July is when you spend time relaxing in the garden. The weather is usually more welcoming and the list of jobs to be done fall into the ‘pottering in the garden’ category. In a heatwave, watering once every 7-10 days is important. Remember that a weekly soak wins over a daily dribble every time.
Conifer hedges need keeping under control - especially if you are growing one of the more vigorous varieties like Leylandii - to ensure that you keep the hedge green and to the size that suits your garden. Even before the conifers reach the size you wish to attain, try to trim the trees all over so that you sustain good, leafy growth over all the surfaces of the hedge.
Newly planted hedges should be watered over the whole summer, especially if the weather is very dry. When watering, aim your hose at the roots or invest in a seep hose to do the job for you. At the same time, pull out any weeds or grass that have started to grow within the trench area that you dug for the hedge initially. Replace and add to the mulch around the trees once you have finished watering.
Trained trees still require attention: cut back any side shoots to about 7 cm long and remove growths that spoil the shape of fans & espaliers. If the tree has reached the limits of its space, then prune the end of each stem to 2-3 buds of the current year's growth. If you want to it to grow bigger, then leave this pruning until winter when you cut each stem back by a third.
Remove fruit on overladen branches - especially the plum family - otherwise, the weight of fruit can snap the branch. You can also use V-shaped sticks to prop the branches up. Even with apples and pears, you will get a better crop if you thin out now. A good guide is to imagine a branch covered in fully ripe fruit that don't quite touch one another. So leave more space for apples than for plums
Birds love to eat fruit just as it is ripening. So try to protect susceptible fruits such as cherries, plums, gages, peaches and nectarines with fine mesh netting or even horticultural fleece. Keep watering fruit trees, especially if they are newly planted.
Any trees or shrubs that have produced a mass of shoots around the base will be pouring energy into this new growth. If you can, TEAR this sort of growth off if it comes from underground (suckers) and cut it back cleanly to the trunk of it is above ground. Ash, Rowan and many grafted fruit trees are prone to this, so check them carefully.
Sometimes variegated plants will revert to type and produce plain green leaves; snip off any shoots that are showing this tendency.
Philadelphus flowers will now be over and you can trim away the dead flowerheads and tidy up the plant now so that you will improve the display next year.
Later flowering perennials like asters, chrysanthemums and dahlias will be very grateful for a sprinkling of a general organic fertiliser at this time of year to ensure the best flowers in the autumn.
Any perennial weeds that you have missed can be zapped with a glyphosate-based product. You can paint the leaves using a paintbrush dipped into a jamjar of weedkiller.
Your roses should be looking fantastic, especially if you deadheaded in June. Prune spent flowers back to an outward growing bud in a leaf axil lower down the stem
Don't get overconfident if you do not see blackspot and rust may on your plants. A preventative spray with a product such as Bayer Garden Fungus Fighter will keep your roses healthy through the summer. By the time you see signs of disease your work to control it just got harder...
Mildew is more common when the weather has been dry and attacks plants that are stressed by being dehydrated. Watering thoroughly and regularly will help.
Summer fruiting raspberries will be cropping their heads off this month. Pick and eat all you can, but if there are too many put the berries on trays in the freezer. When they are frozen solid, bag them up so that they will retain their shape when they are unfrozen.
When canes have finished fruiting, cut them down to ground level as you should then have a good supply of new canes with fresh foliage and paler stems that can then be tied in for next year.
Red and white currants should also be ripening. Snip whole clusters of the fruit from the plant using scissors rather than stripping the berries in situ. Redcurrant jelly is a must and the red berries are the other half of the summer pudding. White currants look and taste lovely in a 'white' fruit salad with melon, kiwis and lychees if you can get hold of them. Once you have taken all the fruit, towards the end of the month, prune white and red currants and gooseberries so that all the side shoots that grew this year are reduced to 3-4 buds. Remove ingrowing and crossing branches to promote the circulation of air within the bush, thus preventing mildew, and to allow the fruit to ripen next year.
Blackcurrants will also be ready to harvest and should be gathered in the same way. But they are pruned differently from other currants. So here is a quick time-saving tip. Prune as you harvest. Try to remove about a third of the blackcurrant shoots, cutting them at ground level and choosing the oldest growth you can find so that there is still enough older wood for the blackcurrant to fruit on next year. You can bring the pruned shoots inside and remove the berries indoors.
Continue to train hybrid berries and blackberries so that you have fruiting canes growing in one direction of a 'fan' and the new replacement canes in the other direction. Keep tying in any stray growth so that the stems do not become tangled. It makes harvesting easier.
July and August are holiday time for many and so plan ahead and make sure that you have booked someone to come and see to your garden while you are away...if nothing else at least make sure your hard-won vegetables do not go to waste.
Greenhouses in full summer need shading and ventilation. At the very least keep the doors open on hot days and try to splash water onto the floor of the greenhouse to create a more humid atmosphere that is less attractive to red spider mite.
Grass needs watering, especially if you recently put down turf. Use a sprinkler on a still day. To check you are sprinkling evenly, put a few jam jars around the lawn so you can see how much water is being applied and if any areas have been shortchanged.
In hot weather, raise the blades on your mower so you leave the grass longer. It needs less water that way.
All lawns look better for being edged. It makes such a difference and really justifies the effort.
Tea for some, of course, but for the truly thirsty Elderflower Cordial is the thing. Diluted as a long soft drink or added as a sweetener to almost any gin or vodka cocktail. After 6 pm, of course.