Usually the warmest month of the year, the long days combined with the heat means that growth is at its fastest. Make the most of it by watering freely and applying quick-acting fertiliser. Even in times of drought a thorough soaking once a week will be sufficient for flower beds but hanging baskets, containers, outdoor tomatoes and greenhouse crops and flowers should be watered daily.
During prolonged droughts, trees, shrubs and hedges should be watered once a fortnight. The softer-tissued annuals and some perennials droop almost immediately there is a shortage of water but trees and shrubs with their tougher leaves often show no signs of distress until the leaves are shed and the growing season is prematurely brought to an early conclusion.
Camellias and many other shrubs flower on buds formed the previous year and July is an important month in their development. These should also be watered to ensure a good crop of flowers the following year.
Rapid growth requires a large quantity of nutrients, and bedding displays, containers and hanging baskets should be given a weekly booster feed with a foliar or quick-acting fertiliser. Vegetable crops should be treated in the same way except for those whose foliage is eaten (these should be fed around the roots with a quick-acting fertiliser).
July is particularly important for plant propagation. It is still a good time for taking softwood cuttings of pelargoniums and fuchsias; the current year’s growth will be beginning to ripen and semihardwood cuttings can be taken towards the end of the month.
Perpetual-flowering plants (those which produce wave after wave of blooms) should be deadheaded to encourage the new flowers. Dahlias must be disbudded to produce larger blooms on longer stems, and bearded irises may be lifted and divided this month. Daffodils transferred to a nursery bed will have died down and can be gathered up by lifting the netting placed under the
bulbs. Clean away the soil and store in a cool dark shed.
Continue to stop pelargoniums, fuchsias and other plants to produce bushy pyramidal shapes. Remove the side-branches of plants trained as standards.
Continue to gather soft fruits. Commence summer pruning of apples and pears grown on either the cordon or espalier system, to encourage the production of fruiting spurs. Thin apples and pears to one per spur to increase the size of the fruit and reduce the chances of fungal infection. Prune grapes. Remove raspberry canes after they have fruited.
Keep windows and doors open. Ideally the temperature should notbe allowed to rise above 21°C/70°F. Shade the glass above cucumbers and make sure that the roots are kept permanently damp. Keep a watch for mildew and treat immediately with bipirimate or powdered sulphur. Remove any male flowers that appear as they cause the fruit to become bitter. When tomatoes have set six trusses, pinch out the tops. Remove the bottom pair of leaves to allow free circulation of air to aid ripening and stop the spread of disease.
The temperature of the water is atits highest, which can result in a lack of oxygen that causes the fish great distress and ultimately suffocation. Keep fountains and waterfalls running, both of which will aerate the water. Remove excess water lily leaves; for a good balance about a third of the pond should be covered with leaves. Thin out water weed. Wash aphids off marginals, but never use pesticides where they can enter the water.
Cypresses and other conifers that have thick, waxy leaves often fail to show any symptoms of water shortage until the tree is dead, which may not be until September and well after the drought itself. If there is a prolonged drought, such trees should be given at least one thorough
This is the last month for sowing seeds of many vegetables. During the first fortnight make a final sowing of dwarf French beans, which will crop from September to the frosts longer if protected by cloches in October. For a final sowing of peas, choose one of the early round-seeded varieties such as ‘Feltham’s First’ but this crop is susceptible to powdery mildew and is best avoided in areas where this disease is a problem.
Short-rooted carrots sown now are less likely to be infected by carrot fly. Sow perpetual spinach for winter greens. Swede and turnips can be sown to the end of the month. Continue to sow radish but not lettuce, which do not germinate well in warm weather. The large winter radishes, which may be black, white or pink, should be sown this month.
Plant out leeks, winter cabbages, kale and sprouting broccoli. Pick runner beans before they have the opportunity to become tough and any swelling due to the formation of bean seeds begins to appear. Continual and early picking will ensure a prolonged supply of beans. Remove side-shoots from tomatoes and continue to tie to the stakes as they increase in size. Gather and dry herbs.