crop of onions they will need drying. Make a wooden frame that will sit comfortably over the top of your wheelbarrow and cover it with chicken wire so that looks a little like a giant kitchen cooling rack. Arrange the onions on top of it. You can then easily wheel your barrow into the sunniest spot in the garden to dry your crop and, if it rains, they can be quickly moved undercover.
- Tamsin Westhorpe, Garden writer, lecturer, Open Gardens Ambassador for The British Red Cross & director of Stockton Bury Gardens, Herefordshire

Read our guide to controlling slugs and snails in the garden


When pruning or strimming wear long sleeves. Sap from plants like hogweed can cause a nasty rash, particularly when exposed to sunshine.
- Naomi Slade journalist, garden consultant and author of An Orchard Odyssey (Green Books) and The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops (Timber Press)

When tying in plants don't waste time cutting individual pieces of string, simply prepare a load in advance. The easiest way to do this is to wrap string around your hand 20-30 times creating a series of loops, then just cut the whole lot with secateurs in one fell swoop and you'll have multiple pre-cut pieces of string. Shove them in a pocket with just their tops cut sticking out for ease of access.
- Nick Bailey, Award-winning garden designer, journalist and former Curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden

When building garden features, get your pointing even and smooth between joints by using the rounded edge of an old piece of garden hose.
- Mark Gregory Managing Director of Landform Consultants


Never, ever think that deadheading is just wafting about wasting time in the garden. It's an absolute essential to keep those flowers coming. Everything, from roses to bedding plants, looks better and performs better if deadheaded regularly. It also gives your back a welcome rest from non-stop weeding.
- Jane Moore award winning gardening journalist, regular speaker and guest presenter on BBC Gardeners' World

To encourage a quick and bountiful repeat flowering in roses, cut off dead flowers on a regular basis - unless of course the variety produces colourful hips. Applying a second dose of fertiliser towards the end of June will also boost the blooms.
- Michael Marriot technical manager and senior rosarian at David Austin Roses

Try to do little and often. A few minutes weeding and deadheading every day will keep your garden weed free and productive. And your back will thank you for it.
- Caro Shrives fits fit two community gardens, an allotment and client gardening around a full-time job, and blogs at

I check my roses at this time of year to see which buds are swelling and if there are bare stems without shoots I make a tiny notch with a clean scalpel blade just above the bud. This very often stimulates the bud below to break.
- Fiona Cadwallader garden designer, Interior Designer, NGS Garden - Watergate House, Kent

To stimulate a second flush of flowers in Viola cornuta, some hardy geraniums and Nepeta, cut them back hard in early July, before the end of their first flowering. Don’t leave it until the last flower has faded or you will miss the growing season!
- Susie Pasley-Tyler owner and gardener at Coton Manor

Read our guide to post-flowering plaint maintenance 


Foliar feeding is the key to great container plants and I swear by the Comfrey feed from Garden Organic. I have limited space on my balcony so I buy it pre-made and dilute it quite heavily. Some people like to dilute into the watering can, but I prefer to spray it onto the leaves, preferably early in the morning on a still day. It really produces results.
- Chris Collins gardener and TV presenter

My two favourite climbing roses bedeck the doorway of our farm in the Cumbrian fells. They do their best, but the soil is poor and dry so I like to give them a generous top-dressing of peat-free compost, to boost levels of potassium and help with moisture retention, both of which will improve flowering.
- Jane Barker Dalefoot Composts

Fruit and veg

Harvest your leafy produce regularly so that it continues to grow and not go to seed. Let some coriander, dill and rocket flower; these flowers add good flavour to dishes and will encourage pollinators into your patch.

When harvesting summer root crops of carrots, beetroot and radish, pull out every other plant to create space for the rest to continue growing. This will really improve the yield and reduces the likelihood of bolting.

Take notes and photograph your patch. This will help with your planning for the following year.
- Raymond Blanc chef, author and TV presenter

Even the smallest garden will benefit from a fruit tree – look for varieties grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks and that can be grown in containers, or save space by training them against a wall or fence.
- Naomi Slade journalist, garden consultant and author of An Orchard Odyssey (Green Books) and The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops (Timber Press)

Visit our fruit and veg section for detailed growing guides

Enjoying and entertaining

To be instantly presentable, make sure that the first lawn visitors see is neatly edged. For a tiny town garden, with no lawn, it’s all about first impressions so make sure you have a beautifully planted container in full view of arriving guests.
- George Plumptre, Chief Executive of the National Gardens Scheme, publishers of The Garden Visitor’s Handbook

Remember that your garden is supposed to be fun, not drudgery so make sure that you take time this summer to just sit. Drag out a couple of cushions, pour yourself a drink and go and plonk yourself amongst the fruits of your labours. Admire your beans, smell the flowers and listen to the birds sing and the bees buzz.
- James Alexander-Sinclair, garden designer, TV presenter and award-winning writer

Summer means entertaining in the garden - I have several colourful outdoor rugs and cushions to adorn our large oak deck and for sprawling on the lawn. For the evening, dress a huge garden table with table cloths, runners, colourful crockery or an array of cut flowers in a dozen Japanese saki glasses and add a bit of bunting. While eating supper with friends and family let the children loose with colourful chalk on the deck. Summer gardens are for enjoying!
- Ann-Marie Powell award-winning garden designer, TV gardening presenter, journalist and author

To get the best out of your garden photographs in mid-summer – whether you use a smart phone or a DSLR – the solution is to get up early when the light is lower and gentler. This is often called the Golden Hour: the shadows are softer and the golden light will compliment your planting combinations rather than obliterate them. The evening light, before the sun goes down, can also offer the same advantages. If you simply cannot wait for either end of the day, then wait for a cloud. Clouds act as natural light diffusers which will remove most of the shadow and allow the camera to do its job, evenly recording your garden’s beauty without the brashness of the midday sun wiping out any sublety of detail.
- Andrea Jones garden photographer and author of The Garden Photography Workshop (Timber Press)

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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.