July is one of the hottest months of the year, and by now parks and gardens will be flourishing. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of opportunities to get growing and prepare your garden for the seasons ahead.
If you’re wondering what to do in the garden this month, hopefully, you’ll find some inspiration in our list of ideas below. From pruning fruit trees to changing the colour of your hydrangeas, here are 12 gardening jobs to get stuck into this month.
1. Harvest cherries, courgettes, and rhubarb
This month, there’ll be plenty of fruit and veg ready for harvest including cherries, courgettes, and rhubarb.
To harvest cherries, give each one a gentle tug – ripe ones will come off easily. If you don’t want to eat your cherries straight away, it’s best to pick them with the stems attached (without tearing off any of the woody fruiting spurs, as these are what continue to produce new fruit each year).
Courgettes that are 10-15cm long and not harvested this month will likely turn into marrows, which have less flavour. If you want to pick your courgettes before this point, you can use a sharp knife to cut through the soft stalks that connect them to the plant.
Interestingly, you can also eat courgette flowers (well, the male ones anyway!). To learn more about male and female courgette flowers, check out this BBC blog from Gareth Austin. Or why not try this stuffed courgette flowers with honey recipe from Sainsbury’s Magazine?
July is also the last month to harvest rhubarb. Picking rhubarb no later than July will mean that your rhubarb plant has enough time to build up energy stores to see it through until the warmer weather next year.
Other crops that can be harvested this month include blueberries, shallots, and runner beans. You can find a full list on our planting calendar.
2. Mow low and give your lawn a summer feed
In the height of summer, grass can be cut once or twice a week. Though you can help to protect it from heat damage by raising the cutting height of your mower and keeping the grass at a minimum of 1½ inches long.
Grass with a bit of length will tolerate dry spells better because it will have more moisture reserves to draw on (grass is made up of around 85% water!). To find out more about why the cutting height of your mower is so important, check out this article from The Spruce.
You can also help bees by not cutting flowering lawn weeds, as these will be used as sources of nectar.
If your lawn is looking a bit worse for wear, you might also want to give it a summer feed. When grass is growing rapidly during summer, it’ll use up nutrients more quickly – but you can help to replenish these nutrients by adding organic fertiliser.
Fertiliser can burn leaf blades, so it’s best to wait until rain is forecast to apply it. This will make sure it gets washed down into the roots where it’s needed.
3. Check plants for aphids
Aphids (also known as greenflies and blackflies) typically can’t fly until July and August, and when they do, they’ll fly from plant to plant looking for a new place to start an infestation.
Aphids can spread diseases between plants, and they produce honeydew (a sugary sticky liquid) that encourages the growth of black mould and, in turn, stops plants from growing. If that isn’t enough, they also drain sap from plants, which isn’t usually a problem if they’re only present in small numbers. But if hundreds of aphids are present, a plant will quickly become weak.
There’s no need to worry about an occasional aphid on your plants, as these are unlikely to cause much damage and will often be picked off and eaten by birds. But if you notice an increase in numbers, there are a number of ways that you can control them naturally. You can…
- Squash them with your fingers.
- Wash them off with a water jet.
- Make a homemade spray of soap and water and douse the affected areas of the plant.
- Attract predators like birds, wasps, ladybirds, and earwigs to your garden. You can do this by planting greenery like sunflowers, calendula, daisies, dill, and marigolds, which attract aphid-eating insects, or by installing a bird feeder.
- Grow strong-smelling plants like onions, garlic, sage, and nasturtiums near plants that are most at risk from aphids.
Plants most vulnerable to aphids include those that have tender new growth, such as buds, soft stems, and fruit. This is because these are easier to pierce.
To find out more about the life cycle of an aphid, have a watch of the video below. And for tips on how to tackle other garden pests, check out our article here.
4. Sow pansies, delphiniums, and strelitzia
Though your garden is likely to be in full bloom over the summer, this doesn’t mean that you can’t start sowing some new flowers now to be enjoyed from late summer onward.
Nicknamed ‘bird of paradise’, strelitzia plants are native to South Africa, and they produce striking yellow or orange blooms that resemble the birds they’re named after.
5. Look after birds and bees
There can be a decline in bee numbers in June and July, often referred to as the ‘June Gap’. During this gap, there might be a shorter supply of pollen and nectar because spring blooms have faded, and some summer flowers will be yet to bloom.
To give bees a helping hand, you could consider planting some of their favourite plants – such as lavender, knapweed, or verbena. You can also help bees by preventing your garden from becoming too overgrown. A bee on her way back to the hive with her food can easily become tangled in long grass and lose her bounty.
When it comes to birds, keeping baths and feeders topped up can help them stay energised during the summer heat. They’ll need to eat particularly well during July and August when they’re moulting (shedding their feathers and growing new ones).
Some birds that migrate to the UK for the summer will also be preparing to fly home this month. Nightingales, a few remaining cuckoos, and garden warblers are examples of birds that’ll be building their energy, ready for a long flight home. To find out more about what to feed birds and when, check out this article from the RSPB.
It’s also best to avoid making significant cutbacks to shrubs, trees, and hedges until September, as bird breeding season runs from February to August, and some birds will still be busy tending to their nests.
6. Check for clematis wilt
If you grow clematis, then it’s likely you’ll encounter clematis wilt at one time or another during your gardening journey.
Clematis wilt is caused by a fungus called Calophoma clematidina, and symptoms can come on pretty quickly. This fungus is more common in the humid weather of July and August, and once it infects the plant, it causes large areas to go brown and droopy.
The reason the plant becomes droopy is because the fungus creates lesions along its vine, which cuts off the supply of water to the rest of the plant. All growth above these lesions will eventually die.
One of the best ways to prevent clematis wilt is to keep your plant as healthy as possible. This can involve keeping competing weeds at bay, protecting vines from strong winds that could cause damage, and keeping up with watering (as these are particularly thirsty plants!). Clematis vines also thrive in full sun, while the roots prefer a cool area.
If you do notice signs of clematis wilt, it’s best to act quickly by removing damaged areas of the vine before the fungus spreads. Make sure any damaged parts are also disposed of properly so they don’t have the opportunity to reinfect your plant.
Clematis roots will usually survive clematis wilt, so even if your plant is looking quite worse for wear after a bout of the infection, it stands a good chance at bouncing back and producing new shoots next season.
7. Deadhead bedding plants and cut-back old flowers
You can keep bedding plants looking their best by removing flower heads as they die out. This will encourage the growth of new flowers throughout the season and keep your garden looking beautiful.
You can also cut back any spring flowering plants that are now spent – including perennials plants (those that come back next year). By now, any remaining nutrients in the stem and leaves of these plants should have travelled back down into the bulb/roots (this usually takes six to eight weeks after flowering), ready to help the plant grow again next year.
To learn more about deadheading, you might want to have a read of this article on the best ways to deadhead flowers from BBC Gardeners’ World.
8. Sow turnips, carrots, and lettuce
Maincrop turnips (also known as hardy turnips) can be sown this month in soil ½ inch deep, with seeds placed four to six inches apart, and rows spaced 9-11 inches apart. They should be ready to harvest when they’re golf ball-sized from mid-October onward.
Carrots sown this month can usually be harvested in late September if planted in mid-July. Carrot seeds prefer to be planted in even shallower soil – at just ¼ inch deep. Seeds should be two inches apart, and rows 12 inches apart. Be sure to look out for carrot flies whose larvae can damage plant roots – you can read more on Grow Veg’s website here.
Lettuce can be grown every two to three weeks from March to September for continuous salad leaves. Seeds sown this month will be ready to pick in late summer/autumn. They should be sown in ½ inch of soil, with seeds 6-18 inches apart (depending on the type), and rows one foot apart.
Other veg to sow this month includes dwarf French beans, runner beans, radishes, chicory, spring cabbage, and fennel.
9. Feed tomato plants and carry on pinching out
Your tomato plants will need some TLC this month – and you might have already started ‘pinching’ them, which can be continued.
‘Pinching out’ is the act of removing small shoots from young tomato plants that are growing at a 45-degree angle in between the plant’s main stem and its branches. This method encourages tall, upright growth – as side shoots can unbalance the plant if left to grow very long.
Your tomatoes will need lots of water in the July heat too, so be sure to give them a drink every day. Once they’ve had their first truss (cluster of fruit), you can also feed them, and continue to feed them weekly. Amazon has a broad range of tomato feeds which you can find here.
10. Keep your eyes peeled for apple scab
Like clematis wilt, apple scab is caused by a fungus (Venturia inaequalis) that’s spread through water droplets and spores in the air. It’s more common in humid weather, which is why July and August are the most important months to keep your eyes peeled for it. Though the disease is widely known to affect apples, it can also affect pear trees.
Signs of apple scab will usually show up on leaves first as small yellow patches that’ll develop into larger brown or olive green marks – until the leaves eventually fall prematurely. This premature shedding of leaves weakens the plant and makes it more difficult for it to produce fruit.
The apples themselves will also develop brown or black blotches or scabs, and some fruit might even split – all of which makes it inedible.
Unfortunately, if apple scab has already taken hold of your tree, it can be difficult to treat, but you can take steps to protect future harvests. For instance, you can make sure that all fallen fruit and leaves infected with apple scab are picked up and disposed of.
To learn more about apple scab, have a read of this article from GardenFocused.
11. Change the colour of your hydrangeas
Both big leaf and mountain hydrangea can change colour from blue to pink – and everything in between. Their colour is decided by the pH of the soil they’re planted in, so by altering this, you can change the colour of their blooms.
A low pH of six or below on a scale of one to 14 (which indicates acidic soil), will turn hydrangeas blue, while soil with a pH above seven (which indicates alkaline soil) will usually produce flowers that are pink in colour. Testing the exact pH of your soil is easy and can be done in a matter of minutes with a pH meter or strip test – both of which can be bought on Amazon.
Once you know the pH of your soil, you can decide how best to adjust it to achieve the desired colour. To lower soil pH, try mixing coffee grounds into the soil. To raise soil pH, add baking powder mixed with water (one teaspoon to four to five litres of water).
12. Prune fruit trees
Pruning fruit trees in summer can help to improve the quality of fruit and keep trees tidy – which is particularly important if you have a small garden. Fruit trees that’ll appreciate a good prune during the warmer months include apple, cherry, apricot, and mulberry trees.
To see how to prune fruit trees this season, check out the video below.
Gardening in summer can be a great excuse to get outside, enjoy the sunshine, and create a garden you’re proud of.
We hope that you found some of the tips in this article helpful – but if you’d like to go a step further, you might want to have a look at the wide range of gardening courses available through our website. Topics include everything from garden design to how to grow edible plants…