Archive for the ‘The flower garden’ Category

November Gardening Advice

November 1st, 2017 | News, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Cold temperatures and winter rain bring a certain feeling of urgency to garden work through November. The trick is to work with the weather not against it. Pay attention to weather forecasts and plan your time in the garden accordingly. November is an excellent time to dig new beds and turn over existing borders for example but you need to work in dry conditions – treading over wet soils will ruin their structure, doing more harm than good. The focus for the month is maintenance and tidying, whether it be clearing spent stems or whole plants from borders, a full greenhouse clean, or keeping on top of autumn leaf fall. The bare root season gets underway this month, making it the perfect time to plant new trees, shrubs, soft fruit and fruit trees.


In the flower garden

Tulip planting
November is the best month to set out Tulip bulbs. By leaving it as a late task, soils will have cooled enough to have eradicated diseases in the soil which could infect your bulbs – Plant tulips in earlier in September with other spring flowering bulbs, and there is a greater risk of tulip fire infection.
Set tulips in free-draining soil, as least three times the depth of the bulb, with the pointed tip facing up. Alternatively set them in large patio containers filled with bulb fibre compost. For extra impact in containers set two or three layers of bulbs per pot, for tiered colour come spring. Little to no maintenance is needed as winter wet will settle them in.

Last chance winter bedding
If you are still to set out your designs for winter and spring colour, time is now against you. Plants need time to settle in and send out new roots ahead of prolonged periods of frost and freezing temperatures. Wall flowers, bellis, violas and primroses make excellent spring subjects for sunny borders, patio pots and hanging baskets. With Christmas fast approaching, why not think about festive planters and hanging baskets to welcome visitors to the home over the holiday season.

Lilies for summer
Lily bulbs can be potted up now and left in a sheltered spot outside for colour and scent next summer. If you have the space in a cool porch or unheated greenhouse the pots can be brought under cover in late winter to encourage an early display of colour in late spring or early summer.

Perennial tidy
Continue to work through mixed and perennial border this month, cutting out spent foliage and stems now that plants are in full dormancy. Decorative seedheads can be left in place, not only to look stunning when covered in a hard frost; they will also provide a winter food source for birds and other wildlife. Once tidy, plant crowns should be surrounded with a protective layer of mulch (leaf mould, garden compost, bark chippings etc) to keep the worst of winter frost away from fleshy roots and dormant shoots.

Whole plants can still be lifted and divided to ease congestion in the border and ensure strong flowering. Divisions can be potted and swapped with friends or set back out in the border to fill any gaps that showed this year.

Perennials in pots
Permanent patio pots will benefit from some winter protection. This is done for one or two (or both) reasons. Covering patio pots in bubble wrap, hessian sacking or horticultural fleece with prevent frost prone material such as terracotta, from cracking and will also add an insulating layer to prevent frost damage to roots inside the pots.

Lift tender tubers after the first hard frost
The general advice for overwintering dahlias, tuberous begonias and cannas is to leave them in situ until the first hard frost has blackened their foliage. They are then cut down to ground level, lifted and stored in cool but frost-free conditions ready for replanting next spring. However, if frosts are late in your region, or you live in a particularly cold part of the country, there is a risk that a hard frost can be accompanied by a hard freeze, making it impossible to lift the tubers from frozen ground. Here is pays to lift tubers ahead of the frosts. In warmer locations that generally receive milder winter temperatures and less rainfall, the tubers may be left in situ and covered with a deep layer of straw or mulch to keep the frosts away.

Early hellebores
Despite their common name of Christmas roses, Hellebores rarely flower in time for the festive season. To ensure some floral colour the Christmas, cloches can be placed over plants to provide extra warmth and protection.


On the veg patch

Sow broad beans
In mild areas, broad beans can be successfully sown this side of winter for earlier crops next year. Even in colder regions you can make a start outside by planting under cloches or tunnels, or started in pots in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame. Not all broad bean varieties are suited to autumn sowing. For the best sowing success this November try Bunyards Exhibition, Aguadulce or Superaguadulce.

All go for garlic
Garlic crops can be planted this month in mild areas with low rainfall and free-draining soils. Individual cloves should be set out in well fed soils, spacing 15cm (6in) apart in rows spaced 30cm (12in) apart. The cloves should be set just below the soil surface.
gardeners in colder regions and those working with heavy clay soils should instead set their cloves in module trays in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse.

Pigeon patrol
With natural food sources declining over winter, leafy brassica crops become a target food source for pigeons. Bird scarers can be set around your crop but the most effective control is to cover plants with netting.

Winter brassica care
Cold, wet conditions bring the risk of grey mould and brassica downy mildew to winter brassicas. Safeguard your Christmas Brussels sprouts and other overwintering brassicas by removing any yellowed leaves, as this is where problems always start.
While inspecting your sprouts think about staking any plants that appear tall and leggy, this will prevent wind rock, which can weaken plants and reduce their cropping potential.

Veg patch tidy
Keeping the veg patch clean and tidy over winter is essential for the ongoing health of your plot and future crops. An untidy growing areas littered with plant debris allows pest and diseases a better chance of overwintering to cause problems next season.
Clear soils of all plant debris – if material looks diseased, do not compost it. Either add to household waste or add to the autumn bonfire.

Bare root Fruit
Bare root plants offer the most economical way of bringing fruit to the garden.  soft fruit canes and fruit trees are lifted from the field while dormant and sent out with no soil or compost on the roots, for immediate planting on delivery. The dormant plants are simply set into garden soil or containers to the same soil line that will be apparent on the base of the plant. Fruit trees should be staked after planting. Soft fruit canes should simply need firming in well.


Winterise your Greenhouse

Keep things ticking over in the greenhouse with some winter prep:

  • Clean glass to maximise natural light levels
  • Add an insulating layer of bubble wrap on the inside of the greenhouse
  • Install an electric heater or paraffin heater to prevent freezing temperatures.
  • Install lighting so you can keep working during short winter days (opt for a grow light for the benefit of your plants).
  • If your greenhouse is clear of plants, think about having a deep clean with disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid

Top tip for winter house plants: Set houseplants on trays of damp gravel, this will raise humidity around the plants, helping to combat the dry conditions of a heated home over winter.

 

October Gardening Advice

October 2nd, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Nights may be drawing in and winter may be around the corner, but there are plenty of timely tasks to keep you busy in the garden through October. In fact, while many concentrate on shutting down the garden until next spring, this is a key month for establishing new planting displays. Spend time this month planting out new perennials, trees, shrubs and you’ll be rewarded with a stronger performance from next spring onwards. Surprisingly perhaps, a wide range of seeds can be sown both for the flower border and the veg patch, all with the inbuilt hardiness to make it through the winter for earlier results in 2018.

Storing summer bulbs and tubers
Gardeners in cold regions or working with wet soils should lift and clean summer bulbs such as gladioli for storing in a frost-free location over winter. The bulbs should be stored in paper bags or boxes of sawdust to keep them dry and prevent moulds setting in. Dahlias and begonia tubers should also be given the same treatment, but wait for the first hard frost to attack plants before lifting them from the garden.

Divide perennials
As summer-flowering herbaceous perennials start to die down and move into their dormant phase it is a perfect time to lift and divide them. Not only will you get more plants to fill other areas of the garden, it will help avoid congestion and maintain health and vigour, for the best performance next year. Here are some simple tips for easy plant division:

  • Using a garden fork, aim to lift as much root mass as possible with minimal damage the roots. Shake off excess soil or wash it away so you can see what you are working with.
  • Some plants produced individual plantlets that can be teased apart and replanted or potted.
  • Other with small fibrous rots are best pulled apart gently by hand to create small clumps for replanting.
  • Those with thicker fibrous roots can be pulled apart by inserting two forks, back to back, into the centre of the crown. Push the handles together to create a levering action to break the root mass apart. Really congested, dense root masses can be divides using a sharp knife or saw.
  • Plants should be replanted or potted immediately and water well

Winter protection for perennials
As perennials are cut back ahead winter or divided for more stocks it pays to provide the exposed crowns with some winter protection.  A mulch of garden compost or similar will help to protect the dormant crowns from winter damage.  If the plant in question dies back fully, it can be fully covered with mulch. If it dies back to a basal rosette of leaves, these should be surrounded by mulch but left uncovered on top.
Any borderline hardy perennials such as penstemon, phygelius and salvia should be mulched, but their spent top growth should be kept in place until spring as extra winter protection for the crowns below.

Planting spring bulbs
For the best spring bulb container displays it pays to get creative with lasagne layering. This simple process involves planting several different types of spring bulb together in one pot. Instead of setting them at the same depth, the bulbs are set in layers within the compost. This creates a tiered effect to the spring colour as the bulbs then bloom at different heights adding real punch to your pot displays. Try it with

Planting for spring.
October is a perfect month for setting out traditional mixed spring displays of flowering bulbs and bedding.  Stunning on their own or mixed together, our pansies, violas, primroses, bellis daisies, wallflowers, and forget-me-nots all offer effortless colour for the colder months of the year.  Plant by variety, or mix together for a kaleidoscope of colour. All our bedding plants work perfectly with spring flowering bulbs too. As you plant your beds and borders add a bulb in between each plant for extra height and colour some spring.

Sowing for Spring
Many flowering hardy annuals can be sown in beds and borders in October for earlier colour next year. They will establish roots and foliage this side of winter, waking up in early spring to put on a strong floral display in late spring/early summer.

Seeds should be sown in prepared, weed-free soil that has been raked level to a fine tilth. They can either be scattered (broadcast) over the area and raked in for an informal look, or the area can be divided into various patches and the seeds sown in drills for a more ordered look.

For more detailed advice on direct sowing see our guide: http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Home/Growing-Guides/Direct-sowing-in-the-garden.html#.WaUtbyiGOM8

If there is no space due to winter performing bedding displays, hardy annuals can be started off undercover and then hardened off for overwintering in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse for planting in out in spring.

Sowing sweet peas
Exhibition sweet pea growers will be busy sowing this month and it pays to follow suit if you want the biggest and best flowers next summer. By sowing now and overwintering the seedlings in a cold but frost-free greenhouse you will have the biggest, strongest plants to set out in April next year, leading to earlier flowering and bigger blooms.

October planting
October is a perfect month for planting out new container grown perennials, trees and shrubs. Soils retain some of their summer warmth through the month but moisture levels are on the rise thanks to autumn rain. This creates the perfect conditions for early root establishment and also reduces the level of watering needed during the critical early stages of establishment. Watering may be needed in prolonged dry spells next year, but winter wet will have done a large part of the settling in process for you.

Prepare lawns for winter
Lawn grass continues to grow while temperatures remain above 5C, so continue to mow through October where needed. For the best condition for your lawn there are a few simple extras to carry out in October for pitch perfect performance:

  • Autumn feed: Look out for specialist autumn lawn feeds that are low in nitrogen and higher in potassium and phosphorous. This will reduce top growth while promoting root growth and boosting hardiness and disease resistance.
  • Aeration: Use a garden fork to pierce the lawn to a depth of 10-15cm, this will improve drainage and open up the soil structure to get air to the roots for healthier growth. The holes can be filled in with a topdressing of lawn sand or left to close naturally.
  • Leaf Collection: Autumn leaves should be raked off of lawns. If allowed to settle, sunlight is blocked and the grass below dies off, leaving patches where weeds could establish.

Make Leaf Mould Mulch
Rather than add autumn leaves to your general composting bin, think about making pure leaf mould. As you rake up fallen leaves, stash them in a large thick bin bag. When full, pierce a few aeration holes, sprinkle the leaves with water, shake the bag and tie.
Store in a shady spot out of sight. By next autumn the leaves will have broken down into a crumbly texture, which can be used as a mulch.

Grow your own

Top tip for late potatoes Lingering potato crops can be cut down to ground level know, to avoid frost damage. The tubers can then be lifted as needed over the next month or so. The crop should ideally be lifted and stored ahead of any prolonged frosts and severe winter weather.

Top tip for late tomatoes If you have lingering tomatoes plants under glass that are slow to ripen you can speed up the process by stripping all the foliage from the plants  Pack hoses away

Planting Fruit
October is a perfect month for planting out new container grown top fruit and soft fruit, grapes, nuts. Soils retain some of their summer warmth through the month but moisture levels are on the rise thanks to autumn rain. This creates the perfect conditions for early root establishment and also reduces the level of watering needed during the critical early stages of establishment. Watering may be needed in prolonged dry spells next year, but winter wet will have done a large part of the settling in process for you.

Divide rhubarb
As rhubarb plants start to die down and move into their dormant phase it is a perfect time to lift and divide them. Not only will you get more plants to help fill the fruit patch, it will help avoid congestion and maintain health and vigour and better ongoing stalk production

October Greenhouse maintenance

  • Remove shade paint and netting to maximise light levels
  • Have a general sweep down of all surfaces
  • Disinfect benches, pots and tools,
  • Check heaters are ready for use fit bubble wrap insulation.
  • Open doors and vents still on sunny days, but close up again before late afternoon

Helps Kids Grow – Plant a School Garden!

September 19th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Many of today’s health problems can be traced to a poor diet. A school garden is a great way to get kids involved in growing their own food from an early age, so they gain a real appreciation of where fresh food comes from and how delicious it can be! This post will show you how to make a school garden.

School gardens offer children the chance to get involved in growing food, a skill that they can improve on throughout their lives. They are also a handy teaching resource, with plenty of opportunities to link into the school curriculum.

Starting small 

  • It’s great to have a vision for your garden but be sure to start small.
  • Containers and larger planters are very manageable and you can grow just about anything in them. Containers allow you to create an almost immediate impact, anywhere at a minimal cost.
  • Raised beds are excellent because they clearly delineate the growing areas, making it less likely that precious seedlings will be accidentally trampled. Place them directly onto soil or first lay down a membrane if you’re growing on contaminated soil or a hard surface such as a concrete yard. Fill the beds with nutrient-rich potting soil and compost. Beds shouldn’t be any wider than 3 foot so that children can easily reach the middle from the sides.
  • Woodchips are a good choice for the paths in between as they’re relatively clean and soft.

Designing your garden

  • If your garden is going to be more than a few raised beds then get the kids involved in the design process!
  • Ask them to make sketches or put together a mood board of what they’d like to see.

What to grow?

  • Children are far more likely to grow fruits and veggies they’ve grown themselves – a great reason to get them involved!
  • Choose crops that are robust, easy to grow and ready to harvest during term time.
  • Try peas and beans – children love sowing the fat seeds, setting up supports and then picking the pods.
  • Potatoes are fun to sprout before planting into potato sacks or beds. They’ll love the hands-on growing process of unearthing the potatoes.
  • Winter squash and pumpkins can be planted out at the end of spring and will be nearing maturity when the children return from their summer break.
  •  You could even have a pumpkin carving competition!

These are just a few tips and tricks for starting a new school garden. If you’ve created your own school garden and have any top tips that you can offer us let us know in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

September Gardening Advice

September 6th, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

The onset of Autumn sadly marks the end of the gardening year for far too many gardeners, who view it as a time to tidy up and shut down before winter arrives. However, for those in the know, Autumn actually marks one of the busiest seasons in the garden and is the perfect time to get planting plans in place for the following year.

Our gardening advice for September and indeed the next few months will lighten your workload next spring and in many cases offer an easier start to establishing new plants in the garden.


In the flower garden

Border tidy – mixed borders can start to look unkempt this month as summer performing perennials start to wane.  The plants should be cut down as they die back, restoring order and tidiness to displays. Use a knife, secateurs or shears to cut the spent stems and foliage down to the crown (base of the plant).
A mulch of garden compost or similar will help to protect the dormant crowns from winter damage.  If the plant in question dies back fully, it can be fully covered with mulch. If it dies back to a basal rosette of leaves, these should be surrounded by mulch but left uncovered on top.
Any borderline hardy perennials such as penstemon, phygelius and salvia should be mulched, but their spent top growth should be kept in place until spring as extra winter protection for the crowns below.

Eking out summer displays – Summer hanging basket and patio containers will continue to run into mid-autumn if you keep up with deadheading, watering and feeding.  Even plants that are starting to straggle can be given another month or so of life by cutting them back and allowing new shoots to take over, but with our winter and spring bedding plants despatching now it may be best to empty containers and get them prepped ready for re-planting.

September sowing – Many flowering hardy annuals can be sown in beds and borders in September for earlier colour next year. They will establish roots and foliage this side of winter, waking up in early spring to put on a strong floral display in late spring/early summer.

Seeds should be sown in prepared, weed-free soil that has been raked level to a fine tilth. They can either be scattered (broadcast) over the area and raked in for an informal look, or the area can be divided into various patches and the seeds sown in drills for a more ordered look.

For more detailed advice on direct sowing see our guide.

If there is no space due to winter performing bedding displays, hardy annuals can be started off under cover and then hardened off for overwintering in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse for planting in out in spring.

Spring bulbs – Our selection of spring flowering bulbs start to dispatch through September, at the perfect time for planting for the best displays. We work very closely with our growers to ensure we offer the very best, top sized bulbs, which will provide you with a glorious spring show. All of the bulbs we offer have been trialled and tested, either on our own Suffolk trials ground or on those of our growers, to ensure we offer the best range for British gardens.

Bulbs are one of the best value investments for the garden, returning year on year with the absolute minimum of upkeep and care. Simply plant this autumn for years of bold spring colour in borders, containers, lawns, rockeries – these versatile garden additions will pretty much grow anywhere you plant them. For the best performance choose a sunny to partially shaded location in any moist but free-draining soil.

September planting – September is a perfect month for planting out new container grown perennials, trees and shrubs. Soils retain some of their summer warmth through the month but moisture levels are on the rise thanks to the autumn rain. This creates the perfect conditions for early root establishment and also reduces the level of watering needed during the critical early stages of establishment. Watering may be needed in prolonged dry spells next year, but winter wet will have done a large part of the settling in process for you.

Cold season colour – Our winter and spring bedding plants are dispatching now. These winter hardy plants have all been selected to guarantee winter and spring colour in borders, baskets and patio containers. Stunning on their own or mixed together, our pansies, violas, primroses, bellis daisies, wallflowers, and forget-me-nots all offer effortless colour for the colder months of the year.

Plant by variety, or mix together for a kaleidoscope of colour. All our bedding plants work perfectly with spring flowering bulbs too. As you plant your beds and borders add a bulb in between each plant for extra height and colour some spring.


On the Veg patch

Sowing – as in the flower garden, there is a range of hardy vegetables that can be sown this month for overwintering and early cropping next spring. If you are looking to avoid empty veg patches through winter, make sowings of the following in coming weeks: winter lettuce, corn salad, turnips, spring onion, broad beans, spinach, Oriental vegetables including Choi Sum and Pak Choi.

You can also make the last sowing of quick-cropping summer vegetables including radish and salad leaves. If autumn arrives fast in your area, these can be sown in containers and brought under cover when the first frosts threaten.

Spring cabbages – Spring cabbage seedlings sown in July and August should now be large enough to plant out. Soils should be improved ahead of planting by adding well-rotted manure or garden compost. Cabbages prefer a firm soil, so tread over the area and rake flat before planting. Set out in rows leaving 30-45cm between each plant and row.

Asparagus – September is a key month for establishing new asparagus crowns. They perform best in well drained fertile soils, rich in organic matter. Crowns should be set out in long trenches, 20cm deep and 30cm wide. Fill the bottom of the trench with a 7.5cm mounded layer of compost and soil.  Place the asparagus crown on top of the ridge, draping roots over the sides. Cover with another 7.5cm of soil, firm down and water. As growth commences next spring, gradually fill in the remainder of the trench as the spears develop.
Established plants should be cut down to the ground as soon as the foliage has browned. With easier access to the soil, the area should be thoroughly weeded and a good layer of mulch applied afterwards.

Onions, shallots and garlic – September is a great time to plant onions, shallots and garlic as the soil is still warm and the long days give high light levels. Overwintering your alliums will allow them to develop strong root systems to see them through the winter, ready to burst in to life in early spring. Our tried and tested varieties are guaranteed to produce fantastic yields of flavoursome and tender crops.

Onions, shallots and garlic should be set out in rows, in firm, free-draining soil in full sun. Soils should be improved ahead of planting but avoid setting them on a freshly manured soil. Leave 10cm between each bulb and 30cm between rows. The bulbs (or sets) should be planted with the tip of the bulb just showing above the soil surface.

 


In the greenhouse/on the windowsill

Overwintering – Towards the end of September start to bring prized tender plants under cover of the greenhouse to keep them frost free through winter. Many summer bedding plants can be overwintered this way, leading to bigger better displays the following year. Try it with fuchsias, begonias, geraniums, petunias and marguerites. Water sparingly until spring, but ensure good light levels by washing off shade paint and removing shade netting.

Early bulb colour For early indoor displays of your favourite spring flowering bulbs, pot up tulips, daffodils and hyacinths this month and leave them outside for six weeks or so.  Then bring into the greenhouse to encourage early growth. As soon as flower buds develop the pots can be brought into the house for spring colour in the middle of winter.

What To Do In The Garden In July

July 1st, 2017 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Well planned summer gardens will be moving into their peak this month. The majority of perennials, biennials and annuals will already be in bloom, and seasonal fruit and vegetable crops will need picking in earnest, making July one of the best times to be out in the garden.

If other commitments are keeping you busy the main jobs to focus on through July are watering, feeding and regular removal of spent flowers to keep displays looking good for as long as possible. For those with more time, there are plenty of other tasks to keep you busy in the garden through July.


In the flower garden

Deadheading: Bedding plants and perennials will benefit from regular removal of spent flowers through summer. Not only does it keep plants tidy, it encourages them to put on more flowers. Bedding plant flowers are easily pinched off by hand, but it may be better to use snips or secateurs on perennials with thicker, harder flower stalks and stems to avoid damage.

Perennials: Cut back faded perennials to keep borders in peak condition. Many varieties such as hardy geraniums, delphiniums and lupins will put on a second flush of flowers if cut back immediately after the first flush has finished.

Divide bearded iris: These early flowering perennials, and stars of the Chelsea Flower Show can be divided now that flowering is finished.  Splitting mature plants will keep them productive – crowded iris plants produce fewer flowers than well-spaced plants.

  • Start by lifting from the ground with a spade or digging fork, aiming to lift the whole clump.
  • Knock off as much soil as possible from the fleshy rhizomes.
  • Now you can see the rhizomes clearly, cut into 10cm pieces, ensuring each division has one fan of leaves. Keep as many roots on the rhizomes as possible.
  • Cut down the fan leaves to around 20cm – new plants can then focus on root development.
  • Set out the divisions in prepared soil in a sunny, sheltered location, spacing 45cm apart. Fan out roots in shallow planting holes and cover so the rhizomes are just below soil surface.
  • Keep well-watered for the rest of the summer season.

Three tips for top sweet peas: Sweet peas can quickly go over during summer heat, but there are three simple tips to ensure you get the longest display from these heavenly scented plants:

  1. Pick flowers daily – if not for vases, then simply to stop pods forming. As soon as seeds start setting, flower production is greatly reduced.
  2. Water thoroughly and deeply – sweet peas are prone to powdery mildew, which presents itself as a grey mould on the foliage. It is a common problem at this time of year where soils are dry and the air humid. Fungicides are available to tackle the problem but prevention is better than cure. Reduce the risk by watering regularly and heavily to keep soils moist. Good air flow around plants also helps.
  3. Aphids love the soft new growth on sweet peas. These sap suckers risk bringing viral infections, leading to distorted foliage and stunted growth. Infestations can be prevented and controlled with the use of insecticides, but many gardeners prefer to tackle them with home-made remedies such as garlic or soap sprays. Even a jet of water from a hose can do its part in knocking aphids off of plants.

Sow speedy seeds: It’s too late for the majority of annual flowers to be sown at this stage in the year – the first autumn frosts will kill them off before they have had a chance to put on a good display. Fortunately there are some speedy varieties that will give results in as little as 6-8 weeks, ensuring a good show of late season colour.  If it’s fast colour you are after, sow the following in the next week or so: nasturtiums, night phlox, calendula, poached egg plant, swan river daisy, Californian poppy
These are all great options for filling gaps or replacing other annuals such as pot marigolds that have often exhausted themselves by this stage in the year.
Simply scatter your seed where you want them to grow or set them in small pots to get them started and transplant them when large enough to handle.

Sowing Biennials: With so many annual flowers to choose from why pick biennials that only flower in their second year? The answer is sheer flower power! The majority of biennials reward gardeners for their patience by putting on an extra generous display of blooms, often early in the season, really kick-starting the colour in your summer displays.
July is a perfect time to sow biennials. By sowing in the next few weeks, the resulting plants have time to put on good foliage and root growth before resting over winter. This gives them the reserves to grow strongly the following spring, going on to offer good colour from late spring onwards. Traditionally biennials are sown in a dedicated nursery bed and transplanted to their flowering position in autumn. These days, very few of us are lucky enough to have space for a nursery bed. Instead seeds can be sown direct where they are to flower or raised in trays and pots, for planting out in autumn.
Here are 10 top biennials to tempt you:
Wallflowers
Foxglove
Honesty
Teasel
Sweet William
Stocks
Canterbury Bells
Forget-me-not
Daucus Dara
Echium
All Mr Fothergill’s seeds come with sowing and growing instructions, but for more detail read our handy sowing guide here
Did you know? Many of the shorter lived perennials are better treated as biennials, looking best in their second year and losing their lustre in their third and fourth years. Aquilegia, hollyhocks, lupins, sweet Williams and many other popular perennials can be raised this way for better garden displays.

War on weeds: Keeping the garden weed-free is a constant battle. Cultural methods are always the kindest on the garden and wildlife – regular hoeing prevents annual weed species getting past the seedling stage, removing the need for chemical sprays. However, if you’ve let things slip this season, or if perennial weeds are the main problem, July is perfect for tackling weed growth with glyphosate and other chemical sprays. Weeds will generally be at their peak of growth meaning lots of foliage surface area for absorbing the active ingredients of your chosen spray. If you do choose to spray, make sure to first remove any seeding flower heads as they can continue to disperse around the garden after spraying. Do this early in the morning or late in the evening, avoiding times when pollinating insects are on the wing.
Perennial weeds can be tackled by hand but it is harder work. Many perennial weeds will regrow from the smallest piece of root left in the ground – ground elder, dandelion, bindweed and creeping buttercup are renowned for this. If digging weeds by hand, be extra vigilant to remove all roots to prevent further problems arising.

Pest controls: A wide range of insects can take hold of susceptible plants in summer. Regular checks should be made as early treatment is always the most effective.


On the patio

Watering: The most important job on the patio this month is ensuring plants receive enough water to get them through the heat of the day. During particularly hot weather patio pots should be watered once a day. Hanging baskets can dry out even quicker, and may need watering twice a day to keep plants looking lush.  It is best to water plants early in morning or late in the evening, reducing water evaporation and the risk of leaf scorch – water droplets can act like magnifying glasses when sun shines through them.
Pot trays and saucers can be used to hold water at the roots during summer heat, but make sure to remove these as temperatures cool.

Feed container plants:  Unless you added slow release fertiliser at time of planting, available nutrients in pot compost will be soon be exhausted and additional feeding will be required to carry summer displays through to autumn. Granular or pelleted fertiliser can be scratched into the compost as a top dressing or liquid feeds can be applied every week or two from now until displays finish.
If plants are already showing a lack of nutrients – reduced flowering and yellowing foliage – a foliar feed can be sprayed over them as a quick fix.

Continual container colour: There is always room for one more pot on the patio! Any late additions to the display should include later flowering bedding and perennials – dahlias, coreopsis, gaillardia, geraniums (pelargoniums), begonias and fuchsias will all keep on going to the first hard frosts of autumn – even longer if set in a sheltered location.


On the veg patch

Keep vegetables patches well-watered through July to prevent any check in growth and reduce the risk of leaf and root crops from bolting – running to seed.

After heavy watering or summer downpours a mulch of compost or grass clippings can be laid over soils around plants to retain moisture. This will also help smother weed seeds and seedlings.

Net soft fruit, peas, brassicas to keep scavenging birds away from the crops.

Pinch out climbing beans once they reach the top of their supports to encourage

Successional sowing summer crops: For many summer cropping vegetables the first half of July is the last chance to make another sowing.  In the next week or two, make final sowings of peas, dwarf beans, beetroot, and carrots. Faster crops can be sown two or three times this month, ensuring regular pickings through to autumn. Continue to make regular sowing of lettuce, salad leaves, rocket, radish, kohl rabi and spring onions.
Continue to sow fast cropping herbs such as coriander, basil, dill and parsley. If sown in pots they can be brought inside towards autumn for continual cropping.

Sowing for autumn and winter: Keep productive in the winter months by sowing the following vegetables in coming weeks: Fennel, kohl rabi, endive, radicchio, perpetual spinach, chicory, chard, land cress, parsley, and oriental salad leaves.

Sowing for spring: July is perfect for starting spring cabbages from seed. The can either be sown where they are to crop, or started in seed trays, pots or seed beds for transplanting in early autumn once ground becomes available.

Transplanting: set out hardy vegetables including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, leeks, winter cabbages and parsnips for winter harvests.

Green manures: As harvesting clears soil on the vegetable patch think about sowing soil-conditioning green manures rather than more crops. This is an excellent alternative where farmyard manure or homemade compost is not an option.  Green manures can be sown year round and dug into the soils after 8 weeks or so in the ground, improving soil structure while adding nutrients to the mix – some green manures such as field lupins and clover fix nitrogen from the air into the roots – releasing it into the soil once dug in.
Sowing green manures in July allows for digging in ahead of planting overwintering crops in September/October. See our full range of green manures and what they can do for your soil here