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  • Lisa McLachlan

July in the garden


How are we halfway through the year already? Well, on the bright side, our garden and I have both been relishing this prolonged spell of sunshine, even though I’m spending far too much time with the hosepipe… So what’s been happening and what am I looking forward to during July in the garden?

What's flowering now?

Our roses are still flowering, not quite as abundantly as last month, but we still have plenty nonetheless. Deadheading roses is one of my least favourite tasks because they always fight back. My arms look like I’ve been herding cats, but it’s the only way to encourage those fresh blooms. Sigh.

My sweet peas, cornflowers, and dill, on the other hand, are providing me with some lovely, colourful, and fragrant posies for the house. And this is exactly why I love growing my own flowers for cutting; you just can’t buy these little treasures from a shop.

The honeysuckle outside the back door gets the morning sun so the fragrance when you open the door first thing is just heavenly. And both my perennials and newly-sown-this-year lavender plants are wafting their lovely calm scent along the edges of our paths and by our benches.

Also blooming away are various wild yellow and red poppies, and yesterday I saw my first vibrant pink cosmos flower, yay. I adore cosmos, it’s so easy to grow and the feathery foliage is just as vase-worthy as the white and pink flowers. It’s a staple in my cutting garden.

As I write this post, a couple of my dahlias have flowered but I don’t think it will be too long before they all do, I can see lots of healthy foliage and plenty of buds. I’ve mentioned before that I never lift my dahlia tubers before the first frosts, I just cut them back, mulch heavily, and apply a good dose of fertiliser in the spring. So far, I’ve only lost one plant, which I didn’t like very much anyway. I’m all about making life easy for myself, I don’t have the time or patience to mollycoddle plants!

I think petunias have a bit of a town hanging baskets reputation and I’m not keen on the orange or salmon pink varieties either. But this gorgeous purple petunia is one I’ve grown from seed (and since lost the seed packet although I know I bought it from Thompson Morgan). And I didn’t know petunias were scented but this one smells fabulous, so I got lucky when I planted it by our conservatory!

Another plant I’ve never tried growing before is nasturtium but again, thanks to our April Mud and Bloom box, I’ve just started harvesting the lovely peppery dayglo orange flowers for our salads. And my self-seeded borage is flowering everywhere too (I’ve had to uproot LOTS of seedlings!) so I’ve been picking the little blue flowers for salads and also to freeze in ice cubes for pretty G&Ts.

What's fruiting now?

Our tomatoes, cucumbers, and peas are thriving in the greenhouse, just so long as I remember to water them ever night. As you can see, the tomato plants look a little bare compared to last month because I’ve pruned off most of the lower non-fruit bearing leaves. This is fine to do once the first few trusses of tomatoes have set, it encourages air flow, means the plant focusses energy on the fruit, and I can see what I’m doing! And I’ve been giving both tomatoes and cucumbers a weekly feed of Gro-Sure fertiliser, to make for sweeter fruit and veg.

Exciting times, I harvested our first cucumber a few days ago and it was… a bit meh. I think I may have let it grow too big so I’ll pick the next ones sooner (I haven’t grown Burpless Tasty Green (!) before but I had to buy these young plants in as all my La Diva seedlings died).

And we’ve been picking the odd handful of peas too – sown from our April Mud and Bloom box. I never believed claims that freshly podded peas taste different from Birds Eye frozen ones, but I am now a convert. We aren’t cooking them, just eating them fresh and raw, and they are DELICIOUS. Next year I will be sowing a lot more pea plants (we only trialled four this year). Yummy.

Outside the greenhouse, I’m keeping an eye on our kiwi bush and pear tree, and I’m thrilled to see our peach tree has masses of fruit on it this year! It’s a funny old tree, it only seems to fruit every three years, so I was expecting to see some this year but not as many as we have. I just hope they all ripen and I have enough to make peach jam – fingers crossed.

My agreement with the blackbird has obviously been binned this year because I don’t seem to be able to harvest any more ripe blueberries (it probably helps that he gets up earlier than I do). And our raspberries aren’t quite up to standard this year either. I think it’s a combination of too much sun and not enough water while we were away. Also, I believe raspberry bushes need to be replaced every five or six years and ours are at least eight years old so that will be an autumn job when they’ve finished fruiting. Ditto our strawberries, which aren’t as flavoursome as last year. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, I’m learning as I go 🙂

Deadheading and watering

I’m still deadheading every day, partly to tidy up and partly to encourage my flowers to re-bloom. If you let flowers set seed, they think their job is over so you do need to keep on top of it. Sweet peas and poppies in particular need deadheading on an almost daily basis. I take a bag and clippers around with me while I’m watering to make life easier.

And I’m watering every day or every other day at the moment because the ground is so dry. Plants such as sweet peas and dahlias are very thirsty and will soon droop if they aren’t taken care of. Similarly, peas, beans, tomatoes, and especially cucumbers need plenty of water otherwise they’ll shrivel up.

Wildlife

I got a real fright the other evening while I was watering in our greenhouse – a frog jumped out at me! My first thought was why was it in a greenhouse, surely it would be too hot? But then I realised it would eat all the bugs that were minded to prey on my plants so I left a tray with water inside for it to cool down in. Two days later, and it’s still there, so I guess all is well. It’s very cute but rather camera shy, so no photo of him/her yet!

And we’re still keeping our ponds topped up so all the new baby frogs and newts don’t desiccate. I tweeted about this recently but it’s not just dogs that appreciate bowls of water left out for them in this hot weather. Cats, mice, birds, hedgehogs, bees, butterflies, etc all do too. Please, if you can, leave a shallow bowl or dish of water outside for them before you go out in the morning, it will really help.

So, apart from watering and deadheading, I don’t have many jobs to do during July, which is lovely. I can just enjoy my garden, pick some flowers, and look forward to harvesting some tomatoes in a few weeks’ time. And, of course, keep my Instagram feed topped up with some pretty flower pictures 🙂 What are you looking forward to in your garden this month?

#cucumbers #feed #frogs #fruit #July #ponds #raspberries #strawberries #Summer #tomatoes #flowers #vegetables #watering #wildlife #peaches #peas

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