Notes from the Nursery - July
I hope that you're all enjoying the summer so far. Here a few little hints and tips of what to do in your own garden at this point in the year.
Shape up your Box – Box is a versatile evergreen shrub that can take many forms, from formal hedging to extraordinary topiary structures. However, it needs regular clipping to keep its form, and sharp hand shears are ideal tools to use to trim back new shoots.
Formal shapes, like pyramids and spirals, can usually be kept in shape with trimming by eye. For really straight lines, use string to provide an edge to cut against. To avoid making mistakes always take your time. Choose an overcast day for pruning, as the cut leaves can scorch in intense sunshine. Promote healthy growth by feeding regularly with liquid feed., and make sure plants don’t go short of water, especially those in containers.
Keep on feeding – Any plants growing in pots, window boxes or baskets are likely to run short of food within a month of being planted. Most multi-purpose composts contain little long-term nutrition, so mix in slow-release fertiliser granules when planting or sprinkle them on the surface now. Alternatively, when watering throughout the summer, add soluble or liquid feed once a week.
Deadhead your displays – Groups of perennials such as Lupins will take centre stage in flower borders at this time of year, but as the blooms start to fade and produce seed it’s a good time to prune any faded spikes, following them down to lower side shoots, which will then develop to carry further flowers.
Regular deadheading keeps displays looking neat and encourages plants to produce flowers over a longer season. Many early summer flowering perennials, including oriental poppies, will oblige with a second flush of flowers if cut back promptly after flowering.
Propagating Dianthus (Pinks) – Dianthus or Pinks as they can be known are cottage garden favourites, enjoyed as much for their soft colours as for their rich clove scent. However, established clumps need attention, as they can look straggly unless staked, while woody stems in the crown of the plant can make it look tired, producing fewer shoots and flowers than younger plants. Give your display a new lease of life and create new pinks to replace the old by following these four easy steps.
1. Choose long stems from around the outside of the clump and remove all of the lower leaves by hand.
2. Use a sharp knife to make a slit into and along the stem, about 1.5cm long, just above a leaf joint.
3. Take a U-shaped piece of wire and use it to peg the cut into the soil improved with grit and compost.
4. Water the area and keep it moist. In a few weeks’ roots will form and the new plant can be lifted.
Train Tomatoes – Take the time to tie cordon tomatoes into their supports through the summer and they’ll reward you with more trusses of fruits. Outdoor plants should produce three and sometimes four trusses of fruits in really warm locations. However, they’ll need to be well supported throughout the season, as tall plants carrying heavy crops can blow over. Ties plants to thick canes or metal supports every week, pinching out side shoots at the same time.
Keep weeds in check – It’s important to keep on top of hand weeding between onions and other veggies this month. Weeds compete with crops for moisture, nutrients, light and space, so removing them while they are still small means that they’ll cause far less disruption to your plants than if they are allowed to grow. It also prevents them from flowering, setting seed or spreading. Small annual weeds quickly wilt and die if they’re uprooted on hot days, but I still prefer to pick them up and dispose rather than leaving them on the soil surface.
Crops to sow now – There are lots of crops you can sow outside during this month to provide a continuous stream of harvests through summer and into beetroot, endive, lettuces, radishes, salad leaves, turnips, carrots, and Chinese cabbages. Later in the month winter spinach, spring cabbage, dwarf French beans and peas can be sown for a late crop. These can be raised in pots to start with and then planted later.