July is often one of the hottest months of the year and a great time to sit out and enjoy your garden. The main gardening task of the month (other than watering) is dead-heading. As flowers fade they loose their attraction, spoiling the display, and are best removed. Regular deadheading directs energy into stronger growth and development of flowers. It can also prevent plants such as roses scattering debris across the garden.
Before reaching for the secateurs it is worth noting that not all plants need deadheading, some annuals do not set seeds, or neatly deadhead themselves including lobelia and salvia. Some plants, including Rudbeckia, cornflowers and sunflowers, produce seeds that are loved by birds, whilst others have very ornamental seed heads including Alliums and love-in-a-mist. Some plants bear berries in autumn and some roses bear hips.
On the subject of roses many of you have commented on how roses do not seem to be doing as well this summer. Roses generally have a reputation for being difficult to care for, but in reality, as long as you get a few basic points right you will have good results.
Feeding: All roses, but particularly repeat flowering varieties need a generous supply of nutrients throughout the growing season. Granular fertilisers applied to the ground are the most effective; however foliar feeds such as a seaweed solution provide a quick effect and help keep the leaves healthy. Healthy plants are less likely to succumb to pests and diseases.
Mulch: Mulching with organic mater (such as well rotted manure and garden compost) is very important. It helps to conserve moisture and keeps the ground cool. Regularly reapply mulch as needed throughout the season as it disappears into thin, sandy soil.
Watering: Regular watering is essential; the rose will be stronger, healthier and produce more flowers. Water the base of the rose, deeply at least once a week. Spraying the foliage with water can promote black spot. Water in the morning so that foliage has a chance to dry during the day.
Black Spot: Diplocarpon rosae is a nasty fungus that manifests itself on rose bushes as black spots on leaves progressing to black spots fringed with yellow rings on both sides of the leaves. Eventually, as the disease spreads, the entire leaves will go from green to yellow and then drop to the ground. With time the entire rose bush may become defoliated. Unfortunately the recent weather has promoted black spot as it is worst during wet weather, especially humid weather. Once you have discovered that your rose bushes are infected it is best to remove the infected leaves . Dispose of this diseased material in bags or burn it. Do not add to the composter, as the fungus will return when you recycle the soil back into the garden. It is vital to do an end of season cleanup so the spores will have no where to hide over winter, and pruning at the end of the season will improve air circulation throughout the plant. After having removed the diseased parts from your rose bushes it may be necessary to apply a systemic fungicide spray, such as roseclear, to limit future attacks.
When growing any plant, the one thing outside of your control is the weather. Whatever July brings, I hope you are able to enjoy some time simply relaxing in your garden.
Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies,
Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800