July is usually humid with localised thunderstorms and periods of heavy rain. However, summer has so far been unseasonably dry – following a dry spring with lower than average rainfall.
A brief spell of torrential rain at the end of June and again in mid July headed off near-drought conditions.
The workload in the garden settles into a predictable routine for the next few weeks – focussing on weeding, dead-heading, cutting grass, watering and checking for pests and diseases. In the vegetable garden successional sowing of salad leaves, beetroot and peas continues through the month.
Houseplants need more attention through July and August; move pots away from the window out of direct sun, water two to three times a week depending on the size and type of plant. Remove dead foliage and mist leaves with water occasionally, to increase humidity around the plant. African violets and other plants with downy leaves can be stood in a shallow tray and watered from beneath. Cacti and succulents require watering once or twice a week, but do not let the soil become waterlogged.
Summer borders are full of vibrant perennials and annuals as growth reaches its peak. The traditional cottage garden plants are in bloom including Delphiniums, Dianthus, Stocks, Foxgloves plus the giant Hollyhocks.
Delphiniums come in two types – either quick growing annuals or the elegant perennials; both with deep blue or mauve flowers (sometimes pink or white). They are not easy to grow, need fertile soil and support with canes to prevent stems falling over and snapping off at the base.
Dianthus (Pinks) have different varieties making them a versatile and attractive addition to the window box or garden. They flower from June through to August and sometimes come back in early autumn. Pinks have a sweet, clove-like fragrance, thrive in town gardens, are tolerant of a range of soil conditions and cope with polluted air. There are all sorts to choose from – try the sturdier modern hybrids with a colour range of pink, white and scarlet.
Summer berries are ready to harvest; the first blackberries of the season ripened in late June – the earliest I have ever seen them around the borough; blackcurrants and blueberries join raspberries to add to the fruitful and flowery abundance of the July garden.