THIS MONTH IN THE GARDEN

A couple of days ago we had our first ripe raspberries from the garden. Just four of them, but there is the promise of lots more to come and the rain came at the right time to make them swell. A year ago I was wondering how the raspberries would get on without netting; would the birds do better than we would? I am pleased to say that we won so I am hoping for the same again this year …

The heavy and continuous rain in June was a major problem in some parts of the country but it was what we needed to help make up for the dry weather we have had since last year. It certainly saved intensive watering on lawns re-sown to repair last year’s damage.  My lawn now looks vastly better although I was sorry to see red thread starting again in the wet.  This shows as patches where the grass dies on the tips with a reddish tinge. It is a fungal disease and generally it will disappear with dryer weather and feeding.  Many of us use a professional lawn-care company and I have been reminded recently to be careful about the use of lawn cuttings which have been treated with weed killer. I use my cuttings for compost but it is a wise precaution to avoid doing this soon after a treatment and to dispose of the cuttings in some other way.

Last year I wrote about the damage caused by slugs or snails to one of my new dahlias; the Bishop of Llandaff.  The culprits struck again after the first period of intensive care and , although the plant survived  I had no flowers. I left it in its pot over winter and it is growing satisfactorily now. Another of the new plants ( Ruskin Myra, with a lovely orange and yellow flower) sadly suffered from tuber rot and didn’t survive. This was in spite of getting the same treatment as the bishop. Keep attending to your dahlias. Having been staked, tie them in as necessary. Cut out new young stems coming up alongside the main stems to prevent overcrowding. Keep watered with a weekly soaking and maintain regular doses of liquid feed. As the buds form nip out the pairs of buds immediately below a central bud if you want good sized flowers rather than an abundance of small ones.

The June rain may have encouraged slugs and snails to resume activities. So far I haven’t seem much sign of this and it may be that most plants have got beyond the stage of young growth which is so attractive to slugs. If you do use a chemical deterrent remember that products containing metaldehyde or methiocarb should be avoided.

In spite of all the rain we have had recently, soil will dry out remarkably quickly without further rain so you may not get by for long without watering.  This applies particularly to soft fruit and vegetables. Remember that containers generally need watering even when there has been rain. The peak holiday time is upon us and, with it, the problem of what to do about watering when you are away. An irrigation system is a good way but many of us may not wish to incur the expense. There is really no substitute for the helpful relative or neighbour and most things won’t need watering every day. Tomatoes, for example are better off watered on alternate days. Making  a reciprocal arrangement with a gardening neighbour to do each other’s others watering solves the problem and is good for relationships when we see  little of our neighbours because cars are so much used.

July and August are generally less busy months in the garden but the need for regular maintenance will continue. That means regular weeding and dead –heading with some staking for plants that haven’t been sufficiently supported earlier on. Roses and perennial flowers will benefit from a summer feed. Ponds will continue to need attention with the removal of blanket weed , weeding plant baskets and thinning oxygenating plants. Ponds may also need topping up in a further dry spell.

Those of you who are vegetable gardeners will be feeling smug now as you enjoy your freshly gathered and tasty  rewards and I hope you have a good crop.

Jeremy Arthern

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