Country Gardener

Widely regarded as the authority on gardening in the south west

Jobs in the July garden

Now that the warm summer days are here some of the jobs in the garden will be easy going, pleasant tasks, such as 
dis-budding roses, dahlias, fuchsias, tidying up the herbaceous borders and general watering.

But as the summer growth continues in full swing its also the time to be watchful as the risk of pests and diseases becomes all too all too prevalent and a lot of your hard work in the spring can be wasted.

Make sure you keep on top of pests and diseases so they can be treated at the earliest possible stage. Mildew is especially problematic in hot, dry weather, and red spider mite can be a real nuisance. Take special care of your fruit, netting soft fruit and the odd ten minutes here and there hand thinning your apple and plum trees will bring wonderful autumn rewards.

Camellias set to bud 

Camellias set their buds around this time of year, and one reason for plants not flowering is dryness at the roots when the buds are being set. This is a particular problem for container plants, so ensure that potted camellias are watered regularly, especially during hot dry spells.

sowing rocketHarvest time 

Harvest garlic when the tops start to brown. Eat some green or "wet" – it is delicious roasted. Hang the rest up in a sunny, dry place to ripen. Continue to dig and eat the potatoes while they are still young, as they will never be better. Use the space to plant out seedling winter greens and leeks or sow salad crops. Keep up the sowing rotation so you always have new salad, rocket, coriander and dill on the way. Summer may have peaked, but there is plenty more growing to come.

hand thinningTime to thin your fruit trees  

In what is known as the ‘June drop’, fruit trees undergo a natural thinning process when fruit they are unable to support falls from the tree. Additional thinning is often required for the remaining fruit to attain optimum size and quality. This should be carried out by mid-July. Thinning has other benefits: 

Sunlight and air can circulate more easily, which helps fruit to ripen evenly and reduces the risk of fungal diseases. 
Branches can break if trees over-crop – a particular hazard for plums. Too large a crop can exhaust the tree's resources, so thinning helps it to develop a manageable quantity of fruit. 

When young trees crop too heavily, energy is diverted from developing a strong framework of branches and roots. This makes them less able to produce large crops in subsequent years. 

To ensure the largest fruit, thin cooking apples hard; dessert apples more lightly. For both types leave just one fruit per cluster; choosing the strongest and best-shaped. 

Plums are particularly prone to over-cropping, so thinning is vital.
Less fruit is a far better option than long-term damage to the tree.

sweet peasHeading off 

Pick sweet peas to encourage further crops of flower. The same for repeat-flowering roses. Deadheading also keeps the garden looking spruce, and a regular pick-over on pelargoniums and day lilies gives you the chance to check plants for problems. If the buds on your hemerocallis are looking swollen and bloated, this is a sign of gall-midge damage. Pick off the affected buds and burn them. In a wet year, rust can decimate certain hybrid pelargoniums. It can easily be prevented with an organic fungicide if you catch it before it gets a hold. Once-blooming roses that go on to form hips for autumn should not be deadheaded or you will lose a second benefit.

Act fast to tackle blight

Late blight can cause swift destruction of potatoes; spray preventatively before spells of wet weather with a copper-based fungicide as there is no cure once it has taken hold. Alternatively, choose blight resistant cultivars such as 'Sarpo' and 'Setanta.

 netting fruitNet gain 

If you haven't done so already, net fruit to prevent the birds from getting to it first. Strawberries, currants and gooseberries are relatively easy to throw a temporary net over if you don't have the luxury of a fruit cage, but protecting a whole cherry tree is nigh-on impossible. Wrap a single limb and leave the rest to the birds, or better still, grow cherries as a fan or a cordon. Dessert cherries favour a warm wall, but the tart Morello cherries like a cool north wall.

rose feedRemember to feed the roses  

Remember to feed roses with a handful of blood, fish and bone after their first flush to repay them for the display they are providing you. Healthy roses are far less prone to disease, and foliar fortnightly feeding will keep them in good condition.
Feed tomatoes with a high-potassium liquid feed to encourage good truss production, and continue to pinch out side shoots. Feed pot plants and annual displays fortnightly. Try making your own comfrey tea this year as an organic liquid feed. Fill a bucket with foliage and allow it to ferment for a week. It is a pungent brew, but it feels good to make your own fertiliser


  • Prune back the tangled new growth of wisteria by shortening the current season's stems to five or six leaves from their base. This allows light and air into the climber and enhances flowering. 
  • Clip box hedging and topiary at the end of this month, which should keep them neat and tidy over the winter. 
  • Courgettes seem to turn into marrows overnight, so pick them daily to ensure a harvest of small, tender fruit. 
  • Pear rust was prevalent last summer and forms a bright orange blemish on the leaves of pears. Remove infected leaves where practical but, on larger trees, use the fungicide difenoconazole. Clear away and destroy infected leaves once they have fallen, rather than adding them to the compost heap. 
  • Give container plants a liquid feed throughout July to keep them looking good.
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