Grow How Tips for early July

Elaine

Now the gorgeous lazy summer days have arrived our gardening tasks are mostly of the gentler and easier kind – hurray! So let’s get going on some deadheading, planting for later summer colour and thinning fruit among other jobs…….

DEADHEAD FOR A BETTER BED!
One of my favourite summer tasks is to wander among the flower beds at this time of year with my beloved little Spear & Jackson sécateurs and snip off the wilting flower-heads, particularly of roses but plenty of other things as well – foxgloves, sweetpeas, marigolds, phlox…..and a host of others. After a spell of heavy rain some flowers, particularly roses, may ‘ball’ – failing to open properly and just sitting there in a sodden lump – and these should also be nipped off.

Take off the wilted heads to keep those blooms coming!

This ‘deadheading’ does three important things:
1) It makes your borders look much better, once they are relieved of the decaying flowers; you can give the foliage a quick check too, and trim off anything that looks …well, manky. Remaining flowers on each plant will look a thousand times better.
2) It encourages buds lower down on the plant to stir themselves into action and make some new blooms for you to enjoy.
3) It stops the plant from putting its efforts into creating fruits and seeds, when you would like it to concentrate on growing more flowers, roots or foliage. This brings me to the one time when you should NOT be deadheading, and that’s when you actually want these dead flowers to become seed cases, fruit, hips etc. for seed-collection, harvest, for the birds in autumn and winter, for decoration, and so on.
Otherwise, snip with abandon, and keep the garden looking fresh and colourful.

AFTER THE ALLIUMS
Our newly-into-gardening son posed me an interesting question this week. He and his wife have a small city garden, and he wants to make the most of any flowering space they have. Having hugely enjoyed the allium flowers through the early part of the summer, he asked me what he could plant in that area to cover up their ugly wilted foliage and provide colour through the rest of the summer months.
My first ideas were for plants like alchemilla  or dark-leaved sedum, whose foliage is most attractive even when the flowers are absent. I think planting asters would work well too, especially my favourite –Aster frikartii ‘Monch’, which seems to be covered in its starry mauve blooms for months and months.

Aster frikartii “Monch’ could be a lovely follow-on for alliums

But then Laura came up with an even better suggestion, I think (…..doncha just hate it when that happens!) – bulbs of that summer beauty Eucomis would yield thick luscious leaves to hide the allium debris, and then produce their exotic and delightful ‘pineapple’ flowers later. Planting bulbs with bulbs would lessen the likelihood of slicing through the alliums accidentally, as you might do if you were taking the traditional route of putting out annual bedding plants.

THINNING THE FRUIT
We, like many others, had such a bumper crop of fruit last year! This year seems so far to be more within the usual bounds, but it’s still important to go over your fruit trees now, and thin the fruit so that the remaining apples, plums etc. can reach a good size and weight. If you leave them all on, you risk a large harvest of disappointingly small fruits. So remove the smallest one or even two in each cluster, and let the rest develop naturally and unencumbered.

Thin the fruit to get a much higher quality crop

GARDENING SHORTS
* With gooseberries, redcurrants and white currants, cut back the new shoots to 5 leaves, except for any that you might want to develop into new branches next year.
* The bedding cuttings that I advised you to take back in May’s GrowHow (I wonder if you did?!), should be nicely rooted by now and be ready for separating and moving on into their own pots.

Once they have rooted, it’s time to give your cuttings their own pot

* If, like me, you have a vine on a rod-and-spur arrangement, keep snipping back the sideshoots that haven’t got fruit on, to 5 leaves. Snip off the shoots that do have fruit developing on them, to 2 leaves past the fruit cluster.

Make sure that your vine puts all its effort into fruit -production now.

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6 Comments

  1. Hot in the Cotswolds today – hence at ipad reading your blog in the middle of the day. All useful information as usual. I wanted to add a recommendation for a wonderful ‘almost’ hardy (don’t forget where we are – colder than most) perennial. Diascia Personata. She is an absolute dream right now and for the rest of the year until chilly conditions. She comes up through whatever else in the border – wonderful ‘spires – ish’ of a very sophisticated pink. Furthermore, it is an excellent candidate for taking cuttings, which come on in leaps and bounds and make a wonderful plant for the next summer. It is a plant I have never seen in a garden centre and quite have to scuttle about finding one in a nursery.
    Back now to the furnace – dead heading, as you reminded me.
    Best wishes and thank you for your blog – it’s fun – Jane

    1. Hello Jane, Laura here, writing to you from my shady garden swingseat. As you point out it is actually almost too hot to garden but I also have the excuse of recuperating from a foot operation (Caroline has gone one better and broken an arm whilst dog sitting for us when we went to Normandy to stay with Elaine for a few days!) Anyway back to the Diascia personata – you’re right it’s a great plant that seems to be only available on the black market through gardening friends in the know. Luckily for me our columnist Louise is one such and keeps me supplied with rooted cuttings, and also chose it as her plant of the month a while back :http://the3growbags.com/great-plants-this-month/diascia-personata/
      Keep cool and drink lots of water today, and happy deadheading!

  2. Thinning apples. Once the June drop has removed the small fruit, you may be left with three or four larger fruit. The central one is usually larger than the rest but it is the first one that I thin out. This has a much thicker stem and if it is a late maturing variety, does not keep so well as those with thinner stalks.

    There are five different hormones in developing fruit. The first is when flower buds form. Secondly is when the flowers have been pollinated. Next is the June drop which happens if there are too many fruits. Fourth is when the fruit is ripe, that is when it can be removed by gently twisting it from the branch. Finally is when the fruit is mature. Early varieties ripen and mature almost at the same time and can be eaten if picked straight from the tree.

    1. Good to hear from you, Bill! Elaine here. And what excellent and detailed info about thinning fruit – I think a lot of people will find it very helpful. I certainly didn’t know about the apples with thicker stalks being worse for keeping. We seem to eat, use or give away our fruit before we have to worry about that! I hope your gardening summer is going well.

  3. You thoughtfully mention current bushes. I was wondering whether the poor crop I have on the black currents especially may be largely due to the bushes being 20 years old. Should I heave them out and replant in the autumn please.

    1. Hello Sue, Laura here, and sorry not to get back to you sooner but we are scratching our heads a bit over this one as none of us three have had experience of keeping blackcurrant bushes this long and we don’t want to give you the wrong advice. So we are going to pose the question to our Twitter and Facebook followers to see if there is anyone out there who has first hand experience of to what degree cropping is diminished with advancing age and then get back to you. Best wishes and hope you at least have enough berries this year to make a summer pudding! Laura

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