There’s quite a lot to do in the garden around now, but pottering around it in summer is one of the rewards for the effort put in over the rest of the year - don’t look on it as work but as relaxation.
If you have to water, do so in the evening when there will be less evaporation and the water has a chance to soak into the soil. Using a hose is more efficient than a sprinkler as the water can be directed exactly where it is needed; giving the ground a good soaking once a week is better than a less thorough one every day, which encourages roots to form near the surface. It’s more important that fruit and vegetables are kept well-watered than ornamental plants, some of which produce a better display when slightly stressed anyway.
Check for signs of disease on plants prone to them, i.e. blight on tomatoes, clematis wilt or apple scab, and treat accordingly.
Prune spring flowering shrubs so they don’t get leggy; most birds will have finished nesting, so you can also trim hedges without disturbing them.
Keep watering all plants in containers (indoor and outdoor), and feed them regularly. Anything in grow-bags (especially tomatoes) are prone to problems if watered erratically, so try to have a routine; aim to keep the soil moist but not wet. Plants transpire water all the time, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking if the sun's not shining plants won’t need watering – any breeze or wind will also increase the amount they use.
A lot of vegetables should be maturing about now; keep an eye on them, as unreliable weather may cause some to bolt (i.e. form flowers and seeds) - harvest these before this happens, which usually renders them useless anyway. Allow a plant or two to flower if you want to collect seeds, which is what you do with peas and beans anyway. (Transition Chesterfield will be holding a Seed Swap at the Brampton Food Fair in October).
Check tomatoes regularly and pinch out any shoots between branches and the stem, which can appear with astonishing speed.
If fences or garden furniture need painting or treatment with a preservative, try to do it in the middle of a dry spell.
Take lots of pictures of the garden, especially parts which you think could be improved. That way, you’ll have a good reference to use when you come to think about moving things or buying new plants, and with digital cameras it doesn’t cost anything to take lots of pictures anyway!
There may still be some vegetable plantlets in garden centres, so it’s not too late to plant some for harvesting this year. But check that they're not too leggy and make sure they have been well looked after – weedy looking seedlings rarely recover.
Salads generally mature quite quickly, so you can sow some every week or two to provide a succession of crops – ‘little and often’ is the best way. Children like to see instant results, so use these as a way of introducing them to gardening.
Words: Inspire Community Garden
Picture: Robert Nixon Betts