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June was a hot, humid month which is pleasing for ladybirds who like somewhat damp conditons and also like eating aphids from rose stems! July is a month of dead-heading, propagation, division and daily inspection of vegetables, both in the greenhouse and veggie plot.  Dead-heading perennials and roses will boost the plants to produce more flowers as goodness from the root system isn’t being used unnecessarily.  It can be a laborious task, but well worth while as most plants will flower for longer periods, even though the following flushes are slightly smaller.

If, like me, you’re a fan of old fashioned pinks now is the time to take cuttings. If you live in an area that has a lot of chalk in the soil that should be good for carnations.  However, if you’ve added loads of composted material and soil conditioners (and who wouldn’t!) don’t fret.  Adding ground limestone or chalk or calcified seaweed to the area of bed where you want the plants to grow will help give better conditions for your plants.   Any of these can be bought at a good garden centre and do be sure to follow instructions on the packet.

There’s no need to worry about the fiddlyness of layering carnations as all you need to do is pinch out the top 3” of the stem away from the plant, dip in rooting hormone and plant up in pots of soil-less compost with added horticultural grit, but don’t add any liming material.  Keep the pots moist, but not wet, and preferably stand outside in a shady position

Take cuttings of short lived shrubs such as lavender, clematis and euryops and keep in a cool frame in soil-less compost mixed with a little sharp sand or grit. It’s always a good idea to take more cuttings than you think you need as some may not survive.  Clematis cuttings only need one pair of leaves to provide the necessary activity to root, so several can be taken from one stem. Once the cuttings have been inserted into compost, cover the pots with thin polythene and tuck under the pot to provide a seal, then place in a shady position or shaded frame. Rooting should occur within 6-8 weeks.

Cut back spent flowering perennials down to the crown to allow goodness to concentrate on the roots. Sprinkle some fertilizer and water well and there’s always the chance of a second crop of flowers.  If you’re not keen on the spaces left, ensure you have some annuals spare to fill in. For example, I usually have enough pelargonium potted singly to do this.

Herbs, such as mint, marjoram and tarragon, will benefit from some cutting back to encourage new growth.  Add some fertilizer, water well and you’ll be rewarded with stronger flavoured leaves and an abundant supply for the kitchen and preserving.

We mostly want our lawns to look manicured and neat, but sometimes in dry weather we can make the mistake of overwatering. A better way of dealing with an arid looking lawn is to mow less frequently and on a higher cut plus, if you can, leave the collecting bag or box off the mower and allow the clippings to provide a moist mulch. If finances allow, invest in a mulching mower that clips the grass very finely.

Of course, these days, there are a lot of people giving over their neat lawns to become wilder and more natural and there's nothing wrong with that. I tried it at the top of my garden where there's a patch next to the veggie plot, but I'm afraid I won't be doing it again. It did look stunning in springtime when the cow parsley is out with masses of buttercups, forget-me-nots, etc. but it was a lot of hard work afterwards to clear and make reasonably tidy. I don't have that sort of energy now, so I'll stick to just cow parsley in the future!

Keep an eye on greenhouse plants and make sure nothing dries out. It is better to give plants a really good soaking every other day rather than a dribble every day – depending, of course, on how hot it gets!  Check each day and leave windows and doors open for air flow.  Stop tomato plants by pinching out the tips when you have 5-6 trusses.  Feeding tomatoes and chillis needs to be a regular occurrence now for the best fruits.

Sow up some baby beets, carrots, turnips, swede, etc  that can be pulled when young and stored with their roots in sand boxes and kept in a cool, dark place as these give the best flavour.  Most of these vegetables can also be left in the ground with a covering of straw or cardboard and pulled as required.  July is also a good time to sow some perpetual spinach in a shady spot that should ultimately withstand frosty conditions.  Lettuces sown this month will be quick to mature, so stagger sowing to ensure a succession of plants through to the autumn.

Well, meet Martha! Almost 3 months old and running rings round me! She's gradually making friends with the pusskits and they, in turn, are beginning to tolerate her, so I'm optimistic about future sitting, pondering and sipping at my favourite place with them!

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