Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary July 2013

' St. Swithun's Day if ye do rain, for forty days it will remain '

Though without a feast day of his own, St Swithun ('Pig man') was a great Saxon saint, a friend to King Egbert and miserable villeins alike.

The weather lore that has grown up around St Swithun's day (July 15th) is not without some credence; In mid July the jet stream settles into a pattern which in most years holds reasonably steady until the end of august. When the jet stream lies to the North of our islands continental high pressure can move in; when it lies to the south we can expect arctic or Atlantic weather systems to dominate. For gardeners July is in one respect like January; Everything depends on the weather, it may be hot with frequent heavy showers and vegetation in luxuriant growth, or the earth may resemble the environs of Kabul, with scarcely a green blade to be seen.

As with most things in life, so much in the garden depends on simple good housekeeping, most obviously the keeping down of weeds, there really is truth in the saying 'one years seeds seven years weeds.' Keep that hoe going.

Whilst we are hoeing the borders we may notice the faded flower buds of Lupins, Delphiniums, Pyrethrums and other early flowering perennials, these may be cut out before they set seed, to encourage secondary growth. To take this a step further, these subjects may be cut down at the beginning of this month to secure flowers for autumn. Constant dead heading is so important all around the garden for keeping the flowers coming. Roses too may be cut back when flowers fade and a rose fertiliser given after the first flush of flowers is over will improve any later displays. Spraying of roses may be carried on as those invisible spores will soon be tarnishing the leaves. We may also notice many plants which need staking or supporting in some way; tall plants rendered horizontal by a heavy cloud burst are a humbling sight.

Work in the vegetable garden is still in full swing. Lettuce and radish may still be sown for succession. A sowing of French beans now will give us a welcome late crop. The gardener will have remembered to keep a sack of soot from last autumn's chimney sweeping, so useful for deterring celery fly. We remember that dahlias, like our grandchildren, are gross feeders and will need a liquid feed from time to time to keep those blooms coming strongly. During a wet or cooler spell we may think of pushing ahead with moving brassicas to their permanent quarters. Spring sown parsley may be quietly forming flower heads, these should be removed on sight. The swelling pods of Runner and French beans will enjoy a feeding. Likewise the tomatoes. Shallots may be lifted as soon as the foliage withers, there can be few more pleasing sights than shallots and onions drying out in the strong summer sunshine.

And finally, towards the end of the month is a good time to think about increasing our stock in the garden by way of propagation. Pencil thick half ripened stems may be removed and trimmed with a sharp knife, dipped in hormone rooting powder and placed in a box of fine light soil in a shady spot. Weigela, forsythia, escallonia, deutzia and cuttings from many other shrubs will all root easily.

After the weather of last summer, we await St Swithun's Day with a furrowed brow.

Content kindly volunteered by Ross Atabey from Green & Great Gardens your local landscaping and garden specialists. For further advice contact Ross on 07941 315214 01435 812 153 or visit