The (veg) plot thickens…

With the weather as much of a mystery as ever, Ann Winwood suggests some ways to get the best from your garden – with regular watering a key factor.

Keep sowing or planting salad crops such as lettuce, spinach, spring onions and radish in the veg patch to get a continuous harvest…
For new potatoes in October, or at Christmas, plant seed potatoes in tubs in July and August…

Hopefully as we progress through the warmer months the weather will settle down. After being warm, then cold then warm again during May, plants could do with a settled period of sunshine – hopefully with some rain at night, too.

As we move into July and August, there’s still time to plant larger pots of geraniums, fuchsias, cosmos and dahlias to fill in any gaps in borders. Water to get established and feed on a weekly basis. Dead-head regularly and you’ll have colour through to the first autumn frosts… which hopefully will be late starting.

Feeding frenzy

Hanging baskets need liquid feeding weekly – even with slow-release fertilizers added to composts, you’ll see the extra benefits from liquid feed. Baskets soon dry out, especially when they’re sheltered from rain at the side of a house, so watering morning and night in very warm weather is a must.

Tomatoes and cucumbers need water regularly during hot weather – preferably in the morning; his keeps the atmosphere humid and prevents plants staying damp overnight which can cause problems with powdery mildew or botrytis – this is especially true for cucumbers as they can be very susceptible to mildew. Remove any badly infected leaves. Good growing conditions will help to prevent the spread – good light levels, low humidity particularly at night and the use of resistant varieties. There are no chemical controls for diseases on fruit and veg available so good husbandry is very important.

Salad days

Keep sowing or planting salad crops such as lettuce, spinach, spring onions and radish in the veg plot to get a continuous harvest. Use very fine netting to cover cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots and other particularly susceptible vegetables against flies, pigeons and butterflies. Harvest peas and runner beans regularly while they are young and tender; freeze any spares for home-grown vegetables during the winter months. Keep beans and peas moist, and spray over foliage to encourage pods to set.

There’s plenty of choice in the herbaceous sections at the moment; as well as the ever-popular Lupins – especially the newer West Country range – there’s the salvias, Hot Lips being a good one, delphiniums and the butterfly-loving verbena bonanariensis. Hostas are good for a shady spot with their coloured foliage; watch out for slugs though, especially if the ground is damp.

Keep roses in good condition by spraying every 10 days with Roseclear or Multirose; this will keep any aphids under control as well as dealing with powdery mildew and black spot. Woolly aphid is a pest of fruit trees that is getting more and more common. It appears as fluffy white cotton wool like patches on fruit tree stems and ornamental trees. The insect is hidden under the fluff and sucks the sap from stems. Use Provado Ultimate Fruit and Vegetable Bug Killer as a control, but follow the directions as there is a minimum harvest interval.

Perky pools

Now’s a good time to add plants to your pond. There’s a good selection of marginal and deep-water plants available. Keep marginals on a ledge at the edges of the pool and not too deep – iris, caltha, primulas and bulrushes are all good examples. For the middle/deeper parts of your pool, water lilies are good and can give protection to any fish you have. Most plants come ready-planted in aquatic pots so just need placing straight into the pool. Don’t forget marginals need not be planted in the pool – iris, primulas and lobelias will all grow happily in a boggy area.

There’s still time to treat moss on lawns with MO Bacter if the weather is not too dry. For moss and weed control, use Evergreen Complete. For smaller areas of moss try the new Bio Press from the same supplier, which can be watered onto the lawn.

For new potatoes in October, or at Christmas, plant seed potatoes in tubs in July and August. Growth will finish in October; leave the tubers in their pots until required for cooking. Remember they’ll need frost protection once the winter frosts appear in November and December.

To complete another gardening cycle – or start a new one depending on how you look at it! – the spring-flowering bulbs will be appearing in garden centres from the end of August. If you want hyacinths in flower for Christmas, they must be planted and put into a dark cool place in September. Most varieties require an 8-10 week cool period followed by two or three weeks of warmer conditions to bring them into flower. Use a compost specifically for bulbs as it will contain charcoal to keep the soil sweet.

Happy gardening!


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