The Longest Day

Although Midsummer’s day slipped passed on the 24th of June and the hours of daylight are already shortening, I live in hope that a long hot summer stretches before us. Whether or not this turns out to be the case we can still have high hopes for enjoying the fruits of our labours in the garden because July is awash with colour, scent and fresh food harvested for the table. Incidentally, this is also a great time of year to visit the inspirational gardens, great or small, whose gates are open all over the county. Visiting gardens before you go to the garden centre can save time, money and disappointment. The years of development, ideas, trial and error that go into successful gardens is available to visitors for the price of the entry ticket. Looking at established gardens can be inspirational, after all there is nothing new under the sun and every new garden plan is based upon established and successful principles. It’s not only the grand gardens of big houses that are worth visiting for ideas, the small urban gardens that open for the National Gardens Scheme can give just as much inspiration, ( Take a note book, your camera and an open mind, you’ll be amazed at how engaging other people’s gardens can be and you’ll also find that the next visit to the garden centre will be much more of an informed experience rather than the haphazard spending spree it can sometimes be.

Because the flurry of weed growth is subsiding by July it is the month for taking a little time to enjoy the garden, relaxing enough to sit and appreciate the abundance of flowers before getting on with the everyday routine of gardening. In the flower garden and shrub border now is a good time to take notes and photographs recording what combinations have worked well and those that need reorganising in the coming cold, dormant season. The following herbaceous border diary gives a quick reference reminder for the year’s main gardening tasks: February/March-divide/move. March-apply fertilizer. Spring-weeding. May/June-staking. June-onwards-deadheading. July-watering-pest control. October/November-cutting down-dividing-moving.

In July, rose blooms can be cut for the house and dead heads removed to encourage new flower growth. Feed roses with a fertiliser and look out for greenfly or diseases. Unless we have very heavy rain plants grown in containers will need a thorough weekly drenching and hanging baskets will need watering once a day as will vegetable or salad crops during very dry spells.

It’s not too late to be sowing vegetables for autumn harvesting. Dig in some well rotted compost and sow lettuce, beetroot, carrots, turnips and peas as well as cabbages for next spring. Now is also the time to stop runner beans growing beyond their supports. Simply pinch the tip of the leading shoot and this will encourage more beans to grow further down the plant.

If you want to plan a border for some colour in the garden next summer you could try a combination of some of the following plants – Phlox, Campanula, Verbascum, Helianthemun, Lillies, Lupins, Asters, Antirrhinum, Poppies, Delphinium or Verbena bonariensis. Just don’t forget to find out if they flower early, mid or late summer, the trick is to plant for a succession of colour. A good way to find out when each plant will flower is to visit lots of open gardens……………..