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Garden Diary

Early Summer

The ornamental garden

Continue planting summer bedding. Sow biennials outdoors in drills. Plant autumn flowering bulbs such as crocus and amaryllis as soon as they are available. Flowers and shrubs which are in bud, flower or fruit will appreciate regular applications of high potash fertilizer. Dahlias and chrysanthemums can be fed with tomato fertilizer. Bedding plants, especially in baskets and tubs, should be dead-headed to prolong flowering. Feed tubs and baskets each week. Dig up and dry off tulip and hyacinth bulbs for replanting in autumn. Reduce the height of the stems of perennials such as campanula, delphinium, lupin, and oriental poppy to encourage more flowers to form. Shorten the flower shoots on Cistus, Halimium and Halimiumiocistus by two-thirds with shears or secateurs and shorten old bearded irises by half. Large leafy plants such as hostas look good in groupings of terra-cotta tubs. Bearded iris can be divided and replanted in groups. If spring flowering bulbs are lifted, pot the largest and re-plant the smaller ones. Trim back broom by shearing off half the new growth and prune the side shoots of wisteria to 30cm long. Remove suckers from rose bushes. Water perennials and recently planted trees and shrubs if no water has fallen for several days.

Fruit and vegetables

Sow seeds such as beans, beetroot, carrots, endives, herbs, lettuces, spinach, and Swiss chard. Peas and beans do not need much water until they flower and produce pods, but give leaf vegetables plenty of water at this time of the year. Most crops will be take advantage of good growing conditions and develop very quickly. This is the time for sowing and planting many winter vegetables too, such as winter radish and turnip seeds. Feed outdoor tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers with a high potash liquid or soluble powder fertilizer. Pull up soil around leeks to blanch the stems and earth up potatoes. Summer pruning of apples, pears, plums and gooseberries can be undertaken now. As fruits ripen and swell, harvest regularly. Use props if necessary to support heavily laden branches. Tie in blackberries and raspberries.

The lawn

The lawn will require mowing and trimming every 7-10 days for a utility lawn, twice a week for a luxury lawn. The height of cut should be adjusted according to the prevailing conditions, raising the blades during very hot weather to reduce drought related stress. Feeding can continue weather permitting. If conditions are not too hot and the lawn is actively growing, top up the nitrogen levels with an application of lawn food. Spot treat weeds with a lawn weed killer from a hand spray or watering can.

Houseplants

Feed houseplants once a week. Cuttings can be taken from pot plants.

The greenhouse and conservatory

Sow perennials such as delphiniums and biennials such as forget-me-nots and wallflowers to produce plants for next year. Feed salads in growing bags and the greenhouse borders regularly using a high potash fertilizer to encourage heavier cropping. Tomatoes should have side shoots removed regularly and be properly supported twisted round string, or tied to canes with raffia. Bottom leaves can be removed if they begin to shade the developing fruits. Thin out fruits on greenhouse grapes. Ventilation will be essential and if very hot the floor and benching should be damped down with water to keep the atmosphere cool. The plants themselves should be sprayed early in the morning or late in the evening once the heat of the day is over, to keep humidity levels around the leaves as high as possible.

General

Cut conifer, Lonicera and privet hedges. Lightly reshape topiary. If screening is necessary use tall-growing bamboos.

Mid Summer

The ornamental garden

Plant daffodil bulbs with a covering of 15 - 20cm of soil. Semi-hardwood cuttings of heathers can be taken now. These should ideally be rooted in a cold frame in boxes or trays filled with seed and cutting compost. Cuttings can also be taken from many herbs including lavender, rosemary, hyssop and mint and planted in multi-purpose compost. At the same time keep some herbs back for drying. Roses should be deadheaded as soon as the flowers are past their best. Disbud any large-flowered dahlias and chrysanthemums to produce larger blooms on a single stem. Work in fertilizer around perennials and shrubs. Everlasting flowers can be cut now and hung upside down in a dry place. Take cuttings of geraniums and fuchsias and plant winter flowering bulbs, such as hyacinths in pots or tubs for next season. Check that bulbs are free from soft areas particularly around the neck and base. Once planted, the bulbs should be placed in a sheltered part of the garden and covered with a thin layer of sand before adding a layer of garden soil, peat or chipped bark. Lateral buds of chrysanthemums (except sprays) should be removed, leaving one main large bud to form on each shoot.

Fruit and vegetables

Make successive sowing of vegetable seeds to keep up constant supply of fresh produce. Summer salads such as lettuce and radish can still be sown to produce a succession of crops. Sow Japanese onions and other suitable maincrop varieties to produce large bulbs for harvesting the following summer. Cover peas with netting to protect the crop from birds. Plant out winter maturing cabbages and continue to sow spring cabbage. When preparing the seed bed for vegetable growing apply a dressing of a balanced fertilizer such as growmore and water thoroughly in dry spells. A general mulch of peat, bark or compost can help to retain water and suppress weeds. Weeds will quickly outgrow vegetable crops if allowed to develop so hoe between the rows when necessary. Harvest potatoes and radish as soon as they are ready and mulch strawberries with straw, to minimise slug damage. Thin out apples to get better and larger fruits. Cut back the new shoots on cordon apples and pears to a point three leaves from the main stem. Prune cordon-trained gooseberries and red and white currents by reducing their side shoots to five leaves from the main stem. Work in rose fertilizer around soft fruit bushes and drape raspberries and strawberries with netting to prevent birds from eating the fruit. New strawberries can be planted now to get well established for next year. Strawberry beds that are more than three years old can be dug up and replanted.

The lawn

Rake the lawn with a plastic-toothed rake to remove any dead grass and debris that may have accumulated. The lawn will also require watering in mid summer if it is to retain it's colour and vigour. Feeding can continue, but should be delayed if very hot to avoid scorching. However, if the weather is wet, spike the areas which tend to collect water. A garden fork can be used, pushing the tines into the soil as far as possible. Alternatively a hollow tine fork will actually pull a 'plug' out of the soil, thus allowing more air to permeate and improving drainage.

Houseplants

Buy 'prepared' hyacinth bulbs and plant in tubs to have in flower by Christmas. Continue to feed house plants once a week and mist them with water. Before going on holiday, stand houseplants on a piece of capillary matting placed on the draining board with one end in a sink of water.

The greenhouse and conservatory

Take leaf cuttings of African violets, Begonia rex, streptocarpus and gloxinias and pot up existing rooted cuttings. Tomato plants should have the growing tips pinched out to encourage development of existing trusses. Remove the male flowers regularly from frame cucumbers as fertilized fruit will taste bitter - All-female F1 hybrids overcome this problem. Ventilate whenever possible to keep temperatures down even at night. Spray peaches, nectarines and apricots with tepid water each day. Feed all plants in active growth once a week.

General

Water hanging baskets at least once a day. Trim all hedges and shear off faded flower stems on lavenders. Trim back leggy plants to make them more compact and produce more flowers. Prune weigela and philadelphus, cutting out completely a portion of older wood. Prune rambling roses by cutting away entire stems that have finished flowering. Then tie in the new growth. Prune gooseberries by cutting away crowded shoots in the middle of the bush.

Late Summer

The ornamental garden

Daffodils, crocuses, colchicums, hyacinths, scillas and cyclamen can be planted outdoors now, but delay tulip bulb planting until mid autumn to avoid premature, frost prone growth. Bulbs such as hyacinths, tulips and dwarf iris for winter forcing can also be potted now in tubs or bowls and kept in the dark in cool conditions below 4°C (40°F). Lift any tender bulbs or tubers from the borders before the weather begins to get cold. These include gladioli, begonias, canna, and eucomis. Prune rambling roses and remove all dead, diseased, weak or unproductive wood back to it's source. Take healthy side shoots back to within three buds of the main stem. The aim should be to encourage new growth from the base which will flower more vigorously. Cut down the stems of perennial plants when the flowering has finished and clear leaves and debris away. Hardy annuals can be sown now directly into a well prepared bed in the open ground. This is the time for replanting tubs and containers for autumn colour - use pansies, evergreen shrubs, conifers and autumn flowering bulbs. Plant double and single flowered primroses and polyanthus in moist soil in a lightly shaded position. By choosing appropriate plants, basket and container displays can be maintained throughout the autumn and early winter. Once summer bedding plants begin to fade, they can be removed to make way for plants such as universal pansies which can flower from early autumn through to late spring the following year. Autumn/winter flowering heathers produce, pink, white or purple flowers and can be set against the evergreen foliage of dwarf conifers and ivy. Autumn flowering crocus, colchicum and nerines grow well in tubs and pots on the patio. Many alpines lend themselves to culture in large tubs, troughs and sinks but clip the spent flowers off and surround the plants with gravel or grit to stop them rotting in wet weather.

Fruit and vegetables

Harvest the last of the pumpkins, marrows, squashes and outdoor tomatoes and store in a cool dry airy spot. The tomato haulms should be destroyed rather than composted as they are tough and will be slow to rot. Spinach can be sown now for picking as spring greens, so can turnip varieties such as Green-Top White and Green Globe. Protect spinach, lettuce and French beans with cloches. Spring cabbages such as Pixie or Durham Early can be transplanted into their cropping positions. Onions maturing in early summer must be sown now if they are to establish before the onset of Winter. Summer varieties which have been drying can be lifted when ready and stored. Autumn raspberries should be cropping now and summer fruiting varieties can be pruned back. To do this the canes which cropped this season should first be untied and then cut off at ground level, leaving those new growths produced during the season to grow and fruit next year.

The lawn

Begin preparing the lawn for the winter with the application of a high potash fertilizer such as autumn lawn food. This is also an ideal time for sowing or turfing a new lawn. To remove moss use a combined fertilizer and moss killer then after two weeks the lawn should be raked to remove the dead moss and any thatch which built up in the grass. The ground will then be ready for aerating. This can be done with an ordinary garden fork or hollow tine fork, and the aim is to provide entry points for oxygen, water and nutrients. Mowing should continue as regularly as possible, but the height of cut should be slowly increased to avoid damage as the autumn approaches.

Houseplants

Take cuttings of flowering and foliage plants.

The greenhouse and conservatory

Pot up freesia corms for winter flowers. Sow cyclamen and schizanthus. When salads such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers have finished cropping they can be removed and the area cleaned of crop debris. Old growing bags can be lifted and spread over the garden as a mulch or soil conditioner. Many plants can be sown under the protection of the greenhouse and conservatory for early blooms next year including cowslips, primroses and pot cyclamen. Summer sown freesias and fuchsias, geraniums and helichrysum that have spent the summer outside in the garden should be brought in before frosts begin. Shading should be removed as the days shorten to make the most of available light and the glass thoroughly cleaned. Put up bubble polythene insulation and check that heaters are in working order for the first cold nights of autumn.

General

Raise tubs and containers for autumn use off the ground to ensure that drainage is not restricted. Bricks, slabs or terra-cotta 'feet' can be used. For autumn planting always ensure that the container has adequate drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Terra-cotta containers should also be soaked in water before use as their natural absorbency will otherwise draw water from the compost once planted. In the case of baskets, old moss should be replaced and liners washed. Reduce the height of perennials that have finished flowering and give hedges a final trim. Check supports of new trees and make sure ties are firm but not too tight.

Birstall Garden and Leisure Centre began trading as a family owned and run Centre in 1969, and was the very first Garden Centre to start trading online. In 1999 we created our website in order to give customers from all over the UK the opportunity to take advantage of our amazing prices, fantastic online discounts and speedy nationwide delivery. In particular areas of the UK, we are able to both deliver and construct your new garden building, summerhouse, greenhouse or garages. And assemble your new garden furniture or BBQ.