What to do in the garden in JULY


July is the heart of summer, where your garden is in full bloom and at its most productive. Although it's a good time to sit back and admire the fruits of your labour, there are still plenty of jobs to be done at this time of year, to keep your garden looking at its best for the coming months ahead. Here's what should be on your gardening to-do list during July.

Trees and shrubs

Many birds will have finished nesting by July, so now is a good time to prune any overhanging or unruly trees, shrubs or fast-growing hedges. Also, tie in and train climbing shrubs as they grow. Keep an eye out for unwanted tree or rose suckers, and remove these before they take root.

Look out for pests or diseases on trees and shrubs, which can quickly spread in the heat of July. You can usually spot pest infestations, but diseases often present as brown or black patches, or curled leaves. Spray plants as soon as you notice problems, or cut affected areas and burn them. Ensure newly planted trees or shrubs are watered adequately in July, as it's easy to underestimate how much water young plants need during summer. 

Now is a good time to take semi-ripe cuttings of shrubs such as hydrangea or choisya. Clematis and magnolia can also be propagated from cuttings at this time of year.

Perennials, biennials and annuals

Once perennial and bedding plants have flowered, dead head them or cut them back to keep the garden looking tidy, but also to encourage a second flush of flowers later on in summer. 

Hardy geraniums, delphiniums, lupins, sweet peas, penstemon and roses will keep blooming all summer with regular picking and dead heading. Don't forget to check that your supports are adequate for climbers or plants with long stems.

Hanging baskets and container pots dry out quickly in the heat of July, so water them daily. Dead head spent flowers to revive displays of annuals, and give them a regular feed. 

Now is a good time to take cuttings from herbaceous perennials and tender plants, for overwintering indoors. Plants such as bearded iris can be divided and replanted in July.

Weeds tend to be rife at this time of year, so keep unwanted plants in check. Remove seed heads from weeds before they take over the garden, and tackle persistent weeds, such as ground elder or bindweed. Hoe beds and borders when they are dry to kill weed roots.

Vegetables and fruit

The vegetable garden will be in full swing in July, and you'll now be able to harvest a wide selection of produce, including lettuce, potatoes, carrots, peas, and beetroot. Runner beans will also be ready, but pick them early before they turn stringy. Pick courgettes now too, before they get too big, as this also encourages further fruits to form.

Pinch out side shoots from tomatoes and feed them weekly with a tomato fertiliser. Keep your eyes open for tomato blight, which can affect crops at this time of year. Plant leeks now for winter harvesting.

The fruit garden will be a hive of activity in July. You'll be harvesting strawberries and other soft fruit - but if you don't want to share your bounty with the birds, place netting over crops.

If you have fruit trees in the garden, thin out fruits to encourage larger crops and to prevent brown rot. Keep your eyes open for apple scab, and treat it with an appropriate fungicide. 

Some fruit trees can be pruned at this time of year, including peach, plum and cherry trees. Blackcurrant bushes can also be pruned after you've harvested the fruits.

Avoid picking any more rhubarb stems once July arrives, as plants will need to build up their reserves again for next year. 

Water fruit and vegetable plants regularly in July, and continue to feed them.

Lawn care

Devote some time to caring for your lawn during July. Hot weather can cause it to quickly dry out, so water your lawn regularly during hot spells, particularly if you have recently laid down new turf or grass seeds.

Weeds will be prolific at this time of year, so tackle the weeds in your lawn now before they swallow your grass.

When cutting your lawn, raise the height of your mower blades, especially during very hot weather, as this causes less stress on the grass.

If you haven't yet given your lawn a summer feed, now is the time to do this.

Other bits and bobs

Gardening in July is about taking a holistic approach to your outside space. 

As well as taking care of your plants, it's also a good time to maintain your hard landscaping, make any changes to the layout or structure of your garden, and improve the appearance of decking, fences and other outside furniture. If any repairs need doing, now is the ideal time.

If you have a greenhouse, keep it ventilated and add blinds if it becomes too hot in the height of summer. Check plants regularly for pests, and nip infestations in the bud before they ravage every species in sight.

Ponds will need particular attention during July to keep them in good condition. Remove floating blanket weed and remove yellow leaves from aquatic plants. Top up water levels if water has become depleted during dry spells.

If you have a compost bin, turn it regularly to aerate the pile.

Planning ahead 

Even though July is a hive of gardening activity, spend some time planning ahead. If you want to harvest winter crops, now is the time to think about what you want, and to start sowing seeds.

Browse through catalogues and plan what bulbs you want to plant during autumn for the following spring. Consider what new plants, trees or shrubs you might also want to feature in your garden over the coming months or next year.

Take stock of what has been successful this year, and what hasn't, and what lessons you can learn, to make improvements for the following year.


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