Gardening expert Adam Kirtland gives his top tips for the hottest month of the year
According to MET office records, July is historically one of the hottest months of the year which, for gardeners, sounds like an absolute dream. But that heat can bring its challenges for the green-fingered among us, too! This month I’m bringing you my top tips for getting the best out of your garden during what could be a hot one. (Please don’t write in to me if it ends up being the wettest July on record!)
Keep on top of watering
It goes without saying that during these warmer months, keeping on top of watering is right at the top of the to-do list. And it’s far more than giving everything a little sprinkle every now and again! If you’ve got big deep flower beds and borders, you’ll want to make sure the water is getting down deep into the soil and not just on top of the foliage. I do this with a long handled ‘hose gun’ that reaches right down to the ground and through the leaves – this eliminates the need to bend down all the time.
If your space is small (like ours is) and you’re growing mainly in containers and pots, then you’ll want to make sure the water is getting down to the roots too. My best advice here is to give every single pot a good soak…no, I mean it, a really good soak. Water your pots until the excess runs out the bottom and then you’ll know it’s got to the heart of the pot and your plants will absolutely love you for it.
How about setting up an irrigation system?
If watering isn’t your thing (and let’s face it – it’s not everyone’s favourite gardening job is it?) then a cracking idea is to set up an irrigation system to do the work for you. This works for traditional beds and equally as well for pots too and it cuts out most of the hard work and time that watering can take.
In essence, an irrigation system is a series of hoses laid around the base of plants with either small holes or tiny sprinkler-type fixtures attached to them that you hook up to your garden tap, then you just turn it on and the water seeps out while you sit down with a cuppa. Couldn’t be easier than that! We’ve got a small system here for the main pots and it saves so much time in these summer months.
Feed your plants
After watering this has to be the next most important thing for keeping your growing space looking lush and vibrant all summer long. Now, its not absolutely essential to feed your plants (and they’ll look fine if you don’t) but once they’ve been given that extra boost then you’ll be incredibly glad you did. Picture your breakfast, perhaps toast and cereal to start the day? So, imagine that toast and cereal are a plant’s sunlight and water. It’s enough to get your day started for sure, but then how about that cup of coffee too? Plant food is the cup of coffee that your plants are looking for to really do something special. With those extra nutrients, your plants will be stronger, your flowers will be brighter AND there will potentially be more of those flowers too! Its dead easy to feed your plants and most good plant food is simply added to your watering can before you water them.
Plants that will benefit most from a good feed include sweet peas, dahlias and all those bedding plants that you’ve no doubt got that are already putting on a good show.
Cut, cut and cut again!
There are a few jobs for this month that involve cutting and they’re all quite different from each other. First of all, if you’re growing lavender then by now yours should be in full bloom and this is prime time to cut off some of those flowers to dry off and add amazing fragrance to your home. Cut off the flowers and pop them somewhere relatively dark and dry, and soon enough your flowers will be dry and ready to use.
I’ve already mentioned sweet peas and the importance of feeding them, but as you get more flowers, you’ll want to keep cutting them off. This will mean you’ve got gorgeous flowers with wonderful scent to bring indoors to enjoy and cutting them off will promote more flower growth too, so it’s a real win-win.
And finally, this is a good time to take cuttings from some plants with new growth, otherwise known as softwood cuttings. Plants such as Hydrangea, Buddleia, Fuchsia and Salvia are full of new growth at this time of year and taking cuttings couldn’t be easier. Cut the top of a stem away from the plant (about 10-15cm long), just above a leaf node (where the leaves join the stem), take off all the leaves except the top pair and dip the bottom end in rooting hormone powder if you have it….or you can even try cinnamon! Pop the cutting into a pot of compost and you’ll have roots before you know it!
And there you have it! July is a month of really beautiful flowers (and you’ll have even more than normal if you’ve been following my tips!) and, if the MET office is to be believed – it’s a great time to be dusting off that barbecue too!