The July Garden
This is the slow time of year- the time to watch the garden through the window; to see where the frost falls and what bits get the sunlight first; to dream of what and where you'll plant when the shadows grow small again.
Most seed sown in cold wet ground will rot. (It helps to coat it with salad oil before planting). Most plants sown now won't do much till spring- and spring sown plants will soon catch up with them. Onions are still an exception. Plant the long keepers like pukehoe now. Make sure beds are weed free- onions grow slowly, weeds grow fast. You can never have too many home grown onions- they're sweet and have a flavour quite different to shop bought musty sulphuric acid.
In warm areas try potatoes in late July. They will take at least a month to shoot anyway, and by then days will be warmer. Try them in beds of old tyres- the height helps then get out of frost reach, the black absorbs heat.
Root vegetables are sweetest now, after frost and cold nights.Try them grated into salads with lots of parsley. Winter fruit will be at its best now, too-frost makes citrus softer and sweeter, and seems to give late Lady Williams apples a unique zing.
What to do in July
.spray 'Stressguard' on frost sensitive plants to help protect them. I put plastic tree guards on some youngsters- many plants become more frost resistant as they grow older
.clean up dead palm fronds; chop them up for mulch
. keep camelias well watered till they finish flowering, then mulch and feed
.divide clumps of perennials, for lots of free new plants
. spray bright green frothy patches of young bindii eyes with bindii killer, or use almost boiling water leftover from your next cuppa tea! Pour it on and watch the bindiis shrivel.
. plan the flowers you'll plant in spring, so you don't just grab the first few punnets of seedlings you see.
Useful tip: if you want to feed the small native birds but don't want to encourage mynas, sparrows, feral pigeons, starling and blackbirds, take Bryan's tip- tie a wide ball of wire netting around your bird seed balls. Small native finches can get in, but larger birds can't. And you can have a lot of malicious pleasure watching them try....
How to prune a bush, standard or miniature rose
. use sharp secaturs dipped in Detol or bleach
. cut out any dead, spindly or gray barked wood; then
. remove about half the top growth and half the centre growth
. mulch with lucerne hay or other good mulch; scatter on Dynamic Lifter or other good organic plant tucker
. don't prune roses in frosty areas till next month; don't prune climbers till after flowering; don't hard prune shrub roses, just tidy them a little if necessary
.plant deciduous trees, rhubarb crowns, asparagus.
. daydream through seed and fruit tree catalogues planning for next season, . clean up garden rubbish and make a final winter compost heap.
.And take a break.
What to Plant in July
Cold/ temperate areas: don't plant veg and flowers unless you're absolutely longing to get your fingers in the dirt! Seed may rot in cold ground, veg and flowers won't grow much before they bloom and die. Stick to onion seedlings, rhubarb, strawberry, asapargus and artichoke crowns, barerooted trees, shrubs and roses.
Frost free areas: plant just about anything and keep watering! Pop in some of the new spreading petunias too, for a touch of colour