It may not be sunny but it is still very dry. The lawn is parched and cracked, yet there is still plenty to do, even in this traditionally quiet month, when gardeners concentrate on weed control and harvesting. Now is a good time to clean and paint garden furniture and fencing while the weather is dry. A blast with a pressure washer or cleaning with a bucket of soapy water and rinsing thoroughly, ensures that surfaces are clean before painting. I am going to paint my raised vegetable beds a bold tone of purple, unless I lose my nerve! It is amazing how many vegetables have red stems or venation, the most obvious are cabbages and beetroot but many others will contrast nicely, too.
It is also time to summer prune wisteria, if you haven’t already done so. Long, whippy stems should be pruned back to six buds, to control growth, keep it within its allotted space and encourage flowering. These same stems should be cut back to two three buds in February (a friend of mine calls it the ‘two ‘n’ six’ plant!).Gardeners often bemoan the fact that their Wisteria does not flower. It can be due to several factors, including feeding with high nitrogen fertiliser, lack of water from July to September, when the flower buds are formed, frost damage in spring or buying plants that are grown from seed, which take up to 20 years to flower. Buy plants that are flowering or chose named cultivars, rather than a species, for an early display. Sometimes apparently healthy Wisteria’s suddenly die. This is usually due to graft failure, so always buy plants with a strong, well bonded graft. Although the most popular cultivars have traditional violet and lavender coloured flowers, there are pink flowered cultivars like ‘Rosea’ and ‘Pink Ice’ if you don’t think that is sacrilege.
It is also the final chance to thin apples, pears and plums, to ensure a individual fruit reach a decent size and to prevent trees like Victoria plum going into a cycle of biennial cropping – producing a heavy crop one year and nothing the next. It also allows light to reach the fruit to speed ripening. Apples and pears can be thinned so they are about a hand’s width apart; plums should be two to three inches apart. Ideally thinning should be completed by mid July, after fruit trees have naturally aborted some of their crop in June. Use a pair of secateurs or your finger and thumb, taking care not to break off the fruiting spurs. When thinning apples, remove the ‘king fruit’ at the centre of the cluster, that is often mis-shapen.
Finally, a further reminder not to worry about watering your lawn, even though it looks parched, just remember to book a scarifier from the hire shop well in advance of September, the traditional month for lawn maintenance. It will make a stunning recovery when you revitalise it in autumn. Happy Gardening!