Alex’ July Ramblings

Last month I hailed the return of good growing weather in May. June turned out to be “Flaming June” and it appears there is no end in sight to the exceptional temperatures we are experiencing. Rainfall has and continues to be forecast to be extremely scarce. Gardeners will be spending many hours ensuring that plants have adequate water while hoping that no hose pipe ban will be introduced. Bristol Water has said that it is experiencing an increase of 17% in demand. It behoves us all to be judicious when using this precious resource. Having said that, my water butts are empty and I’m relying on mains supply.

Like everyone else, it seems, my lawns have stopped growing and have turned the colour of sand. Although unpleasant to look at, it will recover given time and the appropriate amount of rainfall. Most of my flower garden is having to take its chances with the weather but I do make an exception for roses and sweet peas. The greenhouse is making greatest demand for water and I’m having to water twice per day.

When watering, it is important to get sufficient to the roots of the plant and a thorough soaking once every few days is much more beneficial than wafting the watering can at them every day. It is also best to water in the evening when less will be lost to evaporation.

If you can face the heat we are currently experiencing the tool that is most in use in the garden is the hoe. It is important to regularly do this as weeds will compete with your plants depriving them of nutrition and water and they are better at it than cultivated plants.

It is not that long ago I was bemoaning the fact that we were about four to five weeks behind with progress in the garden due to the cold and wet Winter/Spring but on checking my annual records I see we have now recovered that lost time. Cropping in the fruit and vegetable garden has now started in earnest although my strawberries have stopped producing; no doubt due to the hot weather. We are enjoying lettuce, courgette, broad beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. In order to ensure the longest cropping period as possible, I have made additional sowings of French and runner beans, mangetout, carrots and cucumbers. In order to do the same for tomatoes, I have planted up side shoots pinched out from plants sown in Spring. They appear to be doing just as well as those sown from seed and unlike their parents, are free. I’ll let you know later in the year how successful they have been.

If you are thinking of entering apples, pears or plums, now is a good time to thin out fruit so that they have room to grow and produce large examples. This is particularly important with plums as if you have branches that are laden with fruit they’re liable to split and present the opportunity for disease to enter. It will also discourage the tree from becoming a biennial bearer which is something plums are particularly susceptible to.

Continue to dead head your roses and prune where necessary to ensure a continuation of flowering. Pick your sweet peas every day and when they have reached the top of their canes, take one, untie it, lay it on the ground and fix to the cane that top reaches. Do the same for all the rest. This will ensure continual and extended flowering.

By the time you read this, copies of the annual flower show schedule should be about and you can start to compare what you planned to enter with what is growing successfully in your plot. You will no doubt be surprised by how well some have done and equally disappointed with others. The important thing to remember is that all gardeners will be in the same boat. They will have successes and failures but don’t be disheartened with examples that are not up to your expectation. You can still win a prize with examples that are not perfect.

Happy gardening,