What To Do In The Garden In July

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:
Sweet William
Canterbury Bells
Daucus Dara
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

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