There were a few days in June when temperatures reached almost 30°C – but the heat did not last and a drop of 16 degrees happened in just 24 hours. July has brought much cooler, humid days with rain showers – but as the month progresses it is slowly warming up, writes Jackie Power…
The showery, cool conditions have provided a favourable environment for slugs and snails causing an increase in population. Snails are very sneaky and hide under rims of pots, in die-back growth – any shady corner – then come sailing out under cover of darkness or during showers to feed voraciously on the soft foliage of Hostas, veg plants and tender perennials. Slugs and snails need to be controlled quickly otherwise plants are damaged or can disappear overnight. There are several ways to reduce the onslaught of the molluscs; barriers, certified organic slug pellets; the latter are effective if applied at regular intervals. The Organic Gardening Catalogue has several pages of products for pest control.
July is Lavender month; the English Lavenders flower from late June through July and are an easy and rewarding shrub to grow – either in the garden or in containers. There are many different varieties to suit most situations. Folgate Blue is compact reaching about 30cm tall and is suitable for growing as a dwarf hedge. Hidcote is an early flowering variety, slow growing with a compact habit and suitable for containers as is the variety Lavendula angustifolia ‘Sarah’. Munstead is the one most often seen and flowers earlier than other varieties. The bees love Lavender and butterflies are attracted to it. Lavender dislikes heavy, water-logged soil, it is a Mediterranean plant preferring full sun and tolerating drought conditions (if planted in the ground).
Harvest Lavender flowers during dry weather; cut stems and gather into small bunches, tie up with raffia or garden string and hang up out of direct sunlight. Dried flowers can keep their fragrance for many years. As well as a joy to grow in the garden, Lavender is an important relaxing herb, it has a sedative effect on the nervous system. The essential oil is used as a blend in massage. It is gentle in its action and traditional uses are to treat headaches, as an aid to sleep, and to help heal burns and scalds (always seek professional advice before using any herbs for treatment).
Looking ahead to next season as gardeners must – July is the time to plant autumn bulbs/corms to ensure that there is always something of interest growing throughout the year. Colchicum is the Autumn crocus – it takes no time to plant a few bulbs in the soil between shrubs and summer flowers. There are other more unusual ones to choose such as the tiny, fragrant Cyclamen, and Amaryllis Belladonna Lily (Jersey Lily).