Sweet peas, roses and fresh vegetables herald the start of a glorious summer in our gardens. Keep on top of watering and feeding plants in pots as well as tying in rampant growth of annuals and climbers.
It’s also time to enjoy the bounty that our gardens start to offer. Pick flowers for your home and harvest young, tender vegetables on a regular basis to keep them producing.
Easy garden jobs to do now
Dust your houseplants
Don’t neglect beloved houseplants. Dust can build up on the surface of leaves, which slows down photosynthesis, the process by which plants produce food to grow fresh leaves and flowers.
Run a damp cloth over the leaf surface to remove any dust and allow the plant to make the most of that summer sun. Increase humidity levels around indoor plants by putting a layer of shingle in the base of a watertight saucer beneath each pot and make sure that the gravel does not dry out.
This provides some humidity without having the roots sitting in a puddle.
Dry out bulbs
Tulip foliage should have turned a straw colour by now, meaning that all the nutrition has been reclaimed by the bulb. Unearth bulbs, remove soil and cut off old leaves.
Line a seed tray with newspaper and pop bulbs into the tray to dry on a sunny windowsill – too much retained moisture will lead to rot.
After a week or two, the bulbs should be dried sufficiently and can be stored in a net in a cool, dark, dry place. I hang mine in the shed.
Check regularly for mould and remove any that rot; in November most will be ready to start the cycle again.
If all has gone to plan on the veg patch, we should be starting to reap the rewards of the time and effort invested earlier in the year: radishes, sweet peas, lettuce and courgettes to name a few delights.
Regular picking will ensure a good supply; cut them and they’ll keep coming. If you stop picking flowers and vegetables then plants stop producing at such a rapid rate. If you plan to go away this month, line up a family member or neighbour to water pots, pick flowers and harvest vegetables – this will guarantee that you return to a productive plot.
Roses for a vase
Roses are basking in all their glory during July. Some that are superb performers in borders also work really well as cut flowers. A couple of English roses that I’d recommend for cutting are ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and ‘Graham Thomas’.
These two scented superstars flower well into September. When it comes to cutting, select your roses early in the morning when the shoot has not been dehydrated by the heat of the day.
To prevent the bloom from wilting, dip the bottom five centimetres of stem into freshly boiled water for 30 seconds, then plunge it into cold water straight away. This removes any air pockets and ensures a longer vase life. Repeat in a few days if necessary.
Our dahlias are going great guns as temperatures reach a warmer constant. Don’t forget to tie them in as they grow. I use a 5ft chestnut stake or you could use a sturdy bamboo cane. Make sure that you anchor large stems as the smaller, flowering shoots will then benefit from that support. There’s nothing more frustrating than a dahlia disaster following strong summer winds.
Remove spent flowers to promote fresh blooms and enjoy more cut flowers, too. If a dahlia is a little lacklustre, use a liquid feed twice a week until you’ve got a decent-sized plant and flower buds start to form, then switch to a liquid tomato fertiliser once a week.
Tom Brown is head gardener at West Dean Gardens, West Sussex