Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 26 - July 2013
What to do now

Ornamental plants

  • Continue to deadhead 'religiously'!
  • Cut back the flowered stems from delphiniums, verbascums and lupins and you might get a second, albeit shorter, display later on.
  • Pinch out the tips of chrysanthemums.
  • Prune shrubs which flowered in early summer (eg lilacs, philadelphus, weigela, deutzia, kerria, spiraea and broom).
  • Trim back yew, privet and lonicera hedges.
  • Trim off the spent flowers of any free-seeding plants, such as Alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle), unless you want them to set seed and appear all around your garden!
  • Take cuttings from bedding plants such as marguerites, verbena, pelargoniums, lantana, osteospermums, abutilons, penstemons, argyranthemums, fuchsias, pinks and carnations.
  • Spray roses with fungicide to control blackspot and rust.
  • Collect and sow seeds from biennials such as sweet William, foxgloves, Canterbury bells, wallflowers and forget-me-nots.
  • Sow autumn and spring bedding such as cyclamen, colchicum, crocuses, nerines, pansies and primulas.
Fruit and veg
  • Make sure your veg plot is well watered throughout the summer, otherwise your crop will be greatly reduced.
  • Support and (unless you have bush varieties) pinch out the side shoots on your tomatoes regularly. Increase the frequency of feeding them (with a high potash feed) as the plants develop.
  • Peg down strawberry runners (on the soil surface or onto compost in a pot) to get new plants for next year.
  • Thin out apples, grapes and plums so your crop has enough room to grow.
  • Net brassica crops to keep cabbage white butterflies off them.
  • Pinch out the tops of your climbing beans when they are as high as their supports.
  • Sow beetroot, chicory, Chinese cabbages, endives, lettuces, pak choi, radicchio, radishes, salad leaves, spring cabbages, kohl rabi, French beans, peas, rocket, swedes, Swiss chard, winter spinach, turnips, parsley, basil, coriander and spring onions.
  • Harvest mangetouts, sugarsnap peas, courgettes, rhubarb, okra, early onions, beans, strawberries, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, peas, spinach, raspberries, cherries, broad beans, cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers and calabrese.
General tasks
  • Mow lawns regularly; though cut them a bit higher than normal in periods of low rainfall.
  • Keep on weeding so your plants have less competition for water and food.
  • Watch out for pests and diseases.
  • Keep your greenhouse well ventilated to prevent overheating and to keep the air moving.
  • Feed plants every week, particularly those growing in containers and grow bags.
  • Set aside some time to sit back with a cold drink and enjoy the fruits of all your hard work!
Geranium wallichianum 'Buxton's Variety'Plant of the month

Geranium wallichianum 'Buxton's Variety' blooms with petite, lilac flowers that have attractively dark veining, from July to October. This typical cottage garden plant is hardy and requires relatively little maintenance - just remove spent flowers and leaves regularly to prolong the display and divide it every 3 to 4 years. Find out more...

Problem of the monthFuchsia gall mite

The fuchsia gall mite was discovered in Brazil in the 1970s and moved to North America in the 80s before arriving in Europe. The tiny mites suck sap from the plant and secrete a chemical which reddens and then distorts growth. Once a plant is infested it's very difficult to control and the best solution is often to destroy the plant. Find out more...

In the news

M&S sell the world's smallest apples

Golf-ball sized apples are being sold by Marks and Spencer. The New Zealand grown 'Tiddly Pomme' fruit is a miniature form of Royal Gala. M&S hopes that it will be particularly popular as a way of encouraging children to eat their recommended five-a-day fruit and vegetable portions.

Clematis 'Beautiful Bride' wins best in show

Clematis 'Beautiful Bride', bred by Szczepan Marczynski and introduced by New Leaf Plants, has won the title of Best In Show for New Plants at the Horticultural Trades Association's National Plant Show. The free flowering climber was praised for its large, pure white flowers and overall 'wow' factor.

Tomato leaves turned into energy

Working with a UK manufacturer and the universities of York and Central Lancashire, Cheshire tomato grower APS Salads has developed a system to convert waste tomato leaves into energy. The anaerobic digestion system will save the company the cost of disposing of the six tonnes of leaves it produces each day, and the carbon dioxide produced by the system will be used to enrich the atmosphere of their greenhouses while the spent leaves could be sold for fertiliser.

Waitrose launches gardening TV channel

Waitrose has launched an online gardening channel to add to their existing internet TV portfolio. The videos, featuring Alan Titchmarsh and Matt James, will provide hints and tips for gardeners. The films are largely based at Waitrose's own 'secret garden' at the Leckford Estate in Hampshire. The new channel can be found via waitrose.com.


Parched plants?

While this might not be the driest of summers so far, just a couple of sunny days can spell disaster for plants which don't have access to a good water supply.

Planting into the soil (rather than in containers) will allow most plants to cope with short periods of dry conditions, as the soil will retain water below the surface and gradually release this to the plants' roots. However, if your soil is sandy and freely draining, or if you have new plants which haven't had the chance to establish a strong root system, then they will struggle.

Watering the gardenFruits and vegetables also suffer quickly from a lack of water and harvests can be greatly diminished as a result.

Possibly the worse hit by dry spells are plants in containers. They have precious little growing medium to retain water and will have more surfaces for water to evaporate from and which allow heat in.

The obvious solution is to water the plants - but considering that in hot conditions plants in containers will need watering twice a day or more, many of us simply don't have the time to keep up with our garden's thirst. So here are a few ideas which will help you keep your plants well watered throughout the summer:

  • If your soil is free-draining (eg sandy soil) dig plenty of organic matter into it each year. This will improve the structure of the soil and help it to retain more moisture.
  • Mulching is traditionally a job for spring or autumn, but if you didn't do it then there's no reason not to do it now. Mulching not only suppresses weeds but also reduces moisture evaporation from the soil surface. If you're mulching in the summer the important thing to remember is to make sure that the soil is well watered before you add the mulch. Once you've applied the mulch then watering again can stop the mulch absorbing water from the soil and will also weigh down lighter materials (such as small bark chippings) which might be blown away if they're dry.
  • If you have free-draining soil then select plants which can withstand dry conditions. Mediterranean plants usually fit the bill well; look out for plants with grey or silver leaves - the colouring is usually due to very fine hairs which help the leaves to conserve water and survive drought conditions. Plant them in spring when it's already warming up a bit (so their roots won't get too cold and wet) but the plant still has time to establish before the dry weather.
  • Don't panic about your lawn! OK, a dry brown lawn isn't the most attractive garden feature, but grass is remarkably tough and it will recover when the wetter weather arrives, so don't water it unless you really can't live without those lush green blades!
  • If you want to have plants in containers use the largest sized containers possible as they will take longer to dry out. Group them together to maintain humidity between them, which will lessen the water loss through the leaves. Look into water saving devices such as water retaining granules (wet them before mixing with the compost), containers which incorporate water reservoirs, and automated watering systems.
  • Wet the floor of glasshouses (and conservatories, if appropriate) on hot days to raise the humidity levels, this will reduce the water loss through leaves.
  • Water plants really early in the morning or in late evening when it's cool. This will allow the water to be absorbed by the soil before the heat of the day evaporates it. If you have an automated watering system then make sure it comes on at these times.

Find out more about drought in your garden, including the symptoms which underwatered plants will exhibit.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


What's on this month

Summer's here! It might not be wall to wall sunshine every day, but that's no reason to stay indoors. Here are some of the many gardening events on this month:

  • 4th, 11th, 18th & 25th July - 'Romancing The Rose' Walks, Drum Castle, Drumoak, Aberdeen & Grampian.
  • 6th July - Macmillan Open Gardens Event, Gyllside Area, Hastings, East Sussex.
  • 6th & 7th July - Wales Wildflower Day, National Botanic Garden of Wales, Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire.
  • 9th to 14th July - RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, London.
  • 16th July - Open Garden, The Bath Priory Hotel, Bath, Somerset.
  • 19th to 21st July - The Garden Show, Loseley Park, Guildford, Surrey.
  • 20th & 21st July - Spondon Open Gardens Social Safari, Spondon, east of Derby, Derbyshire.
  • 25th to 28th July - RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire.
  • 31st July - Sandringham Flower Show, Sandringham Estate, Norfolk.