Gardening tips - extend the summer in your garden by dead heading and watering your plants
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Sit back and relax, but only after your summer garden chores says Suzie Hanson, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall
This is often one of the hottest months of the British year and a great time to sit and enjoy the garden, taking time to listen to the insects buzzing about and the birds chattering. It makes you feel glad to be alive. However, as much as the deck chair is calling, you can’t afford to rest on your laurels. The sunshine brings its own issues especially for flowering plants. Repeat flowering plants of all varieties use up large amounts of energy and water whilst putting on a show for us and you can help extend their season by dead heading and watering.
Plants continue to look their best by regular dead-heading - a very important task. If you have lots of plants that need it, it may be worth investing in a good pair of snips. Alternatively a sharp pair of nail scissors will usually suffice. For some plants, such as pelargonium, your thumb nail is often the best tool for the job. Here at Brodsworth, with over 12,000 bedding plants, 200 roses and 1,000-plus perennials to consider, we use a variety of methods.
We dead head our roses regularly, cutting back to the nearest five leaf spray with sharp secateurs - just breaking the stem leaves the rose more vulnerable to infection, so it is not advised. We dead head to prevent a plant from wasting energy, trying to keep alive a flower that is past its best aesthetically. This encourages the plant to put the energy to better use producing new blooms elsewhere on the plant. You can keep on top of dead heading by doing five or 10 minutes each evening rather than letting it build up to becoming a big job. Watch out for bees and other pollinators that are busy working away inside a flower.
Watering is another important job for July. While a hosepipe or sprinkler may be quicker than using a watering can, the most efficient use of water is with a can which helps conserve our most precious of resources.
As a general rule, it is best not to get water on the foliage as it can lead to scorching or encourage water-borne diseases. You should water the soil (or compost for potted plants) around the plant over quite a broad area rather than only at the base of the plant. This helps encourage root growth as the plant goes in search of water. Don’t forget that in really dry spells plants, especially trees, planted last year and even the year before will need some water. We have recently planted a number of native trees in the woodland garden at Brodsworth so we will be making regular rounds with our bowser.
And now to the biggest plant in your garden, the lawn. We all love a lush, verdant lawn and this month a little extra water may be necessary. You can also apply a summer fertiliser if necessary, though it is best not to during dry, hot spells, rather waiting until a shower is forecast. Adjusting lawnmower blades to a higher setting will also help the lawn if the weather remains hot.
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Here at Brodsworth the limestone lawns in the formal garden are incredibly species rich and a large area is kept long for the cultivation of wild flowers. This diversity has increased due to many years without grass cutting before English Heritage took over in 1990 and restricted chemical use. I am told that in recent years the appearance of a green-winged orchid on the west terrace (normally cut short) has been a highlight and I look forward to seeing it.
Keep at the hoeing of beds and borders to minimise annual weeds, like bitter cress and chickweed. If it’s dry, attack perennial weeds like ground elder and the like with systemic weed killer painted onto the leaves. Tips of bindweed can be trailed into jam jars full of the same. Remember systemic weed killers are indiscriminate and will kill anything they contact. If you don’t have the time for this specific approach to reducing weeds, then try cutting the culprits down to prevent them from setting seed.
We are not the only ones to enjoy the warm weather, pests also love it, so be on your guard. Caterpillar and aphid infestations can be dealt with by hand if caught early enough, but if the situation gets out of control you will have to resort to insecticides or grin and bear it. Greenfly and blackfly especially love the heat and don’t forget aphids and other sap-sucking insects can transmit viruses so don’t give in to the sympathy vote. Try to attract beneficial insects by growing a wide variety of plants - ladybirds and their larvae are consummate aphid predators, as are lacewings and even wasps.
And most importantly – now is the time to really enjoy all your planning and preparation work from earlier in the year, so do take time to sit back and relax in your garden.
Jobs for July
Vent glasshouses on hot days
Clip hedges, checking for nesting birds first (some species may have a second clutch of eggs)
Trim or tie in new shoots on climbers
Continue hoeing and weeding as needed
If you missed out pruning your winter shrubs (such as Daphne) at the end of flowering you can do it now
If it is warm enough take greenhouse plants outside to get a breath of fresh air
Brodsworth Hall is a beautiful Victorian house surrounded by a collection of grand gardens in miniature, lovingly restored to their Victorian splendour.
For more information contact
Brodsworth Hall & Gardens
english-heritage.org.uk/brodsworthFacebook page BrodsworthHall